Wednesday, May 04, 2005


When I was young(er), we had a board game called Careers. It was fun to play for everyone, as they say. For us kids, it was a glimpse at what we believed was the exciting world of adults.

Ooh! I can be a doctor (no mention of medical school or gore). Ooh! I can be a lawyer (no mention of 80 hour weeks, stifling practice hierarchies, or the fact that you hang out with other lawyers all day). Ooh! I can be a professional athlete (no mention of not making the cut for the high school, college, or minor league teams). So we loved it.

Parents liked it (I believe) because it let them indulge in that favorite parental mental game: what will my child become? Your kids plays this board game, gets a card that says, "You're a doctor," and immediately the parent thinks about that beach house that their grateful son will buy them. They can almost smell the sea air . . .

I think all parents do pretty much the same thing, especially with their first child. Timothy was born with long fingers, so I'm in the delivery room thinking, "piano player?" He's 7 now and has never touched a piano. I'm thinking I should get used to being wrong on these things.

Even before any of our children were born, we were doing this. We'd watch TV and see some walk-on actor with his single line and we would wince. "He's not going to be an actor," I'd say, "or a professional musician," remembering the amazing people I had seen playing in the subways in New York.

"Mom, you've got to watch ER tonight," my wife would mimic, "I'm the third corpse from the left near the end of the show!" I would join in, "Only 15 years in Hollywood! What a lucky break."

So Kris was outside yesterday while the boys were playing in the yard. Timothy was busy at his favorite outdoors pastime, seeing how big of a "sand castle" (i.e., pile of sand) he could make in the sandbox. (My parental wishinator kicks in: architect?) Jonah was waiting in the wings for his favorite outdoors pastime, which is knocking down Timothy's sand castles. Oh, how he laughs.

She asked Timothy if he'd like to be an architect when he grows up. "No," he said. "I want to be an artist." Pushing, like only a parent can with a first child, she continued, "Well, an architect is an artist who makes buildings." No response.

"How about you?" she asked Stephen, who had climbed up into the highest reaches of the swingset like only he dares to do. "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

The reply was quick, factual, and practiced, "A doctor. Doctors help people." This has been his goal ever since my aunt Pat was living with my parents during her cancer treatments. Stephen got to help take care of her and my mom mentioned that he would make a good doctor.

Kris looked at Jonah, who, though running around the backyard, was still keeping an eye on Timothy's sand pile. "Jonah, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

"Darth Vader."


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