happens when they follow a path that you don't necessarily believe will lead to happiness?
There is an ambiguous line between supporting your child's dreams and enabling them to build castles in the sky with unrealistic goals and expectations. Walking that line has been among the most difficult challenges I have faced as a parent. I do not want to crush the dreams my sons have for their future, but I also want to discourage impractical choices that I feel may result in them wasting their time, money and energy.
My oldest son decided when he was 12 years old that he wanted to design video games when he grew up. I initially laughed with him over his plans and encouraged his young attempts at story lines and art, believing it the first of many proposed career choices he would consider. I was wrong. Throughout his teenage years he maintained his passion for this career path and vowed he would go to college to obtain a degree in game design. When the time came for him to head off to college his dream didn't falter and he chose a college clear across the country and indeed earned his degree in game design. While I made some feeble attempts to encourage a more practical educational pursuit, I could not find it in my heart to discourage him from what obviously made him happy. Today, he works in a local warehouse and is not using his hard earned degree, just as I had secretly known would be the case. In spite of this, he is still very happy and loves his life. He works hard and likes his job, his boss, his co-workers. He is independent and responsible and uses his college-knowledge as a hobby and occasional freelance pursuit. He is surrounded by friends who think highly of him, he has fun and he makes me proud each day. He is happy and that is what is most important to me.
Recently, my youngest son (Aaron's father) called me and we were discussing his plans for the future. He is due to be released from the youth detention center in a couple of months and they are preparing him for work and continued education. He stated that he wanted to go back to school and become a doctor, a very noble endeavor, but highly impractical for a young man who bores easily and isn't likely to remain committed to the task (Need I even mention the costs of medical school?!). But, I could not bring myself to discourage him from making such plans for his future. At least he is making plans for his future, right?! Instead, my husband warned him of the extensive education it would take and tried to guide him toward a more practical choice; one that better suited his personality and interests. For instance, he loves the outdoors and camping. So my husband suggested he pursue a path toward becoming a forest ranger or game warden. He also loves driving and has a clean driving record, so perhaps he could go to school to drive a tractor trailer. But, again. My ultimate wish for him is that he be happy regardless of what he chooses to do in life, though I worry that he is setting himself up for disappointment and failure.
Today I found myself watching Aaron at play and I wondered, what will he want to be when he grows up? Will he build grandiose castles in the sky? Will he pursue a practical career that suits his interests? Will he follow the almighty dollar to a high stress/high pay profession that makes him miserable? Do I encourage the practical and discourage the dreams? I don't think I have it in me to tell any of my boys that their dream job or dream anything is a waste of time to follow. Sometimes it's the chasing of those dreams that bring happiness whether or not the goal is attained. Whatever the path Aaron one day chooses to take, I hope he will be happy. Though, I often wonder if my inability to redirect them to more reasonable choices sets them up for failure.
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