What Does It Mean To Have Dreams As A Parent?
I've been thinking a lot about dreams and goals: whether they are helpful or futile, whether it is better to just accept what comes, and be present in the moment. Or whether it is better to pursue your dreams with childlike clarity of vision, modeling for your child what it looks like to set your sights high, and to keep doing your very best until you (hopefully) achieve them.
For me, the (re-)realisation of my dreams happened by accident when my children were little. It happened at a time when I had mentally given over the rest of my life to parenting, and given up on myself. Through a deep period of undiagnosed depression, months of sleep deprivation, and being on call 24/7 for my children (one of which was a high-needs child), I learned to forget what I thought my life would be, and to accept my new reality. I lost a sense of who I was as a person, and slogged through my life, day in and day out. Seasons coming and going. Our world buried under feet of snow, then the snow melted and the flowers bloomed, the heat of the summer, then the frigid crispness of Canadian autumn, then the snow came again. It was all the same, and it had no meaning, other than to watch my children grow up. I had become the parent that I thought I would never be, and I had no idea how to get out.
My dreams came in the form of a Facebook advertisement for writers for a blog I followed. I applied within seconds and was accepted almost immediately. That was the rebirth of my dreams. I had always wanted to be a writer; as a kid I would sneak down into our crawlspace with a pencil, notebook, and flashlight, and write for hours. I gave myself challenges: for one story I would focus on character development; for one I would focus on dialogue. I dreamed of being a famous author like Judy Blume or Roald Dahl.
Soon after starting at the blog, I was promoted to editor. Then Trump got elected and I had a complete mental breakdown, but that's another story for another time. As I was working for the blog, I wrote a novel, which I submitted to a major publisher. They did not respond. After a year of waiting, I submitted my story again. Then they responded today that my story “does not meet their publishing needs at this time.”
My heart is broken, and I can't tell whether it's my mind or my body that feels shaky-- maybe both. I went to the gym and pounded at the elliptical so hard that my tears blended in with my sweat. I chastised myself: who the hell was I, a fat mom, to think that I had anything to say worth publishing? How embarrassed will my children be to hear that I tried and failed? How they must wish they had a successful mother, instead of a loser wannabe.
And yet in some indefinable way, I know that my children wouldn't be embarrassed of my failure. I know that it is better to try, better to open myself up to success or failure. To put myself out there, and be bold about who I am and what I dream of. It is important that my children see me try and fail, and then try again. I know these things, but I don't feel them. I'm sure I will feel them in time, and I'll be able to think of the email I just received without my heart constricting and my breath catching in my throat.
So after I finished my grueling workout, I went to pick up my daughter from daycare. My legs were shaky and my eyes felt like sandpaper. I slapped on a smile and walked into the room.
“Mommy!” She squealed and ran into my arms. I gave her a huge hug and held her close. I closed my eyes and breathed in the closeness of my delicious child. You don't know it, Baby Girl, I said to myself, but your mom did something important today.
AJ: oldest sibling, allergic to spare time, drinker of coffee. Loves Queen and the part of "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" where Mick Jagger complains that he can't get no girly action.