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I Don't Want My Kids to Be Realists

Photograph by Twenty20

I've always been a realist. I often view the world in black and white and don't get lost in fantasies. I guess I just don't see the point in dreaming big dreams that probably won't ever come true. I would rather focus on what's truly achievable.

As practical as that is, doesn't it sound kind of sad? I mean, I've never tried to shoot for the stars because I didn't see how I could really get there. I've kept my goals simple and I'm not sure that's always the right way to go.

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When I look at my kids I don't want them to be bogged down by cynicism or doubts. I want them to dream big. I want them to at least try to achieve their big dreams, even if they're a little out there. How else will they realize their full potential if they don't give it a shot? If they don't push themselves to the edge of their talents and skills?

The other day my son got it into his head that he wanted to attach the bike trailer to his little Spiderman bike and pull his little sister around the neighborhood. That trailer is heavy, and it's even heavier with a human child nestled inside. I knew he wouldn't last more than a block or two before his legs became weary. My first impulse was to discourage him. I wanted to tell him that it just wasn't feasible to take his sister for a ride. I started to tell him, but then it began to rain, so we had to go inside anyway.

After all, one day they may be 30 and find that they never really tried at anything because they were too afraid.

The next day he hadn't forgotten his mission. He was determined to pull his sister up and down the street. This time I decided that instead of telling him he wouldn't be able to complete his trip, I simply said, "Okay, let's do it." My husband hooked up the trailer and walked beside our boy as he began his trek. Little sister was giddy in the trailer and I watched from our front step.

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He made it up a few houses and back down our driveway where I met him with praise. He admitted that his legs were tired and he was ready to for a break. I was just proud that he tried, because this son of mine is a lot like me. He often says he can't do something and is hesitant to try anything new. It breaks my heart a little that at such a young age he is already turned off from dreaming big. I wonder if it's my fault—that I've somehow instilled this negative attitude in him. Or maybe it's just a gene I happened to pass down to him: the "I'm a realist and trying to achieve irrational big dreams is silly" gene.

Either way, I know I need to make a change.

I need to encourage my kids to dream the impossible and go for it. After all, one day they may be 30 and find that they never really tried at anything because they were too afraid. That would be a bigger tragedy than trying and failing. Because I truly believe that my kids have a greater chance for success if they are encouraged to dream big and try, than if they're not.

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