Last night I had a conversation with a man I had just met. I told him about our son's lead role in his high school play and how he is thinking of pursuing acting after high school. (I promise it was in context with our conversation and I was not being one of those moms who brag. Really. I promise.) I told the man that I know that there is no better time to chase after his dreams than during that period in his life when he is out of high school and not committed to a family. He told me that I was smart to see things that way and give my child a chance to pursue his dreams without trying to project my plans on him.
Then today I had a conversation with a family member after my son's performance. "So what is he interested in?" she asked.
"This," I said, gesturing at the theater and actors around us.
"No," she said. "I mean, after this."
I laughed. "This."
"Well then, how are you going to direct him to do something more reliable than this?" she asked.
I gave her some answer just to hush her up. But later I thought about these two conversations-- how one person commended me for supporting my son's dreams and one person chastised me, encouraging me to push him in another direction. The truth is, I don't know which is right. I am just going on what I would've liked when I was his age. I would have wanted the people closest to me to support my dreams, to tell me that the things I believed in were worth believing. I would've wanted the adults in my life to let me jump, and to be willing to catch me at the same time. I would've wanted someone who was old enough to say with the gift of hindsight, "This is the best time in your life to chase your dreams." Because it is.
As parents it's hard to know when to let our children take risks and when to pull back the reins-- when to, as my concerned family member asked-- urge them in a different direction and when to say "Go for it!" For us, for now, we feel that it would be tragic for our son to one day say that he has regrets because of something he didn't do when he could. Will he go to Hollywood or NYC and chase his acting dreams? I don't know. Next year this time he could have a new plan. What I want the most is for him to remember parents who bought into his dreams, who told him to go where ever they take him and to believe in himself and God's plan. I have no idea where our children's dreams will take them, but I can't wait to see. Dreams are powerful things. We have to listen to them and that's what we're trying to do. Are we doing it right?
Time will tell.