Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief?

At loose ends this morning, Wee Niblet queried, “Dad, can we go down in the basement and find stuff we’re not using and tape it together?”

Hoppin’ sassafras, but that’s my kind of question.

After some basement diving and an hour of various tapings, the result was this:

Even more fun than the result, of course, is that initial question. It’s made me wonder all day if this glimpse into Niblet’s brain is any indicator of the direction his life may end up taking. Now, I know he’s only four, so there’s only so much we can predict (he’ll be tall, like his father, and he’ll probably always love a big ole garlic pickle with a side of croutons for breakfast). But if his unleashed brain naturally wanders down the path of “let’s see what’s down there and how we can hank it together,” then might that manner of thinking indicate a certain trajectory, even in these early years of life?

For example, he could end up a sociopath. Yea, I know, I’m not supposed to think dark thoughts about my own kid, but the truth is that Age 4 means all options are still open. And if he’s already thinking of taping stuff up down in the basement, near the chest freezer, well, you can take it from there. He could harbor an awesome criminal mind.

On the flip side, he could become an engineer for NASA, ja? Don’t they pretty much take a bunch of unused crap and apply duct tape to it?

Or maybe he could become our country’s leader. When I look at our current president’s approach to policy-making, foreign policy in particular, I’m convinced that it emerges from a dark place littered with Styrofoam cups and Scotch tape, a place where all products are created on impulse, out of a “loose ends” moment.

Ideally, he’ll end up a poor-as-buttons inventor, the neighborhood eccentric who gathers garbage can lids, chicken wire, used light bulbs, and broken clocks and then, once a year, applies for a patent for his Break-Dancing Refrigerator design.

And then there’s Girl. Her latest thing, in an unscheduled moment, is to take Post-it notes and write really long numbers on them in the form of dollar amounts. For example, she’ll take a half an hour to work feverishly on writing the number $60000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 on a piece of paper:

This little exercise has evolved out of something other kids in her class at school are doing—something about who can cram the most zeros onto the paper, but she finds it important and meaningful work on her own time now, here at home. If this penchant is indicative of her future, what might we predict for her?

Well, for one, how about OCD? I’d say this is the “dark” interpretation of her future, but, heck, she’d be joining luminaries like Howie Mandel, Donald Trump, and Howard Hughes. Oh, wait, that *is* a pretty dark union to be a card-carrying member of. Ah, but if I add the likes of R. Crumb to the crowd, then the OCD reveals itself as having possible silver linings.

Alternatively, she could end up an accountant or a bookkeeper—someone whose enjoyment of number crunching means a livable wage…and a lifetime of stilted and painful office parties.

Or, since the point of her activity is to cram as much as possible into a small space, maybe she’ll find work smuggling illegal immigrants over the border: “We can fit another three into the back of the truck before sealing it up!”

Most likely, she’ll either end up as a Human Resources director (she loves organizing groups, even of zeros) or as the loader of an UPS truck during holiday season.

All of these predictions of the future make me think back to my own childhood, sifting through my pastimes to see if they have some how been borne out in my current career as an English instructor. Most certainly, I spent most of my hours reading, reading, reading, and then hiding in small closets furtively composing, at Age 10, short stories and books (most notable was my tale of Lucifer, an evil cat who clawed his owner to death; I remember writing this in Charlottesville, VA, the summer of 1976, as bicentennial fireworks shot off around me). During my fifth grade year, I read Gone With the Wind no less than 26 times and The Good Earth at least 11 times…um, speaking of OCD. So, yes, we can make a case that my career as an English teacher was in the cards.

And I look at my brother, who liked to take a butter knife out into the yard and throw it, for hours, into the grass, watching the shaft of it quiver as the blade stuck into the dirt. He also really liked watching reruns of The Beverly Hillbillies. And eventually, he really liked drinking beer. Indeed, it’s clear he was predestined to become the Major in the Air Force that he now is.

Clearly, too, my sister was always aimed directly at the kindergarten/first grade teaching career that she now rocks. From an early age, she was the babysitter of choice in our subdivision, raking in more bucks than my parents some weeks, it seemed. And there was only that once that one of her charges disappeared for about an hour, which would be fair odds now that she handles upwards of 25 rammy kids each day—one or two gone missing for a bit is nothing to blink at.

So how about you? Did the preferences of your youth end up parlaying into the job and interests you now have? Or did you always love taking care of the neighborhood dogs and cats, only to become a chef in a restaurant that gets its ingredients from suspicious sources?

With all these thoughts about childhood resonance steeping in my head, I was also forced to cast an eye back on my early-in-life endeavors earlier today while I was out for a snowshoe run; when I needed a pee break in the woods, keeping the snowshoes on seemed simplest, and I amazed myself with how nimble I was in the midst of that potentially-hairy process (translation: I didn’t pee on my self or my snowshoes). Could it be that I was potty-trained with tennis racquets strapped to my feet?

