Not long ago, I pointed out to the Venomous Hubby that most children, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, have answers tending toward the overly ambitious: an astronaut, President of United States, an NFL player, a prima ballerina. Hell, one of our friends has a son who literally misspells his own name on a regular basis and that kid wants to grow up to be a brain surgeon. (Our friend has wisely begun making large annual donations to a nearby University with a medical program, because it never hurts to grease the wheels.)
When we asked the Big-Eyed Boy what he wants to be when he grows up he said, “Oh, I don’t plan to be anything because I’m not going to college, and I’m never moving out.” Needless to say, VH and I didn’t share his enthusiasm.
Don’t get me wrong: we love our little boy like crazy. Most days he’s a joy to be around, he’s an incredibly affectionate and usually sweet-natured kid, and he has such a funny, quirky sense of humor that our house is filled with laughter.
Every piece of furniture in my house is either ripped, stained or scarred. Our walls are begrimed with little hand prints despite my near-obsessive scrubbing. The floors — where the tiles haven’t been cracked by someone dropping a baseball bat, heavy book bag or other item not ‘fessed up to — are so far from their original white (chosen by the previous homeowners, I assure you) that I now claim they’re actually beige, not white, so people don’t look at me in horror.
The BEB is my youngest, and LAST child. I’ve been raising children for 19 years now and I have the gray hairs to prove it. I’m tired. VH is tired. We can’t remember the last time we ate at a restaurant that didn’t pass out crayons along with paper menus, and we sure as hell haven’t been on any type of trip one could consider “romantic” (unless you count the 2 hours or so on the drive to my mother-in-laws when the BEB falls asleep in the back of the minivan).
There is NO WAY that child is skipping college, must less spending his adult life in our home. Just as I did when his older sister, the Princess, graduated from high school, I’ll be boxing his stuff up the day after graduation and asking what address he wants his stuff shipped to.
This is why VH and I have lately taken great pains to encourage the Big-Eyed Boy to explore his various interests. For a while there he’d expressed foodie tendencies, so we bought him a kid’s cookbook, a chef hat, and a child-friendly set of knives. And, while we did diligently supervise his use of said knives, the first time one of us turned our backs (*cough* VH *cough*), the boy proceeded to hack into the trim on my kitchen counter-tops at precise 1-inch intervals. On every counter. And all the way around the kitchen island. So much for encouraging that
His precision didn’t escape our notice, though, so when he mentioned an interest in learning to build things we jumped all over THAT, too. VH got him a child’s tool box and loaded it with smaller-sized tools. They went to the lumber yard and bought wood. They went to the paint store and bought paint. They downloaded plans to build a birdhouse, and even though I despise birds (primitive, scary things!), I forced a smile of approval on my face. It was a beautiful bird house, too, and the boy was quite proud when he sat it on the deck railing where we figured it was close enough for us to watch our backyard birds take to it. Unfortunately, it proved close enough for our cat to watch them, too. Somehow, in the time it took for us to realize the cat had shot out the deck door the damn animal managed to catch, kill and behead a bird right there on our deck. The boy now cringes in horror whenever we suggest another building project.
Then came the day I took him to see The Karate Kid. When we returned home, he proceeded to jump all over the house yelling heeeeee-YAAAAAH as he pantomimed disabling bad guys. Great! Cool! We’ll enroll him in martial arts training, VH and I agreed. After all, it teaches self-discipline (something we’re in favor of) and confidence (often a good thing to have) AND would help him burn off steam (thus maybe sparing my furniture). What we didn’t count on? The confidence came long before the self-discipline did, and this kid apparently has an endless supply of steam. Walking through my house feels a lot like being Inspector Clouseau: you never know when Kato — or, in this case, the BEB — is going to jump out from behind something and scare the crap out of you. Folks, my nerves are SHOT already. I’ll be damned if we’ll renew this karate school contract once it’s up.
Then one day, I remembered just how very good my kid is at Rock Band and Guitar Hero. No, seriously: he blows our friends’ minds on a regular basis when they watch him nail guitar licks and drum lines on the expert setting with 100% accuracy. So, okay, encouraging him to become a musician won’t necessarily ensure he’ll go to college and one day move out of our house (and, arguably, it might be encouraging the exact opposite), but we thought perhaps it would be a good place to start on that confidence thing and all.
I was as excited as a kid myself the day his new pro-style electronic drum set arrived. This was the answer to ALL of our hopes, I figured. For one thing, unlike a true drum set, it’s quiet: you either have to hook it up to a speaker, which I wisely ‘forgot’ to buy, or wear head phones. For another, it’s versatile: plug in your iPod or other mp3 player and you can drum along with your favorite tracks… also audible only through a ‘forgotten’ speaker or the headset. And, in addition to karate, we figured it would help him burn off more steam — something important, since I have my eye on a new pair of wingback chairs.
That was two weeks ago, and let me just say again, when it comes to musical talent my kid is mind-boggling. He’s learning new songs daily, loves drumming so much that he practices it without prodding, and is rapidly building a concert-worthy song list. And that confidence? Well, apparently the drums are helping with that, too, because now he’s so comfortable with the drums that he’s starting to sing along with them.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize at first that’s what was happening. No, instead, while I was down in the basement I heard what I thought was a pained animal, so I dropped the load of wash I’d been folding and raced two flights of stairs to find out what was wrong with our cat. The boy, seeing me, stopped his drumming and pointed out the cat was sleeping peacefully.
“You’re hearing things,” the boy said.
I shrugged and went back to the basement to fold more laundry, only to hear another horrible noise not five minutes later. This time, though, it sounded like my little boy had hurt himself so I shot up those two flights of stairs even faster, but the noise had stopped before I got there.
“Maybe you’re hearing something outside?” the boy suggested.
Being out-of-shape and out of breath, I decided not to go completely back down to the basement this time. Instead, I lurked in the kitchen until the noise started again, then crept upstairs to figure out what was the problem.
It was my son. Singing.
Except that it wasn’t singing, it was that horrible off-key screeching that people make when they’ve got earphones on and can’t hear themselves.
Except he didn’t have earphones on because his father had found a speaker for the electronic drum set, so he could hear himself just fine. And he sucked. Su-uh-uh-uh-ucked.
And as I stood there watching him drum and “sing”, he got a big grin on his face then reached down to pause the music. “I know what I want to be when I grow up!” he announced. “I’m going to be a world famous singer/drummer and go on world tour with my band!”
“Oh, no you’re not,” I told him. “Trust me.”
Yeah, that’s probably going to come up in therapy. The question is: his, or mine?