When I was a kid, there were so many things I wanted to do. So many things I wanted to be. From police officer, comedian, actor, firefighter, military man, chef, all the way up to doctor and astronaut. It was as if there were endless possibilities. Like any kid, I had a lot of dreams.
My parents, though, had a lot of dreams for me.
“When you grow up, you’re going to go into the family business.”
Great, right? Problem solved.
Let’s fast forward to being around 6 or 7 now.
It’s 5:30 in the morning. I, a small child, am being woken up by my parents, throwing on oversized clothes, and rushing to get out the door because I woke up late.
We take a short, sleepy, 15 minute ride to my dads construction yard, and grab some materials before spending the next hour picking up a few employees from their houses. It’s now close to 8:00AM and we’re finally taking the hour drive to the first job site of the day.
We spent the next ten hours out before finally getting home. When that day finished, I felt so proud to have “worked” with my dad, but something became very clear to me: I didn’t want to be a construction worker. The unthinkable had happened to me – I lost all interest in being in the family business.
As I got older, it became pretty clear that their dreams for me weren’t my dreams. As disappointed as that made them, at least they didn’t throw that on me every chance they got, right?
Wrong. One thing my parents never let go of was my lack of interest in the family business. It’s come to the point where every opportunity they have to remind me of their disappointment, they take it. Yes, present day. It’s been 20 years and they still do it.
As I grew up from that day at work with my father, I came to build new dreams. From an actor on broadway, to a Marine, then eventually a doctor. As much as these ideas gave me excitement, life even, it gave my parents an equal lack of faith in me.
“An actor? Good luck. Because there aren’t a lot of those in the world.”
“A Marine? No. Absolutely not. If you do that, you do it without me.”
“A doctor? Aren’t you a little old for dreams? If you want to make real money, construction is where it’s at.”
I don’t remember a single time my parents supported any of my dreams. Any of my goals. Any of them.
Over the years, this has actually built quite a gap between us. As time went on, I stopped confiding in them. I stopped telling them my plans or anything I wanted to do. I knew they just wouldn’t support it. Hell, when I was 18, I was accepted into a culinary school four hours from my house and my parents refused to let me go because it was “too far from home” and I couldn’t work for the business while I went to school.
Bear in mind, they’re already aware of my lack of interest in working for the company, they just haven’t let it go.
As I write this, I am 26 years old and have struggled for years to figure out anything I want to do. Having the lack of support for any dream or dreams I’ve had over the years has made it impossible to speak to them about work options or have any kind of conversation that doesn’t land in my feeling guilty about the decision to steer clear of the company. Even on the off chance that I do speak to them about a work interest I think will be great for me, I get a firm, “there’s no money in that, you’re going to ruin yourself.” They’re real, “spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down” kind of people.
Our relationship has been broken through the years and that is a lot to blame for my decision not to go into the family business. What is the most to blame, from my end at least, is the complete lack of support for any of my dreams. I wish I could say that I know my parents meant well, but what they really wanted was for the guilt to drive me where they wanted me.
Supporting your children and their dreams is such an effortless task. Seeing them excited, happy to know where they’re going, is something to marvel at and then nudge them in the direction they should go to keep that excited mood going. My parents have never supported my dreams, and for that I will never stifle the dreams of my children.
Were your parents supportive of your dreams? Did you end up following any? Let me know in the comments!