I like my kids to know that they can do anything. No, I don’t mean kick the cat. And I don’t mean watch that R rated movie. And I don’t mean stand there naked for three hours after their bath when they should be getting ready for bed. No of those things, but everything else. Well, almost everything else.
Nah, that’s too broad a statement. What I mean is that they can be whatever they want to be. They can be a fireman or an astronaut, a rock star or an actor, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a stay at home dad. They can aim for the sky, or float somewhere between the earth and the stars, with their heads in the clouds, or their feet on the ground. Yes, my kids can be any or all of the clichés we can throw at them.
Over the years our sons have told my wife and I plus their various teachers and day carers that they want to be anything from an actor or singer, to an astronaut and a kangaroo. Yes, one child’s dream was to become a large Australian marsupial. And, if memory serves me correctly, the eldest has suggested a police officer as another option.
I for one would never discourage either of my children to pursue the career that they want to do, whether it’s a money earner or not. And, I would never want to push them to do something they haven’t shown interest in. In my naming day speech to our eldest son I distanced myself from those parents who want to live vicariously through their children pushing them to fulfil one of their dreams. That’s not the kind of parent I want to be.
I think that I’ve got the balance right. I think that I have that level of “let the child decide” and “encourage them to pursue their interests as a career path”, but as our kids are only eight-and-a-half years old and a few weeks short of six years old, only time will tell.
After watching our first born play his best game of Australian Rules football on Sunday, my wife took him to a birthday while I took the younger one to do his favourite thing; play putt putt. After we played finished the round of mini golf we found a local playground to have a play in. It was rather small, so I jumped onto Google to find another one. I found a larger playground around the corner and off we went to play there.
As soon as he started feeling hungry, we headed off to have some lunch. On the way to lunch, my youngest son asked me a question that I’ve never been asked by either child before.
“Dad, when you were a boy, what did you want to be?”
This seems like easy enough a question to answer. Well, it would be for anyone else, I’m sure…
I really can’t remember having thoughts of being a police officer or fire fighter, nor can I remember ever wanting to be an astronaut. Being a doctor wasn’t on my radar, nor being a teacher. I remember later in my youth, heading into the senior high school years I thought that being a lawyer would be cool, but to me that seemed more of a career choice rather than an aspiration or dream.
If truth be told, the thing that I really wanted to do was play music. I wanted to be in a rock band. I wanted to be writing songs and playing them to a concert hall full of my band’s fans. I wanted to have people entertained by something that I did. I wanted people to be inspired by me as an artist. I wanted to change the world for the better, much like some of my rock idols wanted to do.
When I was younger I wanted to play fun music. As I got older I wanted to write protest music. I wanted to write songs like John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, even working class anthems like the more “pop” friendly Bon Jovi or Jimmy Barnes. I didn’t really want to get a job, but I wanted to write the working person’s theme so that my fellow high school friends could get through their day listening to my songs of inspiration on the radio.
But the thing was, I really wanted my friends to be a part of it. I wanted my high school band to be “the band” for me. Only thing was, to half of them, it wasn’t really their dream. I guess their often half-hearted effort meant that I should only give a much as they did. I should have tried harder. I should have locked myself away and practised until I was a brilliant guitarist.
Sure we wrote some cool songs. My high school friends and I used to make live recording tapes in the back room of my parents’ house and give them out to friends at school. We had a few girls who were massive fans of our songs. They used to sing along on the few occasions that we got to play our songs live, like at school talent quests or this one time when we were walking past the Friday night fellowship at a local church where there was this Christian rock band playing and we popped our heads in only to be “talked into” jumping up and playing a few of our songs during that band’s break. A few of the girls from our school were there and it was lucky that my whole band was out walking the streets and just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
The right place, at the right time…
After school finished, I went in and out of a few bands. I switched from guitar to play bass in two bands. I played guitar in about three or four other bands. Versions of my old school band reformed in my early twenties, and other bands I joined took me further into the music industry than I had been before with my own projects. And I always thought that one day, one of those bands would be in that right place at the right time, discovered by one of those A&R guys from the record companies.
It never happened.
One band came close. One band was working with an artist development guy who was shaping us in order to get a record contract like the one that his band had years before. But he ended up only delivering one of the two albums they were signed on to do and with his band not achieving the dizzying heights he and his band mates hoped for, that band folded and he was left pursuing other interests within the music industry.
So it was a hard thing to tell my kid about the thing that I wanted to be when he knows that Daddy is clearly not that. I didn’t become the thing I wanted to be; a professional musician. Sure I could lie. Sure I could tell him that Daddy wanted to be a salesman. Having worked for a few companies doing sales over the years it would seem that it’s my calling in life, but it’s not who I am or what defines me.
I’m not shitting over people who do sales jobs. My own father did sales his whole life, and many of my good friends are also sales people, including guys I played in bands with. But sales is a hard slog. It’s not an easy career path. There are way too many Gil (from The Simpsons) moments for my liking.
But that’s not to say that my dream career wouldn’t have been a hard thing. For every artist who makes millions and has longevity in their career, there are thousands more who fail to make money or be anything more than a flash in the pan.
The one thing that I hang onto though is that I still love to write and play music. Both my boys know that since they’ve been alive, Daddy has played in a couple of bands and has continued to be interested in the thing that I wanted to do.
If I can offer them anything when it comes to following your dreams and doing the thing you want to do, it’s this; don’t ever give up. Sure I’m not looking to become a rock star, and I don’t think I’ll make millions from writing songs, but I’m going to keep digging away, writing songs for people to hear, looking for others to collaborate with so that I feel part of something bigger, and I don’t feel isolated within my home studio where I write and record songs.
Back when I was 14 or 15yo I wrote a song that I think sums up where my head was when it comes to how much I didn’t push myself to become a professional musician. Even before my kid asked me the question about what I wanted to be when I was young, this song popped into my head last week and even though I hadn’t played it for over 10 years, it all came rushing back to me and I had to record it.
The song tells the story of someone who wants to go out and be someone and travel the world, but they also want someone to love and love them. As someone who was brought up in a middle class family with both parents still together, and neither of them party animals by any means, I often struggled with how I would cope being someone that I wasn’t. I always wondered how I would deal with being someone famous and having people throw themselves at me. Sure, you have to make it before that happens, but when you’re someone like me who over thinks things, I found myself thinking about the things that I needn’t be thinking of.
My long term song writing partner and band mate in many bands from the age of 13 through to our early forties and I would often wish that we could just be in a successful band but not have to deal with fame and all the crap that comes with it. We wanted to be able to sell records and play concerts to thousands of people, but we wanted to have a wife and kids, and normal lives. I think that’s where my song’s theme was based.
The song also talks about those people who shut themselves off and aren’t open to opportunities, especially when it comes to falling in love. The thing that recording the song over the last week made me think about is this; if I truly had to say what I wanted to be when I was younger, it would be someone who was in love. Okay, that’s a weird career choice, I know, but that’s the thing that i wanted above all.
I guess I really didn’t care what I did, or what I did or didn’t become, as long as I had someone to share my life with.
What did you want to be when you were young? Did you achieve it?