I have this vision of my children’s future, and, in it, my youngest — currently a rabid Thomas the Tank Engine aficionado — is some kind of engineer. Not necessarily a train engineer, but perhaps involved in aerospace or something appropriately futuristic. He revels in the beauty of mechanics and physics and does what he loves. And my eldest, who never met a dinosaur he didn’t like (or any other animal, for that matter), is a paleontologist, or perhaps a veterinarian. He’s the lover of life, the compassionate creature dedicating himself to the understanding of other beings.
Right now, those tendencies are incredibly obvious. My father, at the end of a recent visit, said, “I know what to get Rory for his birthday.” I replied, “So long as it says ‘choo choo’ he’ll be thrilled.” My dad isn’t exactly the most astute observer of other people’s interests — he’s the check or gift-certificate type — but Rory’s love of trains is difficult to miss. As for Callum, dinosaurs and animals are an overarching passion. Rather than choose cartoons for his Netflix videos, he has lined up documentary after documentary about animals, with a strong leaning toward the dinosaurs or dinosaur-like reptilians.
I know it won’t last. This past year, I bought everyone in the family Christmas ornaments for 2010, and I tried to choose a design reflecting their interests and passions of the year — something that they could look back at in years to come and remember this stage in their lives. For Rory, it was a train, of course. For Callum, a long-necked dinosaur.
It’s easier for me to imagine them continuing in this way, playing with trains and watching dinosaur documentaries until they go off to college to study engineering and paleontology, respectively. But, deep down, I suspect there will come a time when trains are “for babies” and dinosaurs hold no particular interest — at least for a while. I got to thinking about this after reading “Goodbye, Thomas” at Playgroups are No Place for Children, in which Jennifer recounts 5-year-old Carson’s eschewing of his once-loved island of Sodor. Oh, how I cried reading that story.
Part of it, I think, is that I love this part of their lives so much. They are so beautiful in their passions and their needs are relatively simple to fulfill. Later will come peer jockeying-for-social-standing, calculus homework, girlfriend drama and college entrance exams. Seeing this current stage pass, as I’m sure will happen all too quickly, will definitely be sad. But I’m sure the unknown future will hold its own particular beauty, which I’ll mourn just as strongly when it fades into the past.