If my dad had asked me to stop doing what I loved, I probably would have, but he never did, so I didn’t stop.
My son is now seven. He’s much like I was at that age and each week he has something new he wants to be when he grows up. Six months ago he wanted to be a doctor and a Soldier like his daddy (the Soldier part, I’m not a doctor). Two months ago he wanted to be a WWE Superstar. It seems as if we might be stuck on this one for a while.
He’s a huge fan of John Cena. I’m cool with this because John Cena recently granted his 500th wish for the Make A Wish Foundation. He could do much worse in the realm of role models. The difficulty I’ve been having is how to encourage him to chase his dreams. I know, I know, he’s seven and his dreams will likely change, but the question remains the same. How do you encourage your children to chase their dreams without letting them fall flat on their face?
I’ve pondered this question over and over in my mind and the only resolution I’ve come to is that you can’t. You can’t do both. Falling flat on your face is part of chasing your dreams. Stephen King didn’t get his first novel accepted into a publishing house. Dream chasing is a journey. It’s a line, not a line segment. There’s an arrow at the end of the journey signaling it will continue forever.
When I think about what my parents did in the way of encouraging me I remember them asking me what I was working on from time to time. Often it was a drawing or a new song on my guitar. Sometimes it would be my golf swing or my dad would catch for me as I worked on my curveball.
I also realized at some point in my life that not all parents are like this. Some push their children into one specific area and encourage them to only work on that, religiously. Tiger Woods comes to mind in this example. His father pushed him from the time he could hold a golf club. At the age of three, he was beating members at his father’s country club. I’m not in a position to say that golf wasn’t Tiger’s dream, but it also makes me wonder if he ever had a choice. Was golf his father’s dream superimposed onto him?
Dreamers change the world. It doesn’t matter the scale of the dream. Some kids dream of being a high school teacher so they can be a role model for young people during the most impressionable period of their life. Others want to play shortstop for the New York Yankees.
As a father, I think it’s important to let your kids stretch their legs. To reach out and discover new things, because this develops a love of learning. I didn’t discover a love of learning until a few years ago. If I could do one thing for my kids, it would be to instill that love of learning early on. If they have a love of learning then they’ll discover new things. When you discover new things then you realize how much good there is in the world. How vast the possibilities of what you can be and who you can impact in this world.
Only when you begin to stumble on new things will you truly find your passion. This is true for two reasons:
- Your passion may be something you haven’t even discovered yet.
- You may already know your passion, but the more you discover then the clearer it will become.
If you want to be the Dad that encourages your kids to dream, then encourage them to learn. Encourage them to get lost in a search for something that interests them. If you’re a movie person then you can relate this experience to how it feels to get lost on the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com). You go on the site to look at one thing and three hours later you’ve learned how many Academy Awards Jack Nicholson has won and how many times Quentin Tarantino has been nominated and not won.
Dreamers are people who wrote our Constitution, people who invented the motor car, the printing press, the internet, the iPhone, and the solar panel. Your child’s dream doesn’t have to be about becoming a doctor, as long as they’re dreaming, they’re in the right place. It’s your job as a parent to feed and water that dream so that it can grow into a Redwood Tree and standout among the crowd.
Photo credit: Flickr/Björn Lindell