Do You Encourage Your Children?

My daughter, Jessica, celebrated her 28th birthday yesterday; our family gathered and had quite a celebration.  Jessi is a writer, an aspiring playwright—I always tell people she has it in her to be another Tennessee Williams; I truly believe that.  I’ve been encouraging her to pursue her writing dream since she was a little girl.  “Go for it!” I kept telling her; “never give up!  It’s yours if you want it badly enough and are willing to pay the price to attain it.”

Since we’re both writers, we share an amazing bond when it comes to creativity.  For example, we’re always recommending writing and creativity books to each other.  A couple of years ago Jessi and I both were reading the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron—Jessi’s recommendation. There’s a part in the book where the author discusses the influence a family can impose on an aspiring artist: “All too often the artistic urges of the artist child are ignored or suppressed.  Often with the best intentions, parents try to foster a different, more sensible self for the child.  ‘Stop daydreaming!’ is one frequently heard admonition.  ‘You’ll never amount to anything if you keep on with your head in the clouds’ is another.

Ms. Cameron goes on to say, “A rare family, faced with the myth of the starving artist, tells its children to go right ahead and try for a career in the arts.  Instead, if encouraged at all, the children are urged into thinking of the arts as hobbies, creative fluff around the edges of real life.”  Continuing on, she says, “For many families, a career in the arts exists outside of their social and economic reality: ‘Art won’t pay the electric bill.’  As a result, if the child is encouraged to consider art in job terms at all, he or she must consider it sensibly.”

Right after Jessi read those words, she called me to tell me what a huge impact they had on her.  “Dad, Dad,” she said excitedly, “I never realized how lucky I was!”  She read me the pertinent section and said, “You never did that, tried to protect me from the big, bad world.  You always told me to go after what I wanted, to not hold anything back, to never give up.  You always said it was mine if I wanted it badly enough.  I just wanted you to know how grateful I am that you did that—I feel so fortunate.”

It was a magical moment for me, of course.  How often does a father get to hear that he did something that was so appreciated, which went against the grain of normality?  I was in the clouds all day.

So let me ask you: Do you try to protect your children from the big, bad world, instead of encouraging them to go full throttle after their dreams and aspirations?  If so, I encourage you to reconsider.  Lucas Scott said, “…our biggest regrets are not for the things we did, but for the things we didn’t do.”  Tell your children to go for it, whatever “it” is.  Their dreams belong to them and they’re entitled to pursue those dreams.  It’s your job to tell them that, to never stop telling them that.