When I Grow Up
By: Shannon Ralph
When I was a child, I wanted to grow up to be a doctor. I played doctor with my baby dolls. I ingeniously used red and white crayons to simulate drawing blood from their tiny plastic arms. Every stuffed animal I owned possessed a toilet paper cast on at least one extremity. My mother bought Band-aids in bulk. I told everyone I was going to be a doctor. There was no doubt in my own mind that I would grow up to care for the sick and infirm. I was going to be a healer.
In college, I was smacked in the face by reality. Medicine requires the study of a healthy dose of science. Science was never my strong suit. I excelled in English and Literature. Math and Science were of less interest to me. All it took was one peek at an Organic Chemistry textbook, and I was quickly charting a new course for my future. Ummm…Psychology. Yes, psychology would be a fine major. An infinitely useful degree.
Looking back on my own early ambitions and current reality, I want my children to pursue their dreams. I don’t want them to be plagued by self-doubt or insecurity. I want them to find and do the things that bring them happiness in life. With that in mind, I asked my children last night at dinner what they want to be when they grow up. I am afraid to admit it, but I believe my children have inherited my general lack of ambition. I expected to hear that they aspired to be brain surgeons. Nuclear physicists. Lawyers. Pulitzer prize-winning authors. Unfortunately, I was not even close.
Nicholas announced, quite proudly, that he wanted to grow up to be a professional Wii player. Nicholas is my child who has declared on numerous occasions that he never plans to leave home. He would be perfectly content to remain in my home 24/7 playing video games. I have to admit that at the young age of five, he is quite an accomplished gamer. He has quick reflexes, amazing dexterity, and a real talent for all things electronic. I have visions of Nicholas as a thirty-something-year-old man. Still living in my basement. Working at Davanni’s Pizza. Playing Mario Kart all hours of the night. I have visions of nerdy Nicholas who never gets a date. Nicholas who takes his sister to prom (he has no female cousins, so he’ll have to settle for Sophie). Nicholas who develops a fluency in Klingon. I have visions of serving microwaved pizza rolls to Nicky and his equally socially inept 30-something cronies hanging out in my basement. I believe the time has come to discourage the video game obsession.
Nicholas’s twin sister, Sophie, announced at dinner last night —as she complained about the “yucky” crust on her french toast— that she would like to grow up to be a “food taster”. I can completely and totally envision Sophie as a food critic. She could not have chosen a more appropriate profession to utilize her particular skill set. Much like Anton Ego from Ratatouille (my only pop culture references these days come from Pixar), she was born to “provide the perspective” on everything, most enjoyably food. She is the child who, to my utter annoyance, will perform a play-by-play of every single bite of food I put into my mouth. As she leans over my plate, breathing on my food, she will describe it in detail. She will say that it is gross…that it stinks…that it looks funny…that it feels slimy. She is the queen of complaining about food. As a food critic, she could actually be paid to bitch and moan about the culinary delights placed in front of her. She may be the only one of my children who ends up successful in the career of her choice.
When it was Lucas’s turn, he excitedly declared that he is going to be a “monster scientist” when he grows up. I was unsure exactly what he meant by this. When I asked for clarification, he explained that he wants to prove the existence of monsters —most specifically, the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot. That’s right. My son is going to be one of those toothless weirdos hanging out in the woods with a camera trying to get photographic evidence of Bigfoot. Keep a look out for his work coming to a newsstand near you. The National Enquirer, of course. If he thinks I am buying him a plane ticket to Scotland, he is sorely mistaken.