You can't shape your child's life or career. It's a fact that all parents need, eventually, to reconcile with. No matter how much I would love for my son to grow up to be a comic book artist, exotic animal veterinarian, globetrotting zoologist, Lego toy designer, or Disney Imagineer, what he makes of his life will, ultimately, be up to him. Just the other night he informed his aunt that he wants to go into the Army someday - no doubt inspired by his mom introducing him to the old animated G.I. Joe series. I thought it was rather cute that he wondered aloud if the Army would give him a tank, or if he would need to save up to buy one himself. My husband didn't agree, and has asked that I reduce the amount of military fiction our son is exposed to. I shrugged and agreed, after pointing out that HE was the one who had scoffed at my desire to ban toy guns from our home once we'd realized the gender of our then-embryonic progeny.
I'm not worried. About a week before this, he had informed me that he wanted to be a ninja when he grew up - "A gold one, Mommy." This, too, was influenced by me - I'd introduced him to the Joe commando/ninja, Snake Eyes, via YouTube episodes of G.I. Joe: Renegades. Of course, a much heavier influence is Lego Ninjago, of which we are both incredibly fond. (I like the blue ninja, Jay, the best... he's the sensitive one, you know.) And I know, without a doubt, that my little man will go through umpteen bazillion career dreams before he settles on one... some of which I may be less than fond of. Professional football player, for example, is not high on my list of "desirable careers," ranking somewhere below NASCAR driver and just slightly above mortician.
With God as my witness, however, if my son says to me, "Mommy, I want to be a football player when I grow up," I'll be his first and best cheerleader. Unless, of course, he is prompted to say that by my meddling kid sister and her husband, who know my feelings about football in general and youth football in Western Connecticut in particular. But that's another story. I'll still be my son's first and best cheerleader, but I may not speak to said relatives for, oh, a decade or two. And I will buy my beloved niece the chihuahua puppy she's always wanted. Two, in fact. The yappiest pair in the litter.
It's not football I object to so much as adults trying to steer children into particular activities. Inflicting piano lessons on a child who would rather play the drums, or demanding that your son or daughter take Irish dance against said child's wishes, should qualify as cruel and unusual punishment. I've no problem with exposing my son to a wide variety of activities - but HE gets the final say in what he pursues.
It's for this reason that I've never pushed him to create or illustrate stories. As a writer, I'd love to do so... but he's never expressed a creative desire to do anything of the sort, until very recently. And he made my night tonight - waiting for me at the top of the stairs and, after a hug, announcing, "Mommy, I know a book we need to write. Ten Little Bears: Afternoon on the Moon!"
That's as far as he had gotten - the title - and I told him that I thought it was a wonderful idea, and that we could start together this weekend. My author brain started kicking into gear... what kind of bears? Why ten? What's caused them to want to go to the moon? What will they do when they get there? Perhaps they're only pretending to go to the moon - but if I know my son, it will be the Real Thing or not at all.
As I'm pondering this, he trots into my bedroom. "Mommy, I know the second book in the series." A series? That's my boy! Of course, it never hurts to dream big. A series it is. "The second book will be Lunchtime at Loch Ness."
Oh, NOW we're talking. I'm a cryptozoology buff. I can get into this... Nessie and the bears share a nice picnic of shortbread on the shores. Hmmm - to rhyme or not to rhyme? What would be the target audience? How should the illustrations look? And how do the bears GET to Loch Ness to begin with?
By the time we were tucking in for bed, my husband getting ready for bedtime stories so Mommy can have some writing time, he'd come up with two more: Ten Little Bears: Adventures in Egypt and Ten Little Bears: Time on the Titanic. He confided that he's getting the ideas for the titles from his favorite bedtime series, The Magic Treehouse, but that the ideas are all his own.
I'd love to have my son be an author... I'd love for us to be a mother-and-son team, like Anne and Todd McCaffery and their Dragons of Pern. It would be a dream... right up there with myself being a working children's book author.
But if the weekend comes and my little muse doesn't want to work on our joint masterpiece... well, maybe I'll just have to write it myself. And give him co-billing, of course.