Neighborhood grandfather

I consider reading as a means to freedom. Freedom of thought and freedom of expression. Reading takes you places that you did not think existed, reading introduces you to new ideas and lets your ideas soar. Reading sets you free. I was concerned my youngest child did not take to books as my oldest did. After many pushes and shoves towards books I finally realized that I can not shape him into any mold, instead, my job will be to expose him to new ideas via means that appeal to him and let him spread his wings on his own terms – discussion, research, news on television, non fiction books.

If you read my blogs you probably know, my young Ryan is a deep thinker. Since he was little his thoughts were different – he probed deeper. His teacher, in a recent meeting, reconfirmed our perception of him as one who thinks outside the box. Ryan seems to be an exception to my rule that reading sets one free. He has set himself free by observing, evaluating, thinking and reading books that appeal to him.

At dinner, the other night, we were discussing dreams. He was asked, “What are your dreams, Ry?”

“I don’t have dreams, I have goals.”

“Well, what is the difference?”

“You can dream but they don’t seem that solid. But you set your goals and you work towards achieving them. I set goals.”

Coming from an eleven year old, that sounded somewhat precocious. We asked him what his goals are then.

“My goal is to become a neighborhood grandfather.” He solemnly replied.

“Errr…what?!?! A neighborhood grandfather?!?!” His father and I exchanged bemused glances.

“Yeah, you know. I am going to be that grandfather in the neighborhood who is always there for someone who needs help, advice.”

“But you are just a child. Why are you jumping to old age and grandfather? What are you going to do in between?” It was hard not to laugh.

“No, no! There are many goals in between that. Being a neighborhood grandfather is the ultimate goal. Before that I will go to Stanford, swim in the Stanford swim team. I will open my own business and create lots of jobs. I will help a lot of poor people so they can have a good life. I will marry someone nice and have kids. And then I will become a neighborhood grandfather.” The fork rested on his plate as he got a dreamy look in his eyes. “Or maybe I will become a professional baseball player or an Olympic swimmer. I will be famous, I will earn a lot of money and I can help even more people that way.”

Dreams and goals got entangled at this point, but we smiled at our child as he dreamed on and set goals for himself. As I see my two kids grow up, I glance upon the innocence and beauty of childhood. I feel myself a mere observer and perhaps a chronicler of these beautiful times of their lives. I write them down judiciously so I can offer these moments up to them when they are all grown up. When asked about aspirations, a child mentions a profession – teacher, engineer, scientist…..
My child’s aspiration is to be a neighborhood grandfather. Personally, I think that is a superb goal. We need neighborhood grandfathers to bring back the human connection which we seem to be losing fast in our digital age. Grow up to be a neighborhood grandfather, child. Bring people closer. Bring them out to the porch again. Re establish the connection.

Hold on to dreams..

The change is very gradual, almost imperceptible, yet I notice it lately. The silent burst of the colorful bubble of dreams in the young mind of my son. The brush with reality is painful and the realization harsh. Even a year ago, being an Olympic swimmer was a possibility, beating Phelp’s record was not simply a pipe dream but an achievable aspiration. Playing pro baseball was not wishful thinking but a natural progression of life. What else would he do other than play professional baseball? Or win gold medals in Olympics? He has his mind set to two schools when he grows up – Harvard and MIT. But now questions and doubts are casting shadows on those innocent dreams. I am not good enough! Am I good enough?

Those dreams, at the age of nine, at the beginning of fourth grade, are slowly starting to look unrealistic. Although I know this is simply a part of growing up, yet it devastates me to think that he will not casually say anymore ‘I will win one more medal than Phelps in Olympics’ or, ‘Mom, when both Ravens and Orioles want to draft me, what should I do?’ I just want him to dream on – for as long as he can. And who knows, his dreams may well be his reality one day? He is a little bundle of endless possibilities like every other child.

Last night while brushing teeth before bed time he said to me:

‘Mom, the child born by mixing you and dad, (interesting choice of words) that is me, should be super athletic and very smart, right? Dad is super athletic and you are very smart?’

‘Well, you ARE super athletic and you ARE very smart!’ I said. Please note how I avoided answering the ‘you are very smart?’ question! 🙂

He thought about it quietly for a few minutes.

‘Being good at sports is not going to get me anywhere, is it?’ He then asked.

