Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Thought

I have been reading a certain book for quite some time now. I'm taking my time with it, because it's not one of those books that's easily processed. I've read and re-read a few passages, and today one stuck out at me like a sore thumb. This won't be a particularly interesting post, I don't think. But I just keep thinking about this passage and I have a response. I've started and lost dozens of journals, so putting pen to paper on this one just won't do. So forgive me, but I'm using my blog now simply to record some thoughts I don't want to forget.

The passage goes like this:

"When you have a child, you start to dream of how this kid will grow up and make you proud. The only thing you can predict with 100% certainty is that the reality will diverge somehow from that dream. Some of our children will disappoint us by not being the scholars we hoped they would be. Some children will disappoint us by not being the athletes we hoped they would be....... The real question is not, what book can I read, what technique can I use to raise a perfect child? The real question is how will you handle that gap between the child you dreamt of having and the real child growing up in your home?"

I cannot get this passage out of my head. And it's because I don't have dreams for my children. It sounds bad when I say it like that, but it's true. Emma is 3.5 and Izzy is 18 months old, and I would be lying if I told you that I have ever, EVER once thought about what they were going to be like as teens or young adults, what niche they'd fill in middle/high school, what schooling, if any, they'd pursue, what career path they'd follow,  or who they'll spend the rest of their life with. I have spent more time than I can count thinking about those precious little babies of mine. But as far as future planning goes, my vision hasn't ever gone further than things like, "I really can't wait until Emma is done with this phase of tantrums" or "I can't wait until Izzy has all of her teeth!"

That is not to say that we aren't planning for their future. We are. We are trying hard to be responsible financially so that we can provide for them the things they need. We are  trying hard to instill a love of reading, music, physical activity, imagination, and all those other good things that kids need to thrive. But I have never once said, or even thought, "Emma, one day you could be the/a/an _________________".  Is that strange? Is it strange that even as I'm typing this, I just don't have those stars in my eyes about where my kids will end up?

If my parents had a dream for me about where my life would end up, I never knew it, or have since forgotten it. I have seven siblings, and I often wonder how my parents did it. The biggest miracle, I think, is that despite some bumps along the road, my parents have produced eight children who are smart, responsible, adults who contribute to society in a positive way. But I don't ever remember my parents pushing me, saying "Alyssa, you better hit the books or you'll never be a doctor!" or "Alyssa, you better hit the gym, or you'll never be an Olympic athlete!" What I remember is that I developed a natural love of sports on my own. And when I decided to join a competitive volleyball league, my dad would get up with me sometimes as early as 4am on a Saturday morning to drive me (while I slept) to an all day tournament in another state, and sit for hours on end in over-filled bleachers, and then drive me home while we jammed out to Simon&Garfunkle's 4-disc collectors set. What I remember is that Every. Single. Day. my mom would drive me to school in the morning and say "Go! Fight! Win!" as I got out of the car, because even though she's not a "sports person", she knew that every game (or meet) was a big deal for me. And not once did I ever get the sense from her that she was disappointed in me for giving up on music when I started 9th grade, even though music has been a big part of her life, and something she is very good at. Or that my dad was disappointed I'd picked volleyball, even though HE had played basketball.

It was the same situation in every aspect of my life. I developed my own natural interests, and my parents supported me, and guided me when I needed it. And that's all I want to do for my kids. This is not to say that I'll sit idly by and watch as my children develop a real and intense love for building meth labs in my basement. No, no I'll nip that one in the bud should the time ever come. What I mean is that I don't feel compelled to create my own vision for their future. This notion that my child could disappoint me by "diverging" from MY vision for THEIR future just doesn't sit right with me. Why would I speculate such specifics? The only vision I have for their future is that they are happy, well adjusted, contributing members of society, who can show love and compassion for those around them. I could care less whether they are the President, or a professional dog-walker. What matters is that they are good people, that they are happy people, that they are healthy people.

I know that my children will suffer through trials, hard times, and heartache, much as I have and will in my life. And my heart will ache with, and for them. But I would never want my children to think for one second, that I was disappointed IN them, because they did not get the degree I had hoped they would, or they were not as musically or athletically gifted as I had hoped they would be, or they were not as wealthy or famous as I had hoped they would be. I will support my children, and push them when they need it, and I will do my best to guide them towards a happy and bright future. But for right now, no one knows what that future will be, and I don't feel the need or desire to speculate. I suppose my only dream for my kids is that they will create and achieve their own. I think that's good enough for now.


Danielle O'Haren said...

Beautiful post, Alyssa! As I sit here with Gabi sleeping on me at almost 4am, I feel blessed to have read your thoughts on this post...why worry about their future when there is so much to savor in the present!

Anna@Exasperation said...

Loved this! I haven't thought about what I'd like my kids to do, but I HAVE noticed natural proclivities. I do secretly hope that Cameron grows up to be a "robot builder" like he says he wants to be. I think an "MIT Mom" sticker on my mini van would rock. But I know that all I can and should do as a parent is provide opportunities, teach "sticking with it through the hard times", and then allow them the space to make choices.
Great post.