Parenthood often is consumed by minutiae. We grocery shop, make meals, attempt to stay on top of unending piles of laundry, sign school forms, masterfully juggle schedules, and carpool — all while attending to our own responsibilities. We can live full yet exhausting lives, which sometimes leave little energy to cultivate a big picture.
I love this TODAY Parenting Team challenge because at heart, I am a dreamer. I don’t want to just subsist; I want to fully live. I want to wake up in the morning with purpose and passion. I’m quite sure it’s difficult to raise children who can do this if I don’t spend time doing it myself. Granting permission to dream and care for myself allows me to more fully give to those I love.
Perhaps the best dream we can dream for ourselves is to discover our calling and live it. Calling can be a multifaceted thing, just as we are multifaceted people. For instance, many of us are workers, parents, friends, siblings, and children simultaneously. Our calling will ask us to hold these roles in tension while doing what we were put on earth to do. I’ve heard one author describe calling as doing that which makes our heart sing. Another has described it as the intersection between the world’s greatest need and our deepest joy.
It’s a privilege to discover and live our calling. Some never have that option. As parents, we’re in a unique position to enable our children to do so. Being intentional about that role has the potential to unlock richer fulfillment in our families. In the spirit of raising dreamers, here are three tips to consider as we go about our important work:
- Be an archeologist. It’s so easy as a parent, especially if you’re type A like me, to put an expertly crafted plan of our own into motion. While we can offer our children a myriad of experiences and opportunities to test the waters, our primary role should be that an observer. We can watch for clues about their own unique intellect and bent. I’ve noticed how quick my older son is to show compassion, or how mechanically minded my younger son is, for instance.
- “Lean in.” Mark and Jan Foreman give this advice. One day they heard their sons experimenting with music they didn’t like. Instead of insisting that they stop, however, Mark sat down and told them why. He used that moment as a springboard for more discussions and experimentation – together. Their sons went on to form the award-winning band Switchfoot. Mark and Jan stress the importance of engaging and supporting our children’s interests, while structuring them all the same.
- Let go. New York Times best-selling author Jessica Lahey argues that allowing our children to take risks – and even fail — is a crucial element on their path to success. While it may fly in the face of our protective sensibilities, affording our children the right amount of autonomy enables them to develop a healthy and resilient self-confidence that will serve them well in future endeavors. I’ve never known a dream that didn’t involve risk; I don’t want to raise risk-averse children, but risk-smart ones.
One of my favorite quotes is by John A. Shedd: “A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” Discovering what we we’re built for and setting sail can take us to new places well worth the journey. I can’t wait to see where it takes these two!
I’m excited to announce that Jessica Lahey will be the February guest on my show, Chaos to Calm. You can view the show on YouTube in late February by clicking here. Jessica is the author of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. Also, Mark and Jan Foreman talk more about parenting in their recent book, Never Say No; Raising Big-Picture Kids.