Dreams. We have big ones for our kids don’t we? I can remember when I was pregnant with each of my kiddos; as my belly grew, so did my dreams for them. I was envisioning baseball pitcher, football quarterback, Valedictorian! But when I got the news that two of my three babies are blind, my dreams were extinguished.
And I could not be happier about that… now.
If you’ve read my book or heard me speak or follow my blog, you know that I did not initially consider my dreams going dark a good thing. It was debilitating actually.
But what I have come to realize is that those were my dreams for my boys, not theirs. They are each their own person with their own interests. Sure they like a lot of the same things I like, and they even have some shared interests. But all in all, my kids are very different people and they need to dream their own dreams. My job is to get them what they need to accomplish those dreams, and then follow their lead.
“My kids are very different people and they need to dream their own dreams. My job is to get them what they need to accomplish those dreams, and then follow their lead.”
To that end, I am obsessed with harbors. (I know that seems like a sharp left turn but hang in there, it’ll make sense.) I wrote in a recent blog post about hope, that I consider a harbor a symbol of hope. As I mentioned in the post, in my journey of raising children with a rare disease, it is my hope that on diagnosis day, doctors would guide patients and families to a harbor full of resources for education, tools, resources and support. It’s the same for parents. I believe our role is to guide our children to the resources, tools, skills, experiences… the harbor… that they need. And then, let them navigate their way out of that safe harbor, armed with the skills they need to go climb their mountain.
In my book Thriving Blind: Stories of Real People Succeeding Without Sight, Kathy Nimmer, a Teacher of the Year and author, has a beautiful perspective on this. In Kathy’s chapter of the book we dive into parenting blind children. Kathy teaches parents that blind children are just like sighted children. She says, ‘Your blind child is still going to get to the top of the mountain. Their path is going to look different than what you expected, but they will get there.”
“Your blind child is still going to get to the top of the mountain. Their path is going to look different than what you expected, but they will get there.”
Kathy’s “brilliance bit” (as we say at Brilliantly Resilient) is not just for parents raising blind children – it applies to everyone! Insert whatever challenge you are facing with your child into that quote: “Your deaf child… Your introverted child, Your spirited child,,,” Your child… all shapes and sizes, all kinds of thinkers, all energy levels… will get to the top of their mountain. But the keys are these:
It is their mountain, not ours.
We need to get them what they need, get out of their way, and follow their lead.
Before you think I’m all fluff and lollipops I am going to admit this to you:
It. Is. So. Dang. Hard.
It’s easier said then done. At first. But once you start to see their joy and accomplishments and energy as they climb their own mountain, gosh it is so worth the struggle it was to get out of their way! And the funny thing in my life is that my boys did end up being championship winning baseball players, but they didn’t pitch, they played the outfield. My high school graduate was the Commencement Speaker – a dream of mine that I never shared with him. That was his dream and his speech was so good that I use it all the time in my speeches! My younger son didn’t play football, but he was just at the Olympic Training Center to pursue his Paralympic dreams!
Letting go of my dreams for my kids and getting out of their way to follow their own dreams has led me to people and places I had never dreamed I would get to experience.
“Letting go of my dreams for my kids and getting out of their way to follow their own dreams has led me to people and places I had never dreamed I would get to experience.”
Look, I know that we all believe that what we know is way more than what our kiddos know. And we want the best for them. I get it. However, I have living, breathing, been-there-done-that-proof that cramming our children into our dreams for them can crush their creativity and their productivity… as well as ours.
So give it some thought. Are you putting your dreams on your child, or are you giving them the space to have their own dreams and go after them? Stay beside them. Get them the resources they need. Get out of their way. And then… Watch. Them. Soar.
Kristin Smedley is an award winning advocate, Best Selling author, non profit leader and TEDx speaker. She originally planned to be a third grade teacher… and then two of her three children were diagnosed as blind. Kristin now speaks around the world sharing her journey to open the world’s eyes to seeing challenges and blindness differently. Kristin founded Thriving Blind Academy to solve the unemployment and literacy crisis in the blind community. Watch her TEDx talk here and order her book here. If you are interested to have Kristin speak at your upcoming virtual, live or hybrid event email her at Kristin@ThrivingBlindAcademy.org or download her speaker kit here.