Recently, my daughter Prima was asked the inevitable, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question by my mother. Encouraged by her grandmother’s praise over her prolific art work, Prima declared that she wanted to be an artist. My mother duly affirmed her eight-year-old optimism with a, “That’s wonderful darling, you’ll be a brilliant artist.”
Prima then asked her grandfather what he thought about her career choice. Whilst I have always admired my father’s unwavering and unflinching honesty, I do wish he would calibrate his comments for his grandchildren sometimes. He said, “Well, if you want to be an artist, I will support you but I would really prefer it if you were a doctor, lawyer or accountant.”
When my father said “I will support you…” I wasn’t sure if he thought I was raising a dilettante; that Prima would never make a living and so he would have to do as all Sri Lankan patriarchs do and financially support her. My father seemed noticeably relieved when my son Secundo declared that he wanted to “be a banker, just like Daddy.”
After much thought, Prima then said she wanted to be a farmer’s wife. Not the actual farmer but the farmer’s wife. The Wife. Now I have never professionally aspired to be anyone’s wife so I was concerned*.
[*OK, this is not entirely true. When I was Prima’s age, I aspired to be Han Solo’s wife but that’s because I wanted to be Princess Leia who was a fully emancipated woman, perfectly capable of leading an insurgency against the Empire.**
**OK, this is not entirely true either. In recent years I may have aspired to be Matt Damon’s wife but we are ignoring that for the purpose of this post.]