Today is my son, Clyde’s, 16th birthday. This is a column I originally published when he was five. (Note the dated jokes about George Bush and Dell computers.) Spoiler alert: neither of my predictions for Clementine and Clyde’s future career paths came true. Thank god.
I’ve always wondered if the little tics you have when you are a child give any indication as to what kind of career you will have when you grow up. Take my stepfather, for example: from a very young age he showed an unusual interest in both sweeping and making secret recordings of people using the toilet, and he grew up to be crazy. Okay, so maybe that’s not such a good example, but just imagine a five-year-old Thomas Edison driving his parents absolutely crazy with all of his early inventions, or Mademoiselle Curie’s favorite toy being her junior chemistry set. Who knows, maybe even George Bush made a habit of invading neighboring kids’ yards and liberating their unusually large toy reserves. It’s possible.
Of course, the real reason for me having such a strong interest in this question is none other than my very own five-year old son, Clyde, and the rather “interesting” personal habits that are are all his own. When he was younger these habits involved things like wiping his butt and blowing his nose with the same piece of toilet paper—in that order. Naturally, this made me think that any future career he had would involve him saying things like “would you like fries with that?” and “I’d like to tell you about a special offer from Dell.” Lately, however, he has begun to show talents of another sort, talents that I hope may yet lead him down an entirely different, albeit not quite as respectable, career path: fight promoter.
Everything Clyde touches starts a fight. His silverware at dinnertime, the pair of socks he has been told to put on, even the worms he finds when I am planting in the yard. Nothing is safe from his Don King-like machinations; when it comes to organizing a throw down he is Tina Turner in Beyond the Thunderdome, except that he is also that creepy little guy who’s always saying, “who rules Bartertown?”
With Clyde, though, it’s not just the fights themselves, but rather the nature of the fights that makes me think he has a future in the sports world. Like all the best fight promoters, Clyde knows that there is more to orchestrating a fight than just throwing a couple of combatants into a ring: instinctively he seems to understand that the best fights involve not just man against man (or, in Clyde’s case, fork against spoon), but rather are little Morality plays where Good can finally triumph over Evil. That’s why, in Clyde’s rumbles, the potato masher (Good) always wins out over the ice cream scoop (Evil), and even the lowly (but still Good) butter knife can carry the day against the supremely Evil corkscrew.
Of course, the thing that really makes me think that Clyde will grow up to be a fight promoter, and not just a fight instigator, are his audiences. Who can forget the big showdown between the slotted serving spoon (Good) and the melon-baller (Evil)? Certainly not all the soupspoons and teaspoons, who turned out en masse to cheer their brethren on. (And certainly not the rest of us, who ate our cereal with forks for days and days.)
You’d think then, what with Clyde’s career path seemingly laid out before him, that I’d be entirely sold on the idea of your childhood interests determining your future career–-but actually, I’m not. I can’t be, because that would then mean that my nine-year old daughter, Clementine, whose current favorite hobby is cutting out little tiny pieces of paper and leaving them in piles all over the house, will someday grow up to be a performance artist. Or, like my stepfather, crazy. Although, I have to say that, of the two choices, I’m definitely hoping for the latter.