Monday, March 14, 2011
The Day Your Heart Breaks
I bought into it, even though I was proof it was a lie. That's the power of parenthood, I think, that when you are holding the tiniest person ever, this creature that lived in you, that grew inside you and who came out with your eyes and a future wider than the world, you want to believe. You want to believe so badly that any other option isn't even fathomable.
Your child can do anything. They can be anything. Anything they set their heart to is possible. We live in that kind of world, right? We live in a place where opportunity is endless; where determination and motivation are all it takes to be what you want to be.
You can do anything.
If we are lucky - the luckiest - we believe this. We've been taught this from the time we could understand, that the world is our oyster and limits are something we set on ourselves. We can be anything we can imagine.
Somewhere along the way, we learn this isn't true. For whatever reason - for economics or intelligence or personality or opportunity or people around us, but eventually the world presses into us that this is a lie.
When I was young I wanted to be a brain surgeon. I'd been told all my life I could be anything I set my heart on - that I could work hard enough to make any dream come true. But my lack of skill in chemistry and my interminably shaky hands and my need for sleep spoke otherwise. I remember the moment I realized this - that I could not do this. Even though it was a vague dream, one I'd rarely spoken of and one I'd invested little in - this was a shock. I could not do anything I wanted do. I could not be anything I wanted to be.
This was a lie.
But it is one thing to know this yourself. I found other loves, other dreams. I found enough. I was enough.
And then I had kids. And I believed again that anything was possible. Anything they wanted to do, they could. Whatever dreams they kept were possible. I - well, I had been less than perfect. My limits were not theirs, and their lives were new and sparkly and wide as the sky. They came into the world with a blank slate waiting to be filled. They were possibility personified.
I have to stop here. I reach for a kleenex and wonder if this day ever came for my own parents. If it did, they sure didn't tell me. I don't remember them leaning over the dinner table one night saying, "Honey, I love you and all, but you can't carry a tune to save your life. Give up the idea of singing and find something more practical, more aligned with the gifts you have instead of a pipe dream that will never come true." Or something along those lines.
But there is a day, and I can't help but think all parents get to this realization, where we know suddenly the world is a much smaller place for our kids than we hoped. That there are limits for our children. Gifts they are given, and gifts they are not. Dreams they may dream that we know will never be, because something critical is missing.
Yesterday - heart surgeon, concert violinist, Olympic swimmer, veterinarian, astronaut.
Today - maybe not.
And maybe the thing that breaks my heart is not that they can't do it - because I know there will be other dreams, other careers, other wonderful amazing things they will accomplish and be in life - but that I see the walls in front of them, and they do not. Because they still believe: "I can do anything. I can be anything." And yet I know that not to be true.
And oh, today, how I wish I didn't know that not to be true.