I was with my daughter looking through an old favorite childhood book of mine at my parents’ house this weekend, “A Light in the Attic”. One of the poems I hadn’t seen in much too long was as follows:
Listen to the mustn’ts
“Listen to the mustn'ts, child.
Listen to the don'ts.
Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me.
Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
As parents, as humans, we are constantly plagued with doubt and insecurity and maybe we shelve our dreams because they are “not realistic”. It’s all too easy to let years slide by and feel, perhaps, trapped or stuck by our circumstances. I am guilty of that. I don’t mean to say I feel negatively about having a family or a career, but that those responsibilities can be enough to make you feel like there is no room to do anything but survive and maintain. Sometimes you can barely even manage that. Dreams? That’s just extra there is no time and energy for, right?
In reading those few lines, I realized how far away I have gotten from my childhood mindset that the horizon was wide open and everything was possible. Yes, there are more responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for dreams too. If nothing else, remembering what it is that energizes us opens up that world that closes in around us from time to time with the weight of all we manage.
I think, in my opinion, life may be a little better if we quit listening so much to our version of the “impossibles” and remembered when we really believed “anything can be”. Maybe not “anything”, but “the thing”—that thing you are passionate about, that you truly want to achieve and that matters to you—and quit allowing life to get in the way of having that.
Yeah, yeah, but it’s not realistic, right? We can’t just run off to our magical world where everything is possible and pasta has no carbs and Caillou’s squeaky, irritating voice and those annoying toy videos on YouTube don’t exist…can we? Ok, yes, that’s true that we can’t run off to that, or whatever your version of a magical world would be. We do have realities and responsibilities. We are raising our kids to be the best people they can be and we hope they grow up to feel like they can achieve anything they want to. However, are we providing a good example of that? I can’t speak for you, but I’m not sure I am. Yet.
I’ve worked hard at my career. I’ve had my own freelance business for over 12 years in addition to my “day job”. I spend all the time I possibly can with my child and play as much with her as I can. In these things, I think I’ve done ok. However, I have a long-held dream that I, for a variety of reasons, have yet to achieve. At times I’ve given up on it, but really, being a mother has given me a whole new motivation. It’s not just achieving “my thing”. It’s the fact that in achieving “my thing”, I can be an example to my child and, quite frankly, I’ll have some of the freedom and flexibility that I want as well. How can I tell my daughter something I don’t live authentically myself?
So, while it won’t change overnight, I am determined to try to stop letting “the impossibles” create walls for me that may not exist. I will try to silence “the can’ts” that can be quite loud at times. It won’t be easy and I won’t always succeed, but I can’t lose another day on doubt. And in taking those steps and continuing to work toward my goals, maybe my daughter can see that whatever her version of a goal is or a dream, that it’s not just a silly poem, but that, yes, “Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” That would be the best reward of all.