As a father, I’m fascinated to see what sort of person my son will become; I’m also fascinated by the person he is now. His childhood years form the building blocks of the sort of human being he will continue to be; some of the lessons I teach him he will accept without thinking, and some he will disagree with. In part, that’ll depend on how I pass them onto him, but also what he chooses to hear and accept.
One important thing for me to remember is that we are two different people; he is not my clone, mini-me, or a chance for me to revisit experiences in my own past. He is his own person; to force him down a path that I know just because it’s easier wouldn’t be acceptable. I would have resisted that during my own childhood (I’m extremely stubborn), and my son can match me force for force when he wants to.
So my job isn’t to make him do what I want to do in terms of his future; it’s help him to figure out what he wants to do for himself and then guide him in that direction. It’s also to accept, of course, that he will make several branching decisions over the next few years so that his initial plans will not even remotely reflect the end ones – if there ever is an end. I’m 38 years old as I write this and couldn’t ever imagine having one career path. I’m a writer, a marathon walker, a student, a teacher, a trustee … and who knows what I’ll be doing in five years time.
At eight years old – the age my son is now – I wanted to be a police officer. During my early years, I also wanted to be a chef, a doctor, a nurse, a journalist (like my dad), an actor, and a spy. None of those things ended up being true, because I wasn’t any good at them; I was interested by the sound of the jobs, and wanted to do the exciting bits. It wasn’t until I realised that “writer” was an available profession – that you didn’t need to be a particular class of people to start writing fiction – that I found the vocation for me. I soon diversified as technology gave me access to more experiences; blog sites, meeting fellow writers, learning techniques to improve my writing style. I never wavered from that path, and I’m glad; I found my passion.
My son has a number of passions; sport, music, dancing, maths, words … there’s a core list of things that never seem to change, and that reassures him. He never stops moving, either physically or mentally; he is constantly seeking stimulation, movement, knowledge, and noise. It gives him a constant line of interests to pick from as he grows and decides what he wants to focus on.
Right now, he wants to be a writer; nothing would give me the greatest pleasure than if he decided to stick to that as a career. It’s something we could share. But, at the same time, I will absolutely not enforce that decision; if / when he decides to change his mind, then he’s entirely free to do precisely that.
We’re two different people, and a lot of our interests are avowedly different; I couldn’t convince him to read a fiction book for recreation to save his life, and you couldn’t convince me that playing sport is in any way fun. I can barely watch sports without losing the will to live, so trying to play football with my son in the local park is not how I would envisage spending my time – nor would making my son sit down and read a book of fiction for an hour. Or even ten minutes.
We have our differences, but we’re finding out our similarities over time. We’re also learning how to compromise; I want time to write and he wants time to listen to music – the two are complimentary, thank heavens, so we can manage that from time to time. We can share a space together and be doing completely separate things, but still feel comfortable being together. That makes me happy.
So whatever my son decides to be is fine by me; I suspect he’ll either be a sportsman, a leader of some kind, or a teacher. But what do I know? He’ll tell me when he’s figured it out, and maybe – just maybe – he’ll let me help him along the way …