Childhood is built on dreams.
Fanciful daydreams of a life of grandeur are the things that make childhood so magical. Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies to strike the fatherless is the stripping of innocence – a building block of dreams.
My daughter and I had a few moments alone in the car last week, and she reminded me yet again of the power of a good dream. We were on our way to her gymnastics practice, and she didn’t really want to go. She was tired, she wanted to stay home and
fight with play with her brothers, and she just wasn’t in the mood for a four hour workout.
After a few tense moments of whining and pouting, she quieted down and took a deep breath.
“Mom?” she asked.
I glanced at her through the rearview mirror and reminded myself that she’s still so young. Big eyes hover over soft, full cheeks and a nose dotted with fine freckles. I waited for her to speak. She is the child who needs space to prepare her thoughts, slowly and deliberately choosing each word.
“I don’t want to play soccer next year.”
I was surprised by this comment. It was random and didn’t fit the context of our previous conversation. “Okay,” I answered. “You don’t have to.”
“I just don’t see myself as a soccer player,” she said, and I bit back a smile.
“And I really don’t want to play softball,” she continued, her voice strong and adamant.
I turned onto the street where her gym was located and tried to follow along with her train of thought, to connect the dots from the anger about having to leave for gymnastics and the present conversation. I had a moment of panic, wondering if she was leading up to telling me she didn’t want to do gymnastics anymore. It’s a decision I would support, but it would break my heart, because she has so much talent.
“Well what do you see yourself doing?” I asked, guiding the car into a parking place in front of the gym. I put it in park and shifted so I could look her in the eye. She glanced out the window and a small smile spread across her face.
“I see myself at the Olympics,” she said. Her voice was wistful and dreamy and I couldn’t help but grin. I know that look, and I know what she’s feeling. When I was eight, I saw myself as an Olympic gymnast, too. I remember imagining the podium, and what it would feel like to watch the flag raised with my anthem playing. I envisioned this with the images of Mary Lou Retton shimmering in my mind.
“I’m ready now,” she said. “If I’m going to go to the Olympics, I guess I have to practice, huh?”
There’s something about childhood that makes dreaming so enviable. Right now, there is no doubt in her mind that her dream of going to the Olympics will come true, and there’s no part of me that plans to altar that dream with anything resembling a dose of reality. I know that with time and age, her dreams will shift, and they will mature, and they will change.
But I don’t ever want her to stop dreaming.
Too often as adults we let reality bury our dreams in a pile of salt. We become so practical that we forget the power of a healthy dream. We don’t let our dreams grow and mature with us, and we abandon the act of dreaming altogether.
My childhood dream of making the Olympic team is no longer a reality (though I think I could still have a shot at Curling. I mean, seriously…how hard could it be?!).
But there are realistic dreams that fit my life now, and I’m tired of pushing them aside. I dream of publishing books, of working more with organizations that support orphan care, of not settling and growing comfortable with a life of ease.
I dream of keeping a clean home.
Wait…never mind. That one is about as likely as me becoming the gold medal All Around gymnast in 2016.
The fact is, I don’t have to stop dreaming any more than my eight year old does. And what’s more – I need to chase my dreams as hard as she is chasing hers. I need to push for them, even when I don’t feel like it.
What are your grown up dreams? What are you doing to chase after them?