Dreaming Big

by Becky on October 26, 2013

in Parenting

Snow Capped Mountains

Recently I queued up Grooveshark and listened to the soundtrack from the musical Wicked. Something about Idina Menzel’s Elphaba belting out the grandly hopeful “The Wizard and I” made me think of the way, as a young woman, I was going to conquer the world. Like Elphaba, I felt almost prophetic when I considered how epic my Beautiful Future was going to be. Frankly, I never stopped to think about how I was going to accomplish Something Amazing. I just, well, figured I was on my way. In my very young teenage mind, it wasn’t the process that counted; it was the passionate business of nourishing Big Dreams.

There’s something to be said for Big Dream Love. Yeah, I know, you gotta chunk down those dreams and identify the Measurable Objectives that will propel you forward, and all that (ish). No going anywhere without a plan, I understand that now. But man, I loved that stage of my life, when I just knew deep down that I was on my way to greatness.

Maybe that’s why I love watching my teens dream big, in that improbable, on-the-cusp-of-adulthood way, before the distinct pressures of adulthood inevitably begin to shave some of the beautiful impracticality off the sides of those dreams. If you’d asked my oldest son a few years back how he was going to become a world class surfer, you wouldn’t have gotten the Franklin Planner answer. More likely, you would have heard something like, “I’m going to be in the water more than anyone else, is how I’m going to do it.” To his Mother, my son will always be a world class surfer. Or maybe he’s just world-class–especially because of the way he finally managed to shift a few of his dreams around without compromising their bigness. (Yeah, I’m being a bit cryptic, but I think he’d want it that way.)

As I see it, one of the challenges of mothering teens-with-big-aspirations involves striking a balance: insisting on the work ethic required to fuel a big dream, while getting out of the way enough for that dream to keep all the helium it started out with. Everyone knows a parent who became an unwitting dream-killer. You know, the mom who refused to let her daughter become an Idina Menzel, for example, because she wanted her to be a geneticist (let’s say).

But Ms. Menzel didn’t just leap from teenagehood to Broadway. Like anyone who achieves a Big Dream, she worked for it. And had to sweat a lot and frequent the grocery store and pay bills along the way. Yet I would have loved to take a peek at her life back when she was sixteen, seventeen, eighteen . . . just to get a glimpse of her as a Teen-with-a-dream. I’m told she sang at weddings and bar-mitzvahs while she was studying voice. It’s a far cry from that to the role of Elphaba, which won her a Tony Award.

Only one of my children is no longer a teenager, and I have to confess something about that boy.  I do indeed hope that his dreams will stay buoyant not just because they feel that way but also because he’s learned how to work–hard–to move himself toward them.  And for the petals, still in that stage where their dreams have that ineffable, Technicolor hugeness, my hope is that as they leap toward what they want in life, they can build the mental and physical muscle needed to go the distance.  You know–be willing to be the wedding singers, as it were, as they march toward the Big Time.

A last thought.  The “Big Time” feels vastly different to me now that I’m half a lifetime away from my teen years.  And yes, my dreams changed along the way.  Some days, when my kids were small, my big dream was simply to be able to get my teeth brushed by noon.  But what a revelation, too:  that dreams could take the form of four children who have by turns complicated and beautified my life beyond what I could ever have imagined when I was young.  Motherhood is its own dream, far more fraught and challenging than I realized it would be, but far more meaningful for what it has taught me about sacrifice and love, two words so overused they almost don’t mean anything.  Were I to collide with my much younger self, I’d whisper, “Two boys, two girls, loads of intense work, and a bold new land of joy so big you can’t even map it!”

Snow Capped Mountains

(Photos: Miss Lavender, in the French Pyrenees, leaping and shouting into the void . . . or dream.  Whichever you prefer.)

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