Holding onto Our Own Dreams

Written by Jane Brooks

parents not foisting their dreams on their childrenJust whose dreams are you living, anyway? Columnist Jane Brooks reflects on the role that our parents' and family members' expectations play in our dreams.

I have no doubt that my mother's happiest dream, if she were alive, would feature a wedding.  Mine, that is, not hers.

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Her dream would have me floating down the aisle on the arm of a successful man who would restore my status to "married woman," thus protecting me from the perils of divorced life.

I am as sure of this as I am certain that my mother never entertained the thought of looking at another man after my father died. Which explains why her happiest dream would showcase me as the bride.

Sounds loving, right? Truth be told, it's tough to be the object of so much goodwill. When thereality of your life doesn't mesh with someone else's dreams for you, there's bound to be disappointment on both sides.

If my mother had dreams of her own, rather than go after them, she projected them on to me. When I quit teaching after a couple of years to return to graduate school, I was exhilarated by the infinite possibilities this move would create.

I was also stunned by the lack of support from my parents, especially considering that I was footing the bill. My mother's reaction: "How could you give up a good career? What's the matter with you?"

Decades later, Mom shared her regret over resigning from a sales job that she had loved when she first married because "wives of professional men didn't work in those days." No wonder she was upset when I voluntarily gave up a good job that would be perfect someday when I married.

When I got engaged, Mom took me shopping and insisted on buying me, against my protests, a "nice dress for when you go to the orchestra." True, I had been raised on a steady diet of classical music and, true, I was moving to Philadelphia, a city blessed with an outstanding symphony.  But I was marrying a man whose musical tastes leaned toward hard rock and heavy metal. Clearly an orchestra subscription was not in my immediate future. And clearly, it was something my mother would have liked for herself.

If only my mother had followed her own dreams instead of wanting so much for me, we both might have known less disappointment. Yet, even with that knowledge, don't I have dreams for my sons?

No. I have hopes for them, but I don't dream for them.

I want my sons to be happy and productive, to find supportive relationships, and to live long, healthy lives. Let them dream about designing best-selling computer games and writing award-winning screenplays.

In my happiest dream, I'm caressing the microphone, the spotlight reflecting off my sequined gown as I belt out my latest hit to the crowd in Central Park.

Let my sons dream their own dreams. This one is mine.

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