‘Being good at sports is an ability not everybody has. It is a gift. Accept at it as one. And you love playing, so play. We can see where it takes you later. But you want to be well-rounded. You want to do well in school and learn all that you can learn as well!’

‘I am finding fourth grade very challenging. This is the most challenging year of all I think. Can you help me?’ (He just started fourth grade)

The cry for help was so plaintive, so innocent and genuine that I stopped what I was doing and took him in my arms.

We had a talk and planned a plan till he felt confident that we are all in it together, mom, dad, sister too. We are team Ryan and we will help him learn, no matter what. It indeed is a big transition from previous years to fourth grade and his steps are faltering. But he knew enough to ask for help. I am grateful. We have a plan. Bring it on, fourth grade. We got this! 🙂 And we high-fived!

We will make sure those dreams return! We need those bright, colorful bubbles floating around childhood. My mommy heart wants to save all of them, none can burst! So there! 🙂

Chasing my dreams! Wait, what are they again?

A friend recently wished me ‘May your dreams come true!’ When I hear such a wish, I say a thank you, I do feel gratitude towards the person for wishing me well, but to be completely honest, I don’t think about what the wish was. I feel happy for having a well-wisher and reciprocate the good wish.

But today, my friend’s wish made me wonder about my dreams. What are they? All I could think of was dreams FOR my children. I couldn’t think of a single dream of mine, a personal dream, a personal aspiration. In the process of growing up and becoming a mother, my personal dreams have been left somewhere along the way.

As a young woman, I dreamed of studying theater, that didn’t work out due to circumstances. I took up other jobs to earn money but they were just jobs, they were not stepping-stones to fulfil any dreams of doing something with my life, being someone! They were jobs, not my passion. Then came marriage and children. I got busy being a mother and without my knowledge my personal dreams gave way to dreams for my children. My dreams are my children grow up to be healthy and happy! Oh, did I forget successful? Yes, successful too, in finding happiness, that is.

To be truthful, I felt at a loss for this lack, in my life. But then after pondering some more, I thought was dream different from aspirations? I dream of going to Spain one day, I want to see the Angel falls, I would like to visit Yosemite. Can those be considered my personal dreams? And are aspirations what I want to be in life? I posed my husband this question. He aspires to be a better father, a better husband, he aspires to serve more people in his daily work, see a farmer grow his own crop to sustain his family, a mother open a small business to earn more money, one more child receive the light of knowledge. His dreams? To travel together and see the world. I now have to figure out what I aspire to be. All I could think of was I aspire to be less judgmental, more patient. I aspire to evolve and learn and grow in kindness, love and acceptance of others.

He led me to the right track. Aspirations need not necessarily mean success in the material world. I am not saying that is not important. Making something out of one’s life is fulfilling indeed. I am trying to say that qualitative not quantitative aspirations may bring us that elusive inner peace that we all strive towards.

Upon realizing that my dreams are all FOR my children, I made a mental note NOT to live my dreams through them but to be the wind beneath their sail when they embark upon that journey of pursuing their dreams.

Having written the above paragraphs on a rare Eeyore day, when the sun must not have been shining, I thought on my lack of dreams some more.  I do NOT want  this blog to become one of the sacrifice I made for the sake of my children. I did NOT make any sacrifice at all. It is my absolute good fortune that I have the opportunity to stay home – raise my children, read good books, write blogs (alright throw in some of the chores). My husband can’t wait to trade places with me one day. I am no martyr when I say my dreams got left behind somewhere. I realized, on a lovely walk with my dog on a beautiful, sunshiny day, this was my dream all along and I am living it. I dreamed of marrying Sean, I am living it. I dreamed of traveling, I lived it and hope to live more of it one day, I dreamed of having children, I was blessed with two healthy children who fill up my life with joy….mostly, and lets admit it, frustration sometimes.

I ask myself a question when  the existential angst creeps in my mind (blame it on those gray days, when the sun doesn’t shine on my face). I ask myself if I could change anything in my life at the moment, what would it be. I come up with ‘nothing’. ‘Nothing’ is good, ‘nothing’ makes me take a deep breath, appreciate my life and move on.

But before moving on, I want to raise a cup of cheer to the universe ‘Here’s to living our dreams, people of the world. Let’s chase those dreams, whatever they may be!’ I want this post with this thought that I found very beautiful:

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
Henry David Thoreau