Dreams are fickle things. I have watched my children dream big dreams and then abandon those dreams for other dreams. And that is simply part of growing up. What I am very careful to take note of is the catalyst for that change. A friend at school takes up the clarinet and now one wants to be a symphony musician. We watch a documentary on puppy mills and now another wants to be a veterinarian. It’s pretty wonderful watching their interests light up, to witness the passion they feel for certain endeavors.
We tell our children they can be anything they want, do anything they set their minds to, and achieve the life of their dreams. Though, what many of us neglect to do is actually show them it can be done. I recently published a book titled, Fear is Not an Option. I’m really proud of it and my kids can see how much it means to me. Flipping through it, youngest daughter, Abigail who is four and a half, said with resolve, “I’m going to write a book, too. It is called, Sadness is Not an Option.” She says she is “waiting for inspiration to pop into her brain” and then she will write it.
My son, Josh, piped in, “I’m going to write a book also!” I sat back and marveled at what had just occurred. I gave my kids permission to achieve a thing some people spend their whole lives hoping for. Like many of us, I have encouraged my kids to overcome the frustration and doubt that come with huge projects and hard tasks. But what is perhaps even more powerful is what I demonstrated to them through action – that they too could publish books of their own, tell their own stories, and that those stories are worth reading. Because I did it, it has never occurred to them that they couldn’t.
A lot of things shift when kids come into our lives. Suddenly, we look more closely at insurance plans and the cost of higher education. We take fewer risks in order to create security for our families. But, are we letting this desire for stability overshadow our dreams and goals? To be sure, achieving great things in this world requires some element of risk-taking, of stepping out of our comfort zones, which we are less likely to do when our priorities shift during parenthood. Of course, we will sacrifice things we want in order to give our children the things they need. However, we might want to ask ourselves if parenthood, for instance, has become an excuse for failing to fulfill our purpose in this lifetime.
We show our children what they are capable of not just through our words, but through our actions. And this might be the most important lesson for us: parenting is about modeling the people we want our children to become. “Do as I say, not as I do” is just a crutch that allows us to do or be far less than we expect for our children. The dreams we achieve for ourselves set a bar for our kids, because every parent wants more for their children than they’ve had themselves.
When I am much older and my children ask me about my greatest life aspirations, I hope I can say I have achieved most of them. No resentment. No regret. Just the good feeling of knowing I did most of the things I set out to do. And by modeling this for my kids, I didn’t simply tell them what spectacular things they could do in their own lives, I showed them it could be done.