Growing up, being a mom was always a dream of mine. When people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was always “a mommy.” Maybe a marine biologist… and a mommy. Or maybe a teacher… and a mommy. But I hadn’t planned on having children as young as I did. I was still in my last year of college when I became pregnant with my first son. His dad (now my husband) and I were 21 and 22 years old, respectively (I’m the older woman!). At the time, having children didn’t mesh well with our carefree, late-night rendezvous in his parents’ basement. I had plans to finish my English degree and find a job as a writer or an editor. Then I would get married. Buy a house. Have a baby. Become a mom. Maybe when I was 30.
Life doesn’t always work as planned (especially when you don’t use birth control), but I’m so thankful that in this case, it didn’t. My son may not have been in my plans at the time, but being a mother always had been. And because of that–scared though we were–abortion wasn’t an option. Adoption wasn’t an option. Somehow, we would find a way to care for this unexpected baby boy.
Flash forward through a lot of hardships and struggles to getting married to my son’s father, picking out our first house as a family, and making plans for another child. But this time, it didn’t seem like having another child was going to happen as we had planned. It took nearly two years of on-purpose trying to get pregnant before my second son was finally a reality. And although this child was planned and desperately longed and prayed for, finding out that I was pregnant a second time gave me that same, scared feeling that I had the first time.
My story of becoming a mom, twice, leads me to believe that there is no “right time” when it comes to having children. While I do recommend using birth control until you’re “ready” to have children, I am also writing to say that whether it’s a part of your plans or not, becoming a mom is elating, terrifying, and rewarding in ways I could have never imagined. And in the 6 1/2 years of being a mother, I know that the only thing that you really need to make a decision to become a mom, whether the pregnancy was planned or unplanned, is the ability to love.
Although being a mom was always in my plans, I am blessed by both of my children beyond anything I could have ever dreamed. And I wouldn’t trade either of my unique and drastically different experiences of becoming a mom for any other dream I’ve had.
When we bring children into the world, no doubt, we have hopes and dreams for their future. We expect and hope for the very best that life has to offer for them. I recently saw a very emotional post on Facebook from a mother of a child who has cystic fibrosis, saying that she wants to keep her child away from things that might make the child sick. Her arguement was that she brought the child into this world, and she wants to keep her healthy in order to–in the words of the loving, and well-meaning mama–“see her live out all of my dreams that I have for her future.” Does anyone see what I see in that statement? It’s the child’s future that the mom was talking about, but the post was centered around the mom doing what she thinks is best, in order to see her child live out the dreams that she has for the child.
It’s our job as parents to raise our children to be intelligent, responsible people who take care of themselves and have success in life. That is a pretty big task in itself. We make that job harder on ourselves, and certainly on our child, when we make parenting to be anything more than that. Instead of focusing on the future that we want our children to have, we need to give them unconditional love, to support their uniqueness, to support their interests, and to support their future, whatever that may be.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t have secret hopes for my son. How awesome it would be if he were a professional athlete! I’m sure that he enjoys sports so much in part because my husband and I love sports. And while some of a child’s interests come from the parents, it’s important for us to support interests that we don’t share just as much as we support those interests that we do share. For example, I have no real desire to create my own board games. I’m perfectly fine playing the games that already exist, like Scrabble or Chutes and Ladders. But my son loves to make up his own games, sometimes with very complex rules that I may not understand. But I do my best to play along, rather than pushing a game that I already know and enjoy. There is a fine line between including our children in our own interests and making those interests become the only ones that we focus on with our children.
As another example, I want to have grandchildren. I want to have grandbabies to rock when it’s past my time to have any more babies. I want to have grandkids to delight with gifts on Christmas morning, long past the time when my boys stop believing in Santa. But what if my boys don’t want children? What if that just isn’t in the cards for them? I have to accept the fact that it may not be what they want, and I will have to try not to force that on them. Raising children is no easy task, and I would not want to pressure either of my boys to become a father, no matter how much I wish they would.
Some parents dream that their children will go to college. That they will get married. That they will find a good-paying job. That they will live nearby. That they will have a nice home. But what if the child would rather go to beauty school than a university? What if they don’t find a compatible relationship? What if they prefer to work for a low-paying, non-profit organization? What if their dream is to live in Japan? What if they fancy a small, cramped apartment in the city? Are we going to be disappointed? I think in most cases, we will be proud of them, no matter what they decide to become in the future, so isn’t it best to let them have theirown dreams from the beginning?
Everyone has a purpose in this world. They may be born with it. They may develop it as a child. They may seek out that purpose as an adult. If we are too focused on what we want for our children, they may miss out on finding their own purpose, and living out the dreams that they were made to fulfill.
How can we support our children’s dreams?