But what about their mothers?
“What will they be when they grow up?” This is the question of every parent’s heart since the first stinkers were born just outside the Garden of Eden.
From the moment your child arrives and you look into that little scrunched-up face, you wonder, “Do we have the next president here? The next Michael Jordan? A Nobel Peace Prize winner? Just who is this we’re burping, diapering, and committing great sums of cash to for the next 18 years?”
So far, two of ours think they know what they want to be. College Kid, a junior, has declared a major in psychology with the stated intent of having his own practice one day. His brother, also a junior, is taking high school classes that correspond with his interest in being a Disney imagineer.
The jury is still out on the youngest two. The 12-year-old can hook up nearly anything electronic, and the 4-year-old spends his days playing with matchbox cars, lining them up with military precision. He can build towers with the steadiest hand I’ve ever seen, kick like a soccer star, and bat like George Brett.
Counsellor? Disney designer? Electronics expert? Athlete? Engineer? We wait with baited breath.
All of this has me thinking today about other mothers throughout history whose offspring went on to fame and fortune. The world may not know their names, but we know who their kids are and what they turned out to be.
Before all that, though – before the medals and trophies and triumphant elections, I wonder. What was it like to raise these small geniuses and overachievers in those “before” years?
Take Michelle Kwan, the Olympic figure skater. Did her mother ever tire of having a small human cannonball leaping, twirling, and skating around the kitchen floor in tube socks? Did she have to bribe her with cookies to get her to practice? Did she raise her voice when she sprang yet another run in her pink tights?
What about Michael Jordan’s mother? Did she rue the day she bought her little boy his first indoor basketball hoop, the kind that fits on the top of the door? Did she ever question his future in the sport when his accuracy at hitting wastebaskets and clothes hampers was less than stellar?
In the dark of the night, did she wrestle with this question, “Exactly how big are his feet going to get?” I wonder.
Then there were the Wright brothers. I have a feeling that Mrs. Wright’s nerves were shot by the time those two were all grown up. You can’t tell me she didn’t catch those boys experimenting with cardboard wings in all sorts of places.
I feel for her. When one of our boys inquired as to the feasibility of parachuting from our barn roof, I was a nervous wreck for months. At 17, he is just now allowed out in the yard without supervision. You mamas who ground your kids for years, I “get” you.
And what about little Maria Augusta Kutschera, later known as Maria von Trapp from the famous musical, The Sound of Music. Before von Trapp Family fame, though, did her mother get songbird fatigue from a little girl who sang everywhere she went? When her report cards read, “Maria is a bright child, but she insists on singing her sums in class,” did she throw up her hands in despair? Threaten the little warbler with a no-singing ban? We’ll never know.
How, I wonder, did Mrs. Hanna, Jack’s mother, feel about having a menagerie in her back yard? She couldn’t have known as she stepped in a fresh pile of something-or-other that her son would grow up to be a famous zookeeper. All she knew was that a creature (was that an ostrich?) was nibbling at the wash on the line and that something that wasn’t a dog was sleeping in the kennel.
Then there’s little Winston. If he was as sober in his youth as he was as an adult, then Mrs. Churchill had her work cut out for her. Did she tell corny knock-knock jokes to spark a smile from her boy? Did she serve his breakfast wearing plastic glasses with a fake nose and mustache just to make him chuckle? It’s hard, dirty work, gouging a laugh out of a truculent, surly audience. I know.
Surely it was frustrating, raising a child like Florence Joyner who could outrun her mother by the age of three. Had she known, during one of their many chases around the yard, that little Flo would one day be an Olympic sprinter with medals around her neck, it may have helped a little. It might have, but I doubt it.
So do we have the next great inventor on our hands? A future president? I don’t know. I just hope that if there’s an inauguration in our future, the president elect will remember to slick that cowlick down and that I won’t miss it because I’m too busy talking to the vice president’s mother.