Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reality Check

One of the biggest dilemmas parents face is the "reality check" issue.  When is it appropriate to share reality in the face of your child's dreams?    Do you help them confront reality, or merely distract them with a more realistic option?  Does reality checking kill your child's spirit?  Most parents have encountered the wild dream with absolutely no realistic hope of attainment and wondered how to respond.  Here are some examples gleaned from tales told over a cup of coffee with other mothers:

  • She's already 5'6", but she's still clinging to the idea she can be a jockey.
  • He thinks he can go to the [Airforce] Academy and be a pilot, but his asthma will probably keep him out of the military altogether.
  • He wants to be a veterinarian, but with his grades he'll be lucky to get into college ANYWHERE. Never mind vet school.
  • She thinks she'll be the next Crystal Bowersox (or Carrie Underwood, whatever), and her voice just isn't that distinctive.
This is one of those really tough places for parents.  You want to support your kids as they follow their dreams, but at the same time, you want to let them down easy when it's apparent that they're headed for failure.  Still, you know that many of these things just run their course.  And, to further muddy the waters, we all know the stories of the one who succeeded against all odds. Plus, there is always opportunity cost - what must be given up to support this unrealistic dream?  Not to mention honesty issues: can you honestly tell your daughter you think she is the best?

I think it's important to nurture our children's passions because those passions represent who God created that child to be.  I also know that every passion can lead down a hundred different paths, but all most children can see is the most familiar one - I love football so I want to be an NFL player - when, in reality, there are literally hundreds of jobs related to football that aren't being a player.  

I also think that we need to guard our children against people who want to live out their dreams through our kids.  They are out there - people who will USE your child for their personal gain.  They will tell your child she can "go all the way" (whether she's a singer or a gymnast) with no basis in reality.  Whether it's to squeeze more money for lessons out of you or from their own frustrated past - they are exploiting your child.

God has given you a special role: you are a parent.  You are charged with caring for the WHOLE child. Teachers are responsible for their learning, coaches are responsible for their athletic performance, and dentists are responsible for their teeth.   You, mom or dad, are responsible for your whole child.  That means physical, emotional, educational, spiritual, social and moral.  Is your child's unrealistic dream hurting any other part of his or her life? Is it hurting the rest of the family in any way? Then it's probably time for a reality check.  Is their passion bringing them joy without harming any other part of their well-being, or the family's well-being?  Then you should probably support it.  Not fool proof, but certainly a useful place to start.

Oh, and let me splash a little cold water in your face with one more reality check: you can only do your best; God will have to do the rest.



Midlife Jobhunter said...

Not so long ago, I was the mother three NFL hopefuls. I vote for this route

"you know that many of these things just run their course."

However, seems this part of parenting -- the nurturing of dreams -- lasts much longer than NFL dream.

Julie Huke Klock said...

I agree with you - we need to keep nurturing dreams for as long as we can.

Another reader mailed me this comment in frustration when she couldn't get it to post here:

"I think dreams and passions even though possibly temporarily misguided could be God’s way of harvesting the necessary motivation to fulfill HIS plan…whatever that is.

“let it run its course”…I like that. In the mean time mom and dad are in the background to make sure the other three wheels don’t fall off the cart!"

Love to get feedback!