You know how sometimes in movies or on TV there’s a popular theme about teenagers who dream of being a musician or something else that’s awesome, but their parents suck and want them to be an accountant instead? I’m old and haven’t been working crossword puzzles or taking fish oil, so I can’t come up with an example of this for the life of me, with the possible exception of Dazed and Confused. You’ll remember in this film that the main character, Randall “Pink” Floyd wants to give up his brilliant high school football career in favor of smoking pot and going to see Aerosmith.
(Randall “Pink” Floyd. OMG, I just got that!)
Anyway, for our purposes today, that example is not going to work. So, please, just trust me that this parents-reigning-reality-down-on-their-children’s-heads is an actual thing.
But, not at my house.
At my house, where both of my children have recently taken up musical instruments, I say things like “follow your dreams” and “don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it”! That’s all fine and good unless you have an eleven year-old wiseacre who asks, “What if my dream is to play Angry Birds and not clean my room or do homework?”
This happened to me, I swear.
But, it made me think: can I encourage my child to be the drummer in a rock-n-roll band and also tell him he has to tuck in his shirt and cut his hair? Yes, I can and I know that. But, really, where is the line between encouraging your children to be true to themselves and setting limits for them? There has to be room for optimism, belief in one’s abilities, and also the realities that some degree of good fortune is involved in most success stories and that practicality has its place. How do we, as parents, toe that line?
Luckily, in our family, my kids get both messages, but from different sources. I am likely to encourage them to dream big and aim high, to which their much more practical father will invariably add something about keeping their grades up. But, who is more “right”? Can we tell our kids that they can be anything they want? Or, do we want them to buckle down and be sensible?
Tell me, parents, how do you inspire your children to go for it, while making sure they don’t go too far, or go astray? I want to know what you think, especially in light of this crappy down economy. On the one hand, it’s obvious, now more than ever, that no one is really guaranteed a shot at the American dream. (Or seemingly any dream that doesn’t involve a diminished retirement account and shortage of available jobs.) But, on the other hand, if you can’t get a job at your local bank, isn’t now the perfect time to try your hand at professional golf or, at the very least, writing?
(This post was originally published on the Charleston Daily Mail’s Mommyhood blog.)