This afternoon our eight year-old James told us of his dream to be an astronaut, a dream both me and my husband both instantly recognised as completely and utterly impossible and told him as much.
At school he’s been learning about space travel and the first astronauts to walk on the moon so he came home yesterday, looked up at me, tiny eyes full of hope and wonder, and said “Mummy, when I grow up I want to be just like Neil Armstrong!” It was a lovely moment and it’s a pity I had to tell him flat out there’s no way it will ever happen. Frankly I think it’s cruel that his teacher let him believe it could.
I know recently he got a pretty good school report, and he does have the cutest little face you’ll ever see. However, I’m afraid he shows no signs of ever developing the extremely high levels of mental and physical aptitude required to succeed in the intensely competitive world of manned spaceflight.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s got a decent future ahead of him. But let’s face it, basically no-one becomes an astronaut. A silver star on his maths homework and lovely crayon drawings are all very well, but the other day he asked me if we were having ‘bisgetti’ for dinner… He still wears velcro trainers for God’s sake!
I told him straight: “Unless you’re some kind of actually gifted wonderchild” – which, with all respect to James, he just isn’t – “you shouldn’t be aiming so high.” I told him maybe he could help the astronauts – in middle management, as a filing clerk, or one of those people who walk the astronauts to their shuttle, but now he won’t stop crying. Why can’t he be learning about famous landscape gardeners or something more achievable?
The impossibility of it all shouldn’t stop James reaching for the stars. But obviously it will.