My son’s love affair started with helicopters. He would hear them in his cot, grab the side-rails, tilt back his blonde-locked headand start shouting gadagadagada, imitating the sound of the chopper as it flew overhead.
And that was often. We live in that part of Cape Town known as the city bowl, which comprises the foot-slopes of Table Mountain, with Devil’s Peak and Signal Hill to either side. The city skies are rarely empty of helicopters in summer, either filming Hollywood car-chases over-head, tourists on an aerial fly-by or emergency choppers rescuing unsuspecting hikers and climbers. And sometimes the Italian and French naval vessels have popped past – caryring helicopters.
Again and again he would watch an old VHS National geographic video of a curious, young American pilot flying over Africa, landing in exotic destinations. While I would wonder why I’d never done that (I suppose a pilot’s license would be a start) his mother swore she could recite the commentary in her sleep. In Cape Town’s sothern suburb of Tokai – the other side of the mountain – an old air force training plane, the Italian aermacchi, or ‘impala’, as we knew it, stands nearby where a fresh produce market. We visited with Fynn even before he could walk.
So, being two years into fatherhood I did what I reckon all good parents would do, and took him to an airshow at the local military airbase. He was two and sitting on my shoulders when the Saab Gripen flew low over the crowd.
He burst out crying. I walked briskly away from the oohs and aahs of the crowd towards one of the hangars housing a more sedate exhibition. I felt horribly guilty for bringing him to such a loud place that made even my ribs vibrate.
As we reached the entrance he tugged on my shoulder and said ‘more, more!’ And so we turned around and headed back to the spectators lining the runway. By the age of three he was fully into flying, his first real passion, as you see
What’s really blown me away as a parent has been how boys and girls are wired. That even without being pushed or directed as many parents will do, my son from the earliest age would gravitate to the ‘boy stuff’, like cars and planes, and likewise his sister to the dolls.
So I try to encourage his natural likes. His uncle has always been nuts about flying and sent him a Red Arrows flying suit from Scotland a few years ago. His cousin, some 15 years older, gave him his precious collection of toy model aircraft a few years back (in retrospect, I’d rather suggest holding on to precious / valuable things until they are around 7 years).
Today everything for my boy is about star wars lego. I think it helps to encourage different interests, and doubt we would need a psychologist to confirm that. I find that exposure to a variety of interests helps, with the result that his current fall-back favourite is anything to do with octopi or squids – preferably using their beaks. Enjoyment, curiosity and stimulation are all positive, and contribute to the makings for a happy family.
PS – since first writing this, his interests are now evenly spread between guant squids and octopii, the Red Baron, soccer and star wars.