Let 'Em Dream
Will I be guilty of it too?
Will I be like so many parents before me? Parents that grew uneasy with the riskiness of dreams. Will I too snuff out my kids’ dreams? Pushing them toward something safer, and more secure.
I certainly hope not. But, I tell you, it’s hard. It’s hard not to fall into the well-worn grooves. The thought patterns created by multiple generations of parents repeating the same old conversations. You know — get good grades, go to a good school, get a good job.
Once your kids hit high school, there’s so much unsolicited advice. It’s hard to know if you’re doing right by your kids when you let them dream. Dream of things like traveling the world taking photographs. Or, saving animals from extinction.
You don’t want to be the parent who lets your kid chase silly dreams. Only to have their hearts broken. Or, have mountains of debt with no real job prospects.
We so fear being labeled failures as parents that we can find ourselves unknowingly steering our kids toward a straighter, more secure path. It’s as if our success, or failures, as parents hinges on the prestige of a college and the safety of a career — not our own, but of our children.
It’s really rather ridiculous. I mean, we no longer even measure our success as parents by whether our kids are happy. Or, healthy. Rather, we allow the world to judge our parenting by the amount of money we spend on a college. Whether our kids have to move back home after they graduate.
Seriously, what are we doing? To ourselves. Each other. Most importantly, our kids.
I’ll tell you who loves that we’re carrying on this way. Institutions of higher learning. They’re making a killing off all our anxiety and fear.
We literally work hard and save for years. All to pay some institution boatloads of money to give our kids a piece of paper.
Think about it. We actually pay them money, or take out loans, so they can come up with arcane rules about majors and minors that inevitably pigeonhole our kids. Before our kids even know what work they’ll enjoy doing for the rest of their lives.
I’ll admit, that at one time, colleges and universities achieved a higher purpose. But, I’m not certain that’s still true. We may be lying to ourselves. Somewhere along the way, we parents became so frightened of life outside the straight and narrow path to a good job that we’ve just grown accustom to saving, or borrowing, more money. Hoping to buy a good job for our kids.
Meanwhile, fewer and fewer employers actually create good jobs. Or, they insist on applicants having experience for entry-level positions. Making it harder to reap any reward from what was supposed to be an investment.
The cumulative effect? It’s even harder, as a parent, to allow our kids to dream.
But, here’s what I keep telling myself. To cut through the noise. The hype. The fear.
Never has there been a better time for our kids to chase their dreams.
The world is connected in ways that exceed previous imaginations. We can learn, create, and share without first needing anyone’s permission. Or even a piece of paper.
We can make our own work. We can stumble onto a problem, and find a way to solve it. Then, offer our product or service to others. Wherever they may be.
And, this gives us power. Even as parents. How?
Because we now have a choice. We can choose to guide our kids down the well-worn path. The straight and narrow.
Or, we can choose to let them dream. And, show our kids a different path. We can teach them to be self-reliant. Teach them skills like patience, adaptability, and emotional intelligence. We can encourage them to be lifelong learners. To continue chasing their dreams.
That’s not to say no one needs college. Or vocational training. I understand that not all of our kids can start making a living with just a laptop and phone. That’s not even what every kid would want.
But, we can listen to our kids. Hear what they say. How they envision their future. And, not be scared. Or worried. We can believe in them. And, feel proud that they have the courage to dream.
We can reject the notion that there’s only one path to success. Or, that there’s even just one definition of success. We can help our kids find their own path. Write their own definition. And, be proud of what we’ve accomplished. As parents. Parents of 21st Century kids.