(photo credit: Jim Berg!)








32 responses to “Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief?”

  1. lushgurl Avatar

    Hahahaha Jocelyn! I loved this post…funny when you look at things that way huh?
    When I was little I did lots of stuff that I still like to do today- I used to play Restaurant at my grandmother’s (she lived in the country). For hours I could mix mud and put lovely flowers or berries on it to make it look good enough to eat. My last job (which I really loved) was working in a Deli! And, if you ask Maven, she’ll tell ya, I bake amazing cookies!

  2. heartinsanfrancisco Avatar

    Funny, funny post! This is brilliant stuff. I think my favorite bit is your image of the president creating policy out of bits and pieces of garbage in a styrofoam-cluttered room. And all this time, I thought he decided such things by flipping coins or doing eeny-meeny-miney-moe with his advisors.

    Thank you for non-stop belly laughs. You rock.

  3. sweatpantsmom Avatar

    You must send him right over. We have tons of stuff we’re not using that he can tape together that will help him on his path to greatness.

    (Thanks for visiting my blog!)

  4. Lone Grey Squirrel Avatar
    Lone Grey Squirrel

    You have a wickedly funny sense of humor. It was a fantastic post. I am impressed how open minded you are about your children’s carrer choices. in fact you might make a great career guidance counsellor.

    I’d like to share what I did when I was young but it will be way too long… you have inspired me to do a post on it one day. Again, hahahahah. I’m lovin’ it. 🙂

  5. lime Avatar

    girl, you are hilarious. i love how your mind works…you are clearly as warped as me! thinking back to when my limelets were very young….bwahahahah..lots of fodder for a similar post there.

  6. Jazz Avatar

    Jocelyn that was a brilliant post. As for whether my obsessions as a child grew into my work of today. In short unfortunately no. My life would probably be much more interesting if that were the case! And maybe I wouldn’t be dreaming about nutjob shrinks.

  7. Balou Avatar

    Love your blog! If I had to bet I would imagine your kids as being open minded, funny, creative adults. As for me, making mud pies, spending hours in my playhouse, sewing polyester tube dresses for Barbie and nurturing oodles of kittens you would’ve thought I’d be the perfect stay at home Mom. Maybe I would have. Instead I find myself as a graphic designer. Hmmm.

  8. Glamourpuss Avatar

    You do know that whatever they become, they are still more than likely to put you in a home someday, don’t you?

    Don’t spend too much on college education – you’ll need it to bribe the nurses in the home.

    What happened to Lucifer? One scratch too far?


  9. mist1 Avatar

    Great post.

    My parents never picked up on my OCDisms when I was a kid. Sometimes, I like to rub that in their faces. I think they appreciate that we can talk so openly about that kind of stuff.

    Seriously, there was a point when I was so obsessive compulsive that I thought about getting a job as a stock clerk. I wanted to line up rows of soup cans and bottles of detergent at Target. I thought it would feel rewarding. Then, I got some help.

  10. furiousBall Avatar

    Speaking of OCD – my son parks up all 90,000 of his cars and trucks in our playroom in a perfect line and gets extremely perturbed at his sister for looking at them in an unsettling manner. I think he will also be president, because I think W has all his toy trucks lined up like that too.

  11. Undercover Angel Avatar
    Undercover Angel

    Come to think of it, when I was about 12 I would sit and write for hours, and would put tape record things people said and then sit and transcribe them all later… So, maybe there is something to that…

  12. Dorky Dad Avatar
    Dorky Dad

    You are hilarious. Given issues with the space shuttle, the space station and our Mars rovers, I think duct taping things together might be giving them too much credit.

  13. Diana Avatar

    Oh, yes. I absolutely adored looking at all the secrets pond life held under the microscope in my various science classes. That love I’ve run with in my doc jobs, especially at the health department where I get to witness a cornucopia of critters from various drippy sources. My son got a microscope for Christmas. I’m fiendishly turning him into a mini-me. Can’t wait for the summer when we can take jars and get pond water to oooh over. Life is good.

  14. ldbug Avatar

    Wow! You’re son is very creative, I’d say NASA, certainaly. Daughter? Maybe a billionaire!!

    I was always writing, composing, acting. I did also do random science experiments. I don’t know, I am a scientist now, should I have focused on being a writer? My thoughts are that I can always be a writer, but I only have this certain amount of time to establish a science career…

  15. velvet girl Avatar
    velvet girl

    This was fantastic! Very funny and thanks for the laugh.

    My dolls remained stuffed in the toy box under my bed while I went out to climb trees with my brother, so, no, my youth didn’t predict that I’d be a stay-at-homeschooling mom. Then again, I’m not exactly a “typical” mom.


  16. choochoo Avatar

    Get your son a collection of small, furry animals. If he tapes them together, it’s not a good sign.

    I used to draw zeros like that all the time, when I was a kid, and just look how I turned out:D

  17. Cheeky Avatar

    How can you look so happy in all that snow????

