I have a love-hate with the movie The Pursuit of Happyness. I absolutely love the movie. From beginning to end, I love every minute of this movie. The message is incredible! I just hate the way it makes me cry. I never do that sweet, petite cry where one Kleenex tissue will take care of my tears. Nope, that’s not the kind of crying I’m talking about. I’m talking about that stuttering when talking, nose running profusely, big ‘ol crocodile tears (as we say in the South) type of crying. For those who haven’t watched it, click here for a summary.
In the movie, Chris Gardner tells his son to protect his dreams and to not give up on them. It got me to thinking about what I am to tell my daughter when I’ve given up on my dreams in life. When I was growing up, I remember being scared to tell someone my true dreams of being an actress because my parents didn’t believe that an actress can be involved in show business and be a successfully practicing Christian. So scared that to this day, my parents don’t even know they smashed that dream to smithereens. If I want to, I can really act. I don’t really have the looks but I’m pretty certain that my talent shines over it. I even pursued it but they only confirmed what I already knew: my looks were not what they were looking for at the time. So I gave up. I did other things such as go to school for political science, massage therapy, sociology and health coaching. Nothing ever stuck as the right thing and aside from student loan debts, I have zero to show for most of it. I do, however, have my health coaching certificate.
So when I think of what to say to my kid about her current (and quite possibly her lifelong) dream of becoming a gymnast, I feel lost on what to say to her to help her continue to be happy about her dream. I can show her other gymnasts daily. I can even encourage her to do the work to make her dream come true. I can drive her to practice, buy her gear and find the best gymnasium in the area that can help her fulfill her dream and yet, I don’t feel equipped to tell her how it feels to accomplish a dream. Perhaps it’s my own insecurities or my own jealousy but whatever it is, I know that what I tell her will be the voice she hears when she grows older and I’m not around. That’s why it’s important I don’t focus on my failures when I talk with her about her dreams. It’s why I should focus on how she feels and how she’s handling the pressures that coming with pursue her dreams. If I focus on anything concerning myself, it should be how I teach to accept defeat gracefully without feeling as if she should stop her dream altogether. So far, I don’t know how to do that but if ever I learn, now is the time.
As parents, it can be difficult and sometimes frustrating to help our kids find happiness especially if we, ourselves, have no clue on how to pursue our own happiness. Some of us are working jobs we know isn’t the best for us. Some of us are allowing circumstances to hinder us from fulfilling our own dreams and then, when faced with the challenge of helping our children to pursue their dreams, we only tell them what we know – how to just let go instead of letting the situation “grow” you. But when we teach them how to become better at that dream instead of giving it up altogether, we are also teaching ourselves how to be successful with things that bring us joy too. When we do that, we do what it takes to continue that success which, in turn, can make us parents happy.
Feel free to connect with your child over the incomplete dreams you had in your life. I’ve done it with mine and I can’t tell you how cathartic and how much better I felt telling her how mommy wanted to be an actress. We act out here and in some small way, I feel as if I’m still able to live my dream but on a much smaller scale. Besides, she loves my acting and doesn’t care what I look like when I do it. She is my legacy. How we raise her today will be how she raises our grandchildren and ultimately how they raise their kids. I want to make sure she knows that her dreams are not her ceiling but her stairway to bigger and better things, even if she doesn’t do everything perfectly.
Until next time, realize that the pursuit of your happiness with regards to a dream might be the way you connect best with your child and their dreams. Despite what happened to your own pursuit, you are still capable, still awesome and still the best example a child can have in their lives concerning the fulfillment of their dreams. Sometimes, the best way for someone to know what not to do to gain success is to see the result of someone who did that very thing which caused the lack of success in their life. Either way, it’s a lesson neither person will forget once learned.