I think a large part of any parent’s job is the unsavory task of crushing dreams.
Mama’s done it.
Granny did it.
And I’ve caught myself doing it, even when I swore I wouldn’t.
Along the way of watching my own child grow up, I’ve realized that being a dream crusher can often be an unintentional part of the territory.
When I was younger, all I wanted to do was be a writer.
In my mind, I thought I was going to sit in cafes and write about my observations as I watched the world unfold around me, seeing people interact, wondering their back story and what kept them going.
It was a romantic notion, I know.
“How are you going to pay your bills?” Mama asked.
I hadn’t thought that far. I was a kid. She paid for everything. Was she going to stop?
“I dunno,” I replied.
“You may want to think about that,” she cautioned. “You think you’re going to be sitting around sipping coffee and eating pastry while writing all day, you’ve got to have a way to pay for it.”
“Well, my writing would do that,” I said.
“It takes a lot of work to be a writer. You may not make it at first. How will you pay while you’re waiting?”
All the questions I hadn’t thought of. I didn’t like this discussion, not one bit.
Every time I have a plan, she’s got a reason it will fail. I can tell by the inhale of air before she even says a word.
“Oh,” she’ll begin. “So, that’s what you’re thinking about doing?”
She doesn’t have to say she disagrees. Those words let me know.
Granny did the same thing. She wasn’t as subtle as Mama though, preferring to be crystal clear with what she thought.
“That’s about the dumbest idea you’ve ever come up with,” she said. “And that’s saying something.”
After my plans for sitting around sipping lattes and writing the greatest American novel in a corner coffee shop were dashed to the ground, I decided to go to college.
“Having an education is important,” Granny stated. “What do you want to do?”
“I’m studying criminal justice,” I said. “I want to be an FBI agent, like Scully or Clarice Starling.”
“You’ll have to carry a gun,” she said. “You’re terrified of ‘em.”
“You may have to shoot someone,” Mama interjected. “You don’t like killing bugs.”
“Can’t you do something else?” Granny asked.
“Anything else besides that.”
“I think law school would be nice,” Mama added.
“Yeah, she loves to argue with a fence post. She may as well get paid for it,” Granny said.
Nothing I planned on doing was what they wanted.
Any time I wanted to try something, I was presented with reasons why I shouldn’t.
If I asked my uncle Bobby, he’d encourage me to try it. “If it doesn’t work out, at least you tried,” he’d say.
Maybe he was a fellow dreamer, wanting to take a chance and see how things went.
Granny wasn’t. Mama isn’t really.
“Why do you always crush my dreams?” I’ve exclaimed more times than I can count.
“Because I don’t want you to get hurt!” Mama responds emphatically.
As my own child grew up, I started to understand those words a little bit better.
Hurt doesn’t always mean physically, although sometimes it does.
Those words that were uttered to crush my dreams and make me turn away from the things I wanted to do were said out of love and, if we’re honest, a little bit of fear.
Fear that I would be hurt in some way, as Mama said.
The same fears I’ve had any time my son has wanted to do something.
There’s been so many times, I’ve reacted like Mama and Granny have — trying to discourage any hope or plan that makes me anxious for him.
Any time he shares something with me he wants to do, before any harsh words fall from my mouth, I have to catch myself and put my hand to heart.
His words rush out breathlessly, full of excitement and joyful anticipation at his plans.
The fear that spills into my soul and makes me take the same deep breath I’ve heard my own mother take hundreds of times.
He’s sharing it with me and telling me what he wants to do, and I know, just as I’ve done in the past, he’s talking the process through with someone he trusts.
Not to hear my response necessarily, but to see how it feels with himself when he shares the plans with me.
I listen. I nod. And I’ve learned to ask him some questions to help as he talks it through.
Sometimes, plans get clarified. Other times, they are never mentioned again.
I’ve learned he often can make his own mind up about what dreams are worth pursuing, and usually it all works out much better than if I had tried to control things.
But the dreams — no matter how wild — have been given the opportunity to become whatever they may be, instead of being crushed before they could even be thought through.
Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist residing in the North Georgia Mountains among the bears, deer, and possibly Sasquatch. You can connect with her on Facebook at Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Humor, and Deep-Fried Wisdom. Her recently published book, ‘Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Wisdom, and Deep-Fried Humor’ is available in paperback and Kindle download on Amazon.