Life is absurd. And life is precious. Family is a lot of both.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dream Right

I went shopping for graduation cards today. All around me they shouted Dream Big! and Shoot for the Stars! because You Can Do It! since You're #1!

We've been convincing this generation since their earliest days that they are super special. One of a kind. "If you believe it, you can achieve it." There's nothing you can't do, kiddo.
Their theme song might best be summed up by their old friend Steve over at Blue's Clues
Notwithstanding his overkill, we've
always been Steve fans around here.
You can be anything that you want to be. 
Do anything that you want to do. 
If you don't give up, you know it's true. 
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Isn't that just a little bit much? I mean, anything? Really?

Can a child who is grown at 5'2" believe his way into the NBA because he is absolutely certain he's #1? A kid who is color blind become a fighter pilot or astronaut in spite of military restrictions because his mama told him he's super special and the exception to the rules? Can a child without a generous helping of natural talent earn a living by singing on stage simply because she believed hard enough?

Self-esteem is absolutely important and we all know that kids get their biggest dose of self-esteem from home. But I think we might have overdone it in some instances. And I even wonder if we might be contributing to lower self-esteem by accidentally sending the message that less than the absolute best is just...meh.

Take, for instance, the kid who worked hard, studied consistently, read and tutored and planned, and yet doesn't get to give that graduation speech. What about the kid who auditioned well but did not get the part? How about the one who works far harder than anyone else on the team but still loses the starting position to someone else?

Society answers, "Work harder. Dream bigger."

How about this instead? "Keep working. Dream better."

It is really fun to watch our toddlers dance along to the song of easy-peasy-all-you-need-is-a-dream-success while we are full of pride and ambition that we may have created the next great leader, entrepreneur, discoverer, superstar, ruler of the world as we know it. With that first soccer goal or wrestling pin, we cheer and start planning for the Olympics (or at least a college scholarship). When they earn straight As in 3rd grade or have the starring role in the school play, we just know they are destined to be Magna Cum Laude or blow onto Broadway and be the talk of the town.

We can't help it. We're in love with our children. We, Moms and  Dads, are supposed to be their biggest support and cheering section and entourage. It's instinctual and exciting. Ask yourself how heartily you cheered and danced when your little protégé first pooped on the potty. Yes, me too. As if no one else on earth had ever learned to do it quite so well.

We are PROUD of these little people. And rightfully so.

Each one really is super special. And one of a kind. And destined for greatness. I have decided that I need to be careful, however, about defining greatness.

With apologies to Steve and all of his TV friends, I want to give my kids a better theme song:

You can't be anything you want to be, 
but you can be everything you were meant to be.

A dream is good. A big dream is fine. But the right dream is what will guide you to a beautiful life. And that, my sweeties, is how you will change the world.

St. Catherine of Siena said, "If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire!"

And I will be there, proud as only a mother can be, believing that no one has ever set it on fire quite so well.


  1. I agree. I think I was the lone dissenting vote on "Shall we give all the kids a trophy even though they didn't win a single game. They tried hard." We all believe in the "Rudies" of the world who hope to one day playt for Notre Dame...but it wasRudies tenaciousness and never give up attitude that got him in that last minute of the last game and that was all he really wanted.

  2. And they all said, "Amen!" Couldn't agree more.

  3. Love this; thank you for sharing.