06 October 2011

Watching Where I Step on Their Dreams

I was driving Three home from a soccer game, and as we exited the highway he said, "I want to play CYO."

I almost drove off the road.

CYO is Christian Youth Organization basketball. Our church fields teams up through eighth grade. Two and Three both played for two years, until Two graduated from the program. Two's team was comprised of high-caliber travel team players. Three's team...was not. There were a few boys who knew how to play the sport, but most struggled. Three was underutilized, and the team lost most of their games. Three doesn't like to lose, so he was generally sullen, which doesn't go over well with coaches. After two years of dragging him to practice and games, I'd had enough. Mercifully, so had he. He didn't play last year, and I thoroughly enjoyed not having to drive anywhere on Sunday afternoons. So, when he mentioned those three letters, my first reaction was horrified disbelief.

"Why??" I asked, silently questioning why the Lord continues to test me. Have I not proven my love for my children over and over again? Granted, I had momentarily considered plowing one of them into a tree, so points off for that, but cumulatively I think I've scored high marks for dedication.

"To play more basketball," Three answered calmly.

Basketball is Three's favorite sport. He honestly believes he might get drafted by the NBA. I don't see that happening, unless he improves his grades (pathway to a good college team), or his practice habits (detour around the college). So, it was hard to argue his point. He knows the team will likely stink, but he wants to join anyway, to improve his skills. Furthermore, this raises an important question. Should I be steering my children away from their dreams?

Last night, the Captain and I sat at the table and listened as Two complained about the irrelevance of  his Spanish and Chemistry classes. Two wants to be an actor. He is performing in "The Tempest" this fall, and he was selected to join Madrigals, which is the most elite of the choral groups in his school. I take him to voice lessons once a week, and he wants to begin auditioning for outside theater productions.

But seriously, "NBA Star" and "Actor" sound like vocations chosen by six year-olds. Shouldn't Two and Three understand their limitations by now? Don't they know how many people say they want those jobs, and how few attain them? Isn't it my job to be prudent and point them toward actual money-making careers?

I spent my first few years in college studying bar hopping and random promiscuity, and I got my degree in drug addiction before retiring to rehab. When I got clean and went back to school, my only goal was to complete my B.A. If I had been sober the whole time, I might have studied creative writing, or filmmaking. Perhaps I would be finishing my seventh novel now, or producing the screen adaptation of my first trilogy.

I had an opportunity to work with filmmakers the first year I was married. I spent my weekdays with a young commercial director, and on the weekends I worked on an independent film. The Captain was very supportive of my endeavors, as he is today, but my jobs were small and more clerical than artistic in nature. Eventually, I got pregnant, the small storyboard company I was working for had to close, and life took a turn.

I don't regret any of the events in my life, because they all led me here. But perhaps my early struggles to be a creative person have influenced the way I view my sons' choices. I wasn't successful, so I don't believe they can be. But Two often says, "I'm not Megan Coakley, Mom" when I try to get him to understand my flawless reasoning. He's right. He's a better singer, a better actor, and more singularly focused than I ever was in high school. He and Three have defined goals, even if I think they're far-fetched. Maybe my job is to simply refrain from saying that, and let them try. And if they achieve their dreams, Three can finance my movies, and Two can have the leading  roles.

I'm beginning to like this plan.

P.S. If you enjoy my diary entries, go check out my post over at The Bettyverse today. Then you should hang around there for a few days and soak up the Betty wisdom. It's full of sparkly goodness, and Universal Positive Regard. It's possibly better than chicken soup for your soul!


  1. Andrew wanted to be a professional model builder [i.e., creating prototypes for architects]. He says his mom flat out told him there was no such job. End of conversation. He struggles with his resentment to this day, because it is something he is really good at and has seen that there really is such a job.

    That said, I understand your point. Good luck, and I guess we'll eventually see how they turn out, right?

  2. I teach in a business school, so I see student every day who are accounting majors because their parents want a "good job" for their babies. Some of these students will be content or even happy with this; others will struggle mightily with both the content of the major and the available careers.

    There's a statistic being thrown around about how the jobs that today's high school students will hold post-college don't even exist yet. Times (and the economy) are a changin'.

    This is all a long-winded way of saying that you can't predict what your boys' career paths, so perhaps the best thing to do is to let their passions thrive AND make sure they're prepared with strong communication and critical thinking skills. THOSE (compared to accounting, acting and basketball) are always transferrable. ;)

  3. Halfway through this post, I'm thinking, "Basketball player, actor, successful author...same chances." hehehe

    My response to these things is usually in two parts. Number one, you want to be that thing? Of course you can. But you have to work for it, and work hard. Understand that there are others working equally hard, if not harder, and some of them may be better than you. You may have to work even harder than you thought you were capable of working to surpass them.

    If you're willing to do that, then you can move on to number two. Realize that nothing is irrelevant. The NBA now requires a minimum of one year of college or one year removed from school to be drafted. No more drafts straight out of high school. So study hard, get into a good college, and up your chances by showing you can play well on a college level. Actors, too, are required to research things to prepare for roles all the time. Nothing you learn in school will be useless since it contributes to how informed you are in your overall performance.

    Preachy? Sure. But that's how I go about it. Of course you can, but you have to work hard. I never tell them no. Then again, I'm not the one who has to drive them to practice.

  4. P.S. With the popularity of C.S.I. shows, chemistry would help Two learn how to pronounce all the difficult to say words in his first bit part. ;)

  5. OK, Carrie stole my CSI point. And Spanish is always a good thing (any foreign language really) to have in an actor's wheelhouse.

    First, as it is Outstanding October, you're an Outstanding mother.

    Second, I'm not seeing where you failed. You didn't take the most direct path here, but you got here. And (see First point) you're really good at parenting and you're an amazing writer. While these jobs are hard to define on tax returns, they are invaluable.

    Third, tread lightly or the "Fuck You" rule may be applied to what you say in these moments.

    Parenting is hard. Good thing you're Outstanding. :)

  6. Maybe those of us who stumbled on rocky roads before becoming moms tend to be wary of dreams, since we know damn well how hard reality likes to slap. But maybe by overcoming those slaps, we become the kind of moms who raise kids who believe in their dreams. My son wants to be a pro athlete. I tell him, of course you can - but college first unless you get drafted.


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