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February 25, 2013 at 12:13 PMComments: 1 Faves: 0

Chasing the Dream

By Jeffrey VanWingen M.D. More Blogs by This Author

I recently saw a colorful patient of mine with his wife. We discussed briefly the lives of their grown children. I inquired particularly about one of their children who had fled the nest some years back, heading to Hollywood to work in the TV industry. With persistence and a few breaks, her parents reported, she is now the producer of two popular, nationally syndicated television programs. Recalling that moment when they sent their daughter into the real world, against the odds, I asked them if they had considered steering her toward a more stable or safe profession. He replied, "As I see it, our job is to be there if they fall on their (expletive)."  This response got me thinking. Have times changed such that we should play it safe? Is fear still the only thing that we have to fear?

The Winds of Change

In the 1960's, my parents responded to the Kennedy administration's call for expansion of the public schools. Jobs abounded in education. In fact, the government paid for some of my dad's school provided that he taught science. This was especially fortunate for my parents because they both really wanted to be teachers. These days, I hear college students talk of pursuing their dreams of becoming a teacher and how they feel the weight of a much different era. If a teaching job comes available, hundreds of applications flood the selection committee. Lack of experience puts a new graduate at the bottom of a very large heap. Should mentors and parents discourage these young adults from pursuing their dreams?

Two Sides to the Coin

My older children are getting to that age where their interests are a bit more honed and should be taken more seriously. They are beyond the archeologist/ballerina or astronaut/NFL quarterback stage. But what if they wanted to exhume dinosaur bones by day and dance in the Joffrey by night?

Heeding the wisdom handed down from my patient, I believe we need to support both sides as parents. As good farmers do, we must simultaneously pray for rain and prepare for drought. In other words, encourage our children to follow their dreams and provide unconditional support if those dreams do not materialize.

Losing Ourselves as Parents

Parents of infants and toddlers amaze me. I can't tell you how many times in a well child visit I've been entertained by a parent displaying their child's ability to point to their body parts or say their ABC's. The parent, in all their exuberance, is actually the entertainment to me. When do parents seem to become lost along the way as they cease to believe so strongly that their children can do anything? When is practicality exchanged for happiness and the pursuit of that storybook life?

The Charge

With a dream, persistence, and a little good fortune, anything is possible. No matter where your children may be in life, encourage them to follow their dreams. And, as a parent who provided support through the years of development, be there if they fall flat. Above all, let happiness be the goal. After all, it's better to have tried and failed then to have never tried at all.

I realize that parenting is an art that needs to be approached from multiple angles depending on circumstances and personalities. Where do you weigh in on this issue?

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1 Comment

  • I always liked the assignment my kids would bring home from school - when it was time to do a paper on what I want to be when I grow up! Crack me up but one of my sons wanted to be "the professional football player". If I recall I think they were in 5th grade. He did play Pee Wee football through 12th grade but that was the end of it!

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