My son’s first career choice is professional musician.
If that doesn’t pan out, he’s eyeing a professional football career.
He also plans to play college basketball, and he has determined that his dad and I can watch his games on television when we can’t make it in person.
He is 9 years old, a fourth grader with big dreams and little doubt he can achieve them.
That’s one of the magical things about being a kid. They dare to believe that anything is within their reach. There’s no “I can’t become a (fill in the blank) because I’m not _______________ enough.”
Smart, rich, fast, tall, popular… Fill in the blank, and you’ll find the negativity that douses dreams like water on fire.
And yet, sometimes as parents we don’t like the thought that our children might be disappointed, so are reluctant to let their imaginations run free.
Medical charts indicate my son’s height falls in the bottom 10th percentile of boys his age, which makes me question his college basketball prospects. “It’s not like he has a tall gene,” I think. His father and I are both under 5’7″.
But then I stop myself. Why can’t he play basketball, become a professional musician, play pro football, or do anything else he wants to do? Sure, most basketball players are tall, but there have been some who aren’t.
Do a quick Google search and you’ll find plenty of people who defied society’s odds. Tyrone Curtis “Muggsy” Bogues, for example, was the shortest player ever in the NBA. At 5’3″, he spent 14 seasons (1987-2001) playing professional hoops, including 10 years with the Charlotte Hornets. During that time, he established himself as an extraordinary passer and a great ball-stealer, not to mention one of the fastest players on the court.
“I always believed in myself,” he once told Sports Illustrated’s Hank Hersch. “That’s the type of attitude I always took out on the floor, knowing that I belonged; that with my talents, my abilities, there’s a place for me out there.”
It’s up to us as parents to assure children that, yes, if you believe it you can achieve it. Dreams don’t just happen, though. We need to teach them that hard work and perseverance matter, too. My son’s guitar isn’t going to learn to play itself. There’s a whole lot of practice involved in making that professional musician career a reality.
Here are some ways to fuel children’s imaginations:
Kids absorb everything we say, and they take our words to heart. That’s why comments such as “you’re so stupid” and “why can’t you do anything right?” can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By encouraging our children, we feed their dreams and help them grow. They’re packing a suitcase of ideas about themselves that they’ll carry with them throughout their lifetime. Make sure the ideas they have to unpack along the way are positive and encouraging.
Talk about having a dream and what it takes to achieve a goal. Set small goals and work on steps to achieve it. Small victories help children realize they can achieve bigger victories, too.
Read about it.
Check out books on people who have overcome odds to make their dreams reality, or books about different careers. Your local librarian can help you find good selections. Scholastic also offers this list of books on Stories of Strength.
Share your dreams.
Describe a goal you had as a child. What steps did you take to get there? Are you still working toward that dream? Children learn by example. By being a positive role model, we can encourage children to pursue their dreams.
We’re going to end with two quotes, the first from perennial favorite Mister Rogers:
“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has–or ever will have–something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.”
And as Muggsy once told Highlights For Children magazine, “You can’t dwell on what people think you can’t do.”
I just wonder how soon it is until the 2023 March Madness schedule comes out.
* “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau
Karen Nerney has a background in journalism and has been a communications specialist with Capital Region BOCES since 2011. Writing this story prompted her to recommit to her dream to finish a children’s book manuscript. In addition to her 9-year-old son, she is mom to two daughters, ages 18 and 16, who also dare to dream.