  18. That Chick Over There Avatar
    That Chick Over There

    I’ve always written for hours and hours upon end, but I didn’t really end up a writer. I always thought I was bad at science and math (because I’m a GIRL and I grew up with a bunch of SEXIST PEOPLE, but that’s another story entirely) and now I’m an environmentalist and have to use chemistry like, EVERY DAY and it’s so weird.

    Also, I have many things that can be taped together.

    Additionally, we might have the same kid who is just changing wigs periodically. Not sure, but they certainly sound just alike.

  19. Dan Avatar

    Oh my goodness! That boat totally rocks! I’m sure it would fetch … oh … at least 14 cents on eBay! 🙂

  20. Logophile Avatar

    Clearly a life of crime, like their mama.
    Love it
    and I am so glad you managed the potty in the shoe shoes maneuver.
    Its even harder than it looks, I am impressed

  21. Hammer Avatar

    Yep. my dad told me that he used to buy me expensive toys until he saw me toss the toy to the side and play with the boxes 🙂

  22. Mother of Invention Avatar
    Mother of Invention

    Yes, I am the one who had a blackboard on the back of my bedroom door and I’d “teach students”, all lined up on my bed! I doubt my stuffed pink pug, Floppy,ever really got that spelling list conquered! And that cowgirl doll couldn’t sit still in her foot board saddle,the Bride Doll was dreamily looking at those Bride Mags!

    I became a elementary teacher and have taught from Kind. to Gr. 7. I was always the one who worked at summer camp for diabetic kids. Never babysat much but liked to Play with kids so I could observe them and teach them words!

    Think that all pointed to teaching!

  23. Spider Girl Avatar
    Spider Girl

    I’m so glad I found your blog, Jocelyn! Funny, funny!

    If using wads of tape to stick stuff together is any indication of sociopathy, then I’d say an enormous amount of my preschoolers are on their way now…hmmm, and they look so cute and harmless!

    That, and my own basement would be a lot less untidy if I wasn’t always keeping potential daycare “fun craft stuff” around.

    How’d I end up a preschool teacher anyway? Your post made me stop and think.

    I WAS planning on becoming a mortician/funeral director. At the very least a biologist of some kind. For years and years this was the plan. I loved holding funerals for bugs when I was little, graduating to goldfish and gerbils.

    A distant relative mine I admired oversaw the funeral preps of such folks as Errol Flynn…I had tea with the local funeral directors in later life.

    What the heck happened? 🙂

    I might need to write a post sometimes analyzing that…

  24. paintergirl Avatar

    I love this post!
    Definitely an DIY entrepanuer architect! Daughter, the woman who writes an unbreakable computer code.

    I worried when my son lined toys up, now I see it’s normal. He has told me on more than occasion that he wants to take care of all the cats in the world.

  25. Diesel Avatar

    “Dad, can we go down in the basement and find stuff we’re not using and tape it together?”

    That’s an outside-the-box thinker, right there. I mean, what the hell, right? You might make something cool by accident.

  26. Lee Avatar

    Oh my god…what a brilliantly funny post! Thanks for the laughs. I had to post this to My Favorite Posts. Hope that’s okay.

  27. Claire Avatar

    Thanks for stopping by the other day. Enjoyed this post!

  28. CSL Avatar

    When I was in high school, people were always spilling their secest to me. Unasked. I never understood why they’d want to do that. I had no idea I’d end up hearing secrets for a living.

  29. Top cat Avatar
    Top cat

    I love your sense of humor and how you use that humor in your posts.
    I enjoyed the pics of your son’s creativity using simple household items and tape.
    If the writing of zeros wasn’t something the kids in school were doing I would be concerned, yes OCD was the first thing that came to mind.
    Cute and I love how you encourage your children’s creativity.

    I once built an airplane out of discarded wood and canvas complete with a wing. I hung it from a rope and I could climb into and pretend I was flying.
    Later in life I did join the Air Force but my duties usually kept me grounded.
    Great post.

  30. Steven Novak Avatar
    Steven Novak

    Get out of the snow you goof. 😉


  31. Lhianon Avatar

    Fantastic Post!
    Everyone here at work is looking at me funny as I giggled my way through.

    Son has the potential to be an artist and make billions of dollars selling his taped together works of art… and daughter can be the accountant and manage the billions of dollars.

    I read a lot as a child, collected rocks, played school, pretended to have a house with a husband and kids. Growing up my mom did in home daycare so there were always lots of kids around to play with.

    I can’t if any of my childhood hobbies turned into my career choice/path though… I’ll have to think on it more.

  32. Michael Avatar

    This post is hilarious! I was cracking up at “can we go down in the basement and find stuff we’re not using and tape it together?” That sounds like the kind of thing I’d love to do. The end result is excellent, too.

    The guesses about possible future careers and personality traits based on such isolated incidents (or are they?) are funny, too.

    They sound like great kids … and extremely entertaining.

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