The popular saying is “Go big or go home,” but I’ve started using a new one: “Dream big or go home.” As dads, we have the power to crush or build up our kids’ dreams, and a lot of us tend to be practical and to focus on reality, not on the possibilities. But what if we dreamed like our children dream, and hoped like they hope? Would they be better for it? Would we?
Growing up, until I was in my mid-30’s, all I ever dreamt about was becoming a police officer. I must have tested and been in the application process for almost 15 years with different agencies. But the results were always the same: I was disqualified for one reason or another.
It hurt. My hopes and dreams were shattered, and I had no back-up plan. All I knew was that I wanted to “serve and protect” the public and be a positive influence on others, but that dream never manifested. Instead, I became a bureaucrat working for the government, all the while hoping and dreaming that one day I would work in law enforcement.
When my firstborn came into the world, an overwhelming sense of responsibility and determination to give this child everything that I didn’t have flooded my soul. Even more than that, I wanted her to accomplish whatever dreams or goals she would one day hope to achieve.
My wife and I have two daughters now, and each of them has their own distinct dreams of what they want to achieve. At 10 years old, the older one has declared that she is going to go to Columbia University to study journalism and to be an artist. At 8 years old, the younger one wants to be a geologist.
Where they got these ideas from, I have no clue. At their age, I just wanted to be Batman or Spiderman. Regardless, I want to encourage them to achieve whatever dream they have for the future, even if they ultimately don’t achieve it. The important thing is that they’re dreaming.
Don’t get me wrong, though: I’m not an enabler. In fact, I’m a very rigid, stick-to-your-guns (as evidenced by my stubbornness to spend 15 years chasing a dream) kind of dad. When I was growing up, my mom used to always say, “Leave no stone unturned.” I carry that adage with me today and want my daughters to leave no stoned unturned in achieving their dreams.
As a dad, it’s my duty to show my daughters that it is possible, with hard work and tenacity, to break down barriers and achieve what appear to be insurmountable goals.
Nowadays, I dream of being a children’s book author or freelance writer, positively influencing people’s thoughts through the written word. Lofty goal, I know, but I’m headstrong and determined to give it my best. Dreams were meant to big, bold, and difficult.
Maybe my aspirations will influence my daughters to look at their dreams and say, “That dream is to small, I need to dream bigger” — and then go for them.
Your child needs to know that as a dad, you have hopes and dreams, so they, too, can aspire to achieve something beyond themselves. As a dad, if you’ve lost your dreams or didn’t meet a goal that you set out to achieve, don’t despair: the game isn’t over yet. No dream is too silly or foolish — it just might be unrealized or evolving as you move forward to achieving it. The important part is that you don’t give up dreaming and working towards those dreams.
Our dreams and theirs should impact others’ lives, too. If we’re just living for ourselves, then we’re missing the mark completely.
Today, I write speeches for the leader of a law enforcement agency. The words I write are spoken to hundreds, if not thousands of people. Although my dream of becoming a police officer never materialized, my dream of influencing others through my writing is coming true, as is my dream of working in law enforcement, even if indirectly. I couldn’t have planned it this way.
I encourage you to recall those dreams you once had and see if it’s possible to take steps toward achieving it, even if it takes you a long time. Share those dreams, even if it feels silly, with your children. Let them know that dad dreams, too.
We play a big role in how our children turn out. We can’t let our past failures or disappointments become the yardstick for measuring our children’s dreams. Little hearts and minds need someone to encourage and believe in them, and that person should be you.
Take time to ask your child about his or her dreams and see if there are ways you can help your child achieve them. Let your child know that no dream is too big or small to accomplish, but it will take hard work, dedication, and a determination to “leave no stone unturned.”
Zachery Román is a dreamer who leaves no stone unturned in his pursuit to positively influence others, including his wife and children, through his writing.