“It’s a mineral! I found a mineral!”
His shrill voice, brimming full of excitement jolted me from my sleep. I had woken at least six times during the night, and was surprised this time, upon opening my eyes, to find sunlight streaming through the tent fly.
“Boys, quiet down.” I mumbled as I turned over to check on our two-year-old. Still sound asleep, somehow. He was nestled into his sleeping bag next to me. I closed my eyes, but the big boys’ banter continued.
When I gave up on sleep and at last emerged from the tent, the boys took their cue. Hearing my own tent zipper they asked eagerly from the next tent over, “Can we come out now?” I said yes. Our six-year-old Zeke counted it of first importance to show me the “mineral” he had discovered upon waking. It was a piece of broken glass. I thought for a moment, examined the glass, no sharp edges. “That is glass buddy, but it kind of looks like a mineral, doesn’t it?”
“Mom, I found a mineral, too!” Ellis, our four-year-old proudly held up his own piece of glass. “Can I add it to my collection?” He was referring to the collections he and his brother had started upon arriving to our campsite–plastic boxes displaying all sort of rocks and foliage they had discovered.
My first instinct was No, you can not play with a broken piece of glass. But then again, it was dull. And–something had told me deep inside, when they started those collections, that this was important. It’s so easy to brush those feelings off, is it not? When something looks by all means insignificant, but you feel as though you should treat it otherwise, for their sake. I let him keep the glass. Sorry–mineral.
A couple of days later after we packed up camp and were driving down from the mountains, Zeke shared an idea with us from the backseat. “Hey! What if we draw everything that we want to find for our collections. Then we can find those things, and make a museum!” We had yet to stop for coffee, and after three (beautiful) long days camping in the rain, I managed to muster just an ounce of enthusiasm. “Yeah Buddy, that’s a good idea. We can do that at home!”
He brought up his idea four more times within the hour, and the final time I lost my patience. “Zeke, I said we would do it. You can stop talking about it now.” And that was that. For a week.
I didn’t hear another thing about the minerals or collections or becoming museum directors—until I brought it up. I was out by myself when the thought crossed my mind. I told him we would do that. It seemed he had forgotten. And I was plenty busy with projects. We’re selling our house, I’m in the midst of big book deadlines, and we’re in the middle of several projects for our small business.
Drawings in a notebook and dreaming up a museum seemed just a tad too insignificant given all that was on my plate.
But there I sat at the coffee shop, staring my projects in the face, and it hit me. My son’s projects or not less important than mine. Because his projects are what his dreams and aspirations are made of.
Our childrens plans will lead to greater plans and action and goals and a life lived on purpose—but only if we fuel those budding dreams in their hearts. Only if we offer a listening ear, and only when we invest ourselves in their aspirations. Whether it’s a lemonade stand, raising money to save an endangered species, building a rocket to launch to the moon, or gathering artifacts for a museum.
Something monumental happens when we grant credit to our child’s ideas. When we stop to ask questions, or offer them another perspective. Instead of their idea vanishing into time, it weighs time down. It slows time, offers it more meaning, perhaps redirects it. When we take the time to enter into their idea, it infuses them with confidence to give that idea a try. It makes them brave.
If we don’t fuel these dreams, I fear they will dissipate into adulthood. I’m so afraid that my children will forget how to dream. This is one reason I do have my own projects, ones that reflect my own passions and show my children what it looks like for Mama to chase her own dreams. But it’s also why I set aside those projects today, and sat next to my boy drawing tigers and sea coral. Because he has his own projects and dreams.
And they’re just as important as mine.