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Why would parents do anything else?

Tuesday night I was having dinner with my girlfriend and an(other) old friend from back in Southeast Kansas, and, inevitably, the discussion turned to pondering how we all managed to leave and see a little more of the world.

There were many things that helped us along the way. (And not one was money, because none of our families have much of it.) We were dreamers. Whenever we heard about someone who did something great, we simply thought to ourselves, "Maybe I could do that, too."

We also had the good fortune to stumble upon and attend summer programs where we met other kids from around the country who dreamt as big as we did.

And our parents, though they didn't proactively drive our "careers," mostly said they supported us and stayed out of our way. Pat said of his parents, "My parents pretty much let me do what I wanted to do."

Then yesterday I was flying from Cleveland to visit my family in Kansas, and I read an inspiring story in the inflight magazine of Continental Airlines. 'Twas a profile of Broadway headliner Sutton Foster and her remarkable rise to being an "above-the-title star" at age 30. And sure enough, she cited as a secret to her success...

"My parents raised me to...go after the crazy dream of being a Broadway actor when they could have told me it wasn't a realistic goal."

Countless magazines and television shows constantly feature stories of great human achievement, and a good portion of them involve parents at least staying out of their kid's way.

Furthermore, these stories don't elevate the aspirations of only young pups like me. There were plenty of old dogs on my flight yesterday reading and smiling about Miss Sutton Foster.

And this is why I get so angry when people tell me stuff like "It's always been my dream to go to art school and paint, but my parents think it's silly because I've already got a bachelor's degree in engineering. So I really should get a master's in engineering."

Why do parents recommend to their own children such boring stuff they think is safe? I would argue that it's actually very risky to contribute to your child's unhappiness. (Kids remember that stuff at holidays and when it's time the 'rents go to old folks homes.)

Why wouldn't parents support (or at least stay out of the way of) their children's dreams to do something remarkable, something that would get them profiled in magazines? More to the point, why would they do anything else?

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- Thanks, Moms and Dad, for letting me chase my dreams.
- Click here for Sutton Foster's website.
- Click here to read the profile in Continental's magazine.

Posted by Ian Ybarra on 12 May 2005

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