Last weekend, during my annual effort to organize my life, I was cleaning out some desk drawers and came across a very old TV remote control. It was for a Sony television we had back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. It absolutely pales in comparison to the complicated remotes we use today – the ones that have at least as many functions as an airplane cockpit and look almost as dangerous. This one is amazingly simple…it has a power button, two volume and two channel controls, and that’s it. Nevertheless, it’s called the “Remote Commander,” because it does everything the viewer needs it to do – at least it did back in 1980 when we only had five channels.
When I found the remote, I burst into tears. You see, when my son was an infant, this remote control was his favorite object. It was the only thing that kept him still and quiet during diaper changes, getting dressed, or if I was on the phone. It’s covered with scratches from his sharp baby teeth (yes, I let him put it in his mouth – I was desperate) and dents from banging it against the side of the crib. He would push the power button and turn the television on and off and on again. Between the ages of 7 and 13 months, he loved this remote more than any other object in the house. So I got sad when I looked at it, remembering a time that seemed hectic and crazy then, but in retrospect was really quite idyllic -as hindsight always is.
Anyway, after I got over my little hormonal outburst, I started thinking about this remote in a different way. From the very beginning of our son’s life, it was clear to us that he was completely in love with technology and computers. By the time he was two years old, I could ask him to program the VCR for me, and he would toddle out to the family room, pick up the remote ( already a slightly more complicated version) and set it up to record anything I wanted.
In the early 1980’s home computers were just becoming available. He was not quite three years old when we purchased his first computer, a Texas Instruments model that was little more than a game station. He was six when we bought the huge IBM personal computer where he really cut his teeth on computing. I’ve lost count of the number of computers he’s had in his lifetime (although I’m sure he could tell me in the blink of an eye, including makes and model numbers.) Now, 30 years later, computers are an integral part of how he makes his living, and also how he spends much of his free time.
It seems to me that the seeds of our passions are planted in us at birth. My son’s affinity for the remote control, for anything with buttons or anything that controlled some electronic gadget, seemed to emerge around the age of five months, along with his milk teeth. My love of music, particularly the piano, manifested itself when I was a toddler. I clearly recall sitting in the baby seat of a grocery cart, dancing my fingers along the handle and singing, pretending I was playing the piano. We didn’t have a piano in our house, and to my knowledge I had never heard or seen one except perhaps on television. Nevertheless, I was manic for one and pestered my parents about it as soon as I could talk, until on my sixth birthday one miraculously appeared in our living room. I breathed a sigh of relief, as if someone had given water to a thirsty soul.
The scary thing about these seeds is correctly discerning what they are and cultivating them. I’m not around children very often, but if I were I would probably spend a fair amount of time observing them and trying to discover what their passions were and how they could be turned into something meaningful later in life. I’m fascinated by the whole prospect.
Luckily for me, my parents acknowledged my desire and helped me fulfill it. I’m hopeful that we did all we could in encouraging our son’s obvious passion. But sometimes I wonder – what if there were other seeds lying dormant that we never knew about? If we had scratched the surface a little bit, was there perhaps a painter or a doctor or a carpenter buried deep beneath the layers? My thoughts turn inward, and I wonder about seeds that might have lain fallow in my soul for the last 50 years. Is it too late to unearth them, start nourishing them, and see if they’ll grow?
I’m not much of a gardener – this I know for sure – but it might be interesting to root around in my deepest desires, and see if anything starts blooming.
How about you? Were the seeds of your passions evident from an early age? Can you see the seeds of the future in your children?