Mistaking our dreams for theirs

Snake
Our friends have a thirteen year-old daughter who wants another snake.  She owns two snakes and a collection of lizards, frogs and turtles.  She wants to be a herpetologist.  If you’re not well-versed on rare biological science careers, herpetology is the study of amphibians and reptiles.  At thirteen, she is quite certain she wants to devote her professional life to crawling creatures.  And her parents completely support this dream (though they’re not sure about that third snake).

It’s not always so.  Sometimes it’s hard to support our kids’ dreams.  Maybe their dreams are embarrassing to us (talk to a father whose son dreams of becoming a nurse or ballet dancer).  Maybe their dreams are “too big” — and we don’t want to see them fail and get hurt.  Maybe their dreams mean moving far away from home.  Maybe their dreams just don’t fit our dreams for them.  But be careful; notice that all of these complaints are we-centric.

It’s not about us. As parents, it’s tempting to broadcast our dreams onto our children. It’s tempting to put our dreams ahead of theirs. But it never works. They either pursue their dream anyway and resent you for your lack of support, or they pursue your dream to please you and resent you for stealing their freedom to choose.  In either case, everybody loses.  Better to simply support them on the way to their own dreams.

Artwork by Brad Sneed from Following Featherbottom.

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