Ask my daughter Gabby what she wants to be when she grows up, and without missing a beat her reply will be “An art teacher.” My daughter LOVES to draw and paint. She loves doing anything creative, really. Last weekend, she made a little penguin out of a plastic water bottle and some newspaper. And over the summer, I came home from work one day to discover the reason she’d been asking us to save the water bottle tops: she’d fashioned two toy cars out of the tops, toothpicks, paper, pencils and tape. Oh, not to mention the very stylish outfit she constructed for one of her Barbie’s out of toilet paper and elastic hair bands.
So now, if you ask me what Gabby could be when she grows up, my reply might be: “A professor at the Tisch School of the Arts, a fashion designer with her own clothing line, a cartoon animator for Disney, a curator for a Smithsonian museum, or a design engineer for an automotive company, and on and on. This is how I dream for my little girl – in excess. And certainly, she has a few big ideas of her own, but at her age they are pretty straightforward and in direct correlation to her eight years of knowledge about the world.
Obviously, I can see endless possibilities in the smallest of Gabby’s art projects. In fact, I have often found myself happily engaged in daydreaming sessions about my daughter’s future, just the thought of which brings a big smile to my face. But before you get the idea that I’m the kind of mother who wants to live out her unfulfilled dreams through her daughter (a la Toddlers and Tiaras), I am not.
But lately, I’ve been wondering why I can’t dream for myself the way I dream for my child. Just try asking me what I want to be when I grow up and see what gibberish you get. Don’t get me wrong, I have always had goals, both personal and professional. But sometimes my goals simply consist of being able to finish the laundry, check Gabby’s homework, catch up on reading for work, and shave my legs before I pass out for the night. Dreams, on the other hand, imply something bigger, something other-worldly. Dreams are about aspiration.
Admittedly, being the Pisces that I am, it’s never been that difficult for me to escape from reality, but I have often found myself placing limitations on just how far I’m willing to let myself go, in part because of the day to day responsibilities of being an adult. And, of course, a big part of being a parent is doing whatever you can to help your children fulfill their dreams. That sometimes means you have to put your own dreams aside.
I have, however, decided to take a cue from my daughter… If your child is like mine, she knows what she likes, what she’s good at, and she has no problems telling you. She pays attention to her talents and it only makes sense to her that she should pursue them.
So, I’ve decided that every once in a while I will stop for a moment to take an inventory of my own talents and passions and use them as inspiration for my dreams. Even if those dreams are never completely realized, the act of such imaginings is truly good for the soul. It reminds me that every day that I’m alive, there is an opportunity to get that much closer to my dreams, whatever they may be. And what better example could I set for Gabby than for her to see me pursuing the things I love while I nurture her gifts as well? The trick, really, is just to NEVER stop dreaming.
Next stop, ACTION.