Girls aim to be vets despite Granny's warning of arms in cows

Tue, Jan 31, 2012, 00:00

A DAD'S LIFE:Just how do we help our kids choose the right career, writes ADAM BROPHY

I LIKE to address my parenting expectations with nostalgia. For every time I look at one of my sprogs and think, Taoiseach, Olympian, possibly employable, I remember back to my childhood and the pleasure derived from dashing my own parents’ hopes and dreams.

They could play the “we walked 19 miles to school in nothing but pelts from animals we had hunted ourselves” line, as if it made a difference. As far as I was concerned, they had walked to school in Neolithic times: how else would they have got their pelts? Get over it, Mum. Man up, Dad.

They cocked up. They brought me and my sisters up in cosy suburbia. We had central heating and 10-speed racers. All I aspired to was eventually getting a snog. At least until they sent me to school in Kildare. From that point on my ambitions changed. From that point on I wanted a shift.

I have no hardship cards to play to the kids, even if I wasn’t completely aware of how ineffectual they are. I could go for some level of sympathy: “We were the third last house on the road to get an Atari. We were made to play outside until one day my dad came home with a Betamax. The shame! You have no idea how good you have it, with your SkyPlus, Nintendo Wii and the promise of a HD-ready TV at some point in the future.” All that will provoke is a backlash based around the graininess of the picture they are forced right now to endure.

My mother was forever going on about me being a lawyer. All I knew about lawyering was Matlock. She told me not to be a doctor because of the blood and “having to listen to old women complain about their veins”.

She warned me off being a vet because I would be “called out every night to stick my arm up a cow”. Matlock it would be . . . until the issue of Leaving Cert points came up. Arts it would be.

The old man was worse. He was a business man who wouldn’t let me do commerce for the Inter because, “who needs to learn how to work a filing cabinet?” No, instead I had to do Latin.

After three years, I could translate Caesar’s conquests but I couldn’t ask a Roman how he was. And I still didn’t know how to work a filing cabinet. Revenue, blame my father. He tried to make me keep up the Latin for the Leaving because it was “easy points”. Easy? The only thing easy about Latin was it had the same word as English for exit. So, exeunt stage right.

What ill-fated carrots am I providing for my brats? Carrots that will no doubt be thrown back in my face in many years’ time.

I tell them I don’t care about results as long as I know they tried hard. This is absolute balls, I care hugely about results. If they can be hugely successful and make a lot of money fast then maybe my non-existent career and empty pension pot won’t be such an issue.

I tell them spending time on subjects they find difficult and mastering them is far more worthwhile than flitting through life, getting by with the things you find easy. Work is important. You have to devote yourself to something.

I don’t know where this Calvinist streak comes from because it sure isn’t manifest in my life. For as long as I can remember there has been a low-level anxiety gnawing in my stomach because whatever is supposed to have been done is undone. It’s late. And when it finally gets finished it will be a little slapdash, because it was done in the toilet before class. Because last night I had to watch MTV until midnight and read Stephen King.

So I tell them what’s important is that they make an effort. Once they do that, success will follow. That success may be monetary (better be) or may just be in the personal satisfaction of having done something well from start to completion. I tell them all the things I’ve been trying to bang into my own head for 40 years and wonder will they have any more success.

I might be more concerned if I thought they paid me any attention. But as it stands they see right through the “do as I say, not as I do” routine. They finish their homework and belt off as fast as possible to do anything else. They both want to be vets despite the arms in cows story. They think granny is mental.