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Little dreams and big ideas

WHEN I was five, I decided I'd never get married. Girls were yuck. Why in the name of God would you want to hang around with one all the time, let alone allow one to sleep in the same bed as you? Which is why I decided that when I grew up, I would be the Pope.

The Pope, I was assured, wasn't married. It was explained to me that there were a few intermediate steps before you got the fancy robes and the pad in Rome, but I was an ambitious kid. I figured I would be swept to power by popular consent and would begin my papacy by issuing encyclicals against everything from dentists to boiled carrots, and have Fintan Reilly burnt at the stake. Fintan was in junior infants with me and once hit me over the head with The Little Engine that Could. The hardback copy.

Currently, my own children's ambitions are a bit more mixed. Annie plans to be a hairdresser, a jockey, a vet, a fashion designer and one of Santa's Little Helpers. Mike, on the other hand, has set his sights a little lower. He announced that he would be either a chimneysweep or a plumber. The chimneysweep thing comes from watching Mary Poppins over the Christmas. And the plumber. He thinks he got the water back working last month, because he was the first one to turn the tap on after it thawed.

"Or else," he says, "I'll be a litterer."

"A what?" I asked him.

"A litterer," he said. "You know. Someone who goes around throwing rubbish everywhere."

"Why would you want to be that?" I asked him.

He shrugged. "Looks like fun."

"True enough." I had to admit.

They're not quite at the stage where they understand the actual purpose of work. Mike looks at the incomprehensible nature of adult activity, sees somebody firing an empty crisp packet out of a window and thinks, 'Well, that looks as good a job as any other'. I've tried to explain that working is about getting money, which is used to get stuff. Because I work from home, I'm accessible all the time, and it drives them crazy when I tell them I can't play with them because I have to work. When I give them the line about buying food, they wail that they're not hungry.

So I explained to Mike that litterer wasn't really a valid career choice. Of the kids who I was in junior infants with, only the ones who wanted to be farmers actually stuck it out and are now farmers. There are no professional footballers, astronauts or popes in the mix, although I often wonder if Fintan realised his dream of being an assassin.

So anyway, I know you shouldn't force your ambitions on your kids, but I think I'll push Mike on the plumbing. Plumbers are always handy to have around. And the vet thing looks a good bet with Annie. I'll need to have a kid who can earn a few bucks so she can send me to Rome and I can at least ponder what might have been.