Education · Family · Opinion · Parenting

Nurturing Their Dreams

Kid dreaming of being an astronautWhen I was a kid, I was often asked what I wanted to be when I was older. I was a relatively intelligent child and achieved well at school, so from a very young age there were a lot of expectations piled upon me from parents and teachers. Eventually, I passed my 11+ and was sent to a grammar school, where instead of being the brightest in my class, I was one of many clever girls and I hovered somewhere around the middle, in terms of achievement. It was drummed into us from the beginning that we had to constantly have our eye on the distance – end of year exam results dictated which GCSE options we were allowed to take, and we’d need to choose the right GCSE’s to allows us to take the A-Levels we wanted, which in turn were for the purpose of gaining access to the right degree course at the right university.

I was, and still am, a fairly shiftless person. My big dream when I was little was to be an Astronaut – sounds far fetched, but I intended to join the RAF out of sixth form and gain University sponsorship from them, with the hope of going on to train to be a pilot. Once I was told that I had zero chance of flying a plane because of my horrendous eyesight, I went into something of a tailspin. I could never really pinpoint what I wanted to be, and the thought that my career would define the rest of my life never sat well with me anyway.

I can’t help but wonder if my childhood intelligence (which, I have to say, seems considerably dulled by age) is part of the problem. I remember, for a long time, thinking that I’d be a hairdresser when I got older, except when I expressed this to my parents, I was told “You’re too clever to be a hairdresser”. This became a running theme in my adolescence and my passions were trampled under the weight of what I ‘should’ have been doing with my brain. Drama became my new passion and I was pretty good at it, too. I’m fairly extroverted and love performing but once again, it wasn’t considered cerebral enough. I was allowed to take Drama at A-Level, but only as a concession because I took four other ‘serious’ subjects (Chemistry, Biology, English Literature and English Language).

As it stands, I flunked out of sixth form; the mounting pressure got too much and I found myself being anywhere but the lessons I was supposed to be attending. I can’t help but wonder if I’d have been more inclined to attend if I’d not been steered towards subjects that I didn’t really want to take?

Sausage is an incredible kid, with a great imagination, huge intellect (she’s currently reading books at home which are for 8-year-olds, because her school books aren’t challenging enough) and artistic flair. She’s got the potential to be anything she wants to be, but I remind myself almost daily that the key part of that sentence is “SHE WANTS”. We spend so much time telling our kids that they can be anything they want to be and then second guessing their choices because they don’t sit well with our plans for their lives and it’s about time we stopped being so bloody arrogant.

Just this morning, Sausage told me that we wanted to be a nail technician and masseuse. One side of my brain said “That won’t earn you much money. You’ve got so much more potential than that. Why don’t you do that as a hobby, instead?”, but I managed to stop myself from saying it out loud. I adjusted my brain and instead thought “If that’s what makes you happy, then I’ll support you”. And, isn’t that what’s important? Supporting our kids in their choices and nurturing their happiness?

It is to us, at least.

7 thoughts on “Nurturing Their Dreams

  1. I have been having very similar thoughts recently. My folks are amazing supportive, and told me when I was quite young that they would support me in anything I wanted to do and if I wanted to stack shelves in a supermarket for a living (then it would be a waste) but so long as I was happy…. however when I wanted to be a doctor I was advised that it was hard work and I wouldn’t commit, and when I said I wanted to be a vet I was told that I wouldn’t cope putting animals down. And now I can’t help but wonder what if I had chased these dreams I had as a child?

  2. When I look back at my time at WHSG all I remember is constantly been told to focus more on academic subjects. I didn’t enjoy academic subjects and my real passion was P.E, I did very well at sport unfortunately the same can’t be said for the “important” subjects. When it came to my A levels I was told I couldn’t take P.E as not enough people wanted to do it and it wasn’t academic enough. As my dreams of being a P.E teacher quickly faded I looked at going to a different college but decided I wanted to stay with my friends.
    In the end I took R.E instead of P.E with just 4 people in my class, clearly that was academic enough to run with so few. Luckily I had very supportive parents a brick layer and ex police woman who still works in law enforcement. Never going to be rolling in it but so happy and would support any dreams I had. Eventually I went to uni and did criminology and sociology and now love my job in law enforcement following in my mum’s footsteps. As a new mum I just hope I can be as supportive of my little girls dreams when it is her turn to make her way in the world and if she decides to go to grammar school I hope they have moved on from their ancient views that you can only succeed if you excel in English, maths and science.

  3. I have 2 very bright children who have changed their minds about what they want to be when they grow up a thousand times – and often their choices made me nervous either because it was a waste of their potential or because the stiff competition would mean they might get hurt! But like you I bit my lip and said nothing – and squashed any pressure from teachers who wanted them to be a certain thing. Eventually they found their own path and chose their own path and picked something that made them happy and content – they will never be rich in money – but happy has got to be a better long term plan surely!

    And Sausage will be the same! Little children should dream about flying to the stars or painting nails – or emptying bins – or anything they want – those dreams are a vital part of finding out who you are!

  4. My mum always taught me to do what ever i wanted to do and would be pleased as long as I was happy. When her work collueges talked about not wanting their children to stack shelves or work as a binman, my mum used to say if there were no binmen who would collect your rubbish or how would you get your food if no one wanted to work in a supermarket. So when my child tells me that they want to work in mcdonalds I always let them know that everybody’s job is important in its own way.

  5. When I was in play school I coloured in a picture of an apple and the staff told my parents that I’d done a remarkable job for a child of my age. From that day on I was always ‘the artist’ of the family and encouraged to pursue arty subjects. One scribble when I was three and at 30 I STILL get told oh you should be doing art, you’re sooo good at art, you’re a natural artist! I’m not a natural artist, I acquired some artistic skill as I was encouraged in that area, but I can’t say that it’s something I have ever had any real interest in. In school I just ended up very confused because I was pushed in that direction but my own head and heart were pulling me elsewhere. This autumn I turn 31 and it’s taken me this long to realise that what I really want to do is study engineering 🙂 (and my family still say I should be doing art/photography/graphic design…). It’s made me very aware of how I encourage my own children and how important it is to stand back and let them dictate their own interests.

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