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Chasing the American Dream

posted Feb 1, 2019, 6:49 AM by Brenda Williams
It seemed like an eternity ago when our first child was born and I dreamed of what the future would bring. I dreamed of Harvard Law, academic honors, scholarships, athletic recruiters, and a myriad of colleges begging for us to darken their door. There it was, the American Dream. The belief that we as parents would make the sacrifices necessary to ensure a future for our children that would help them to be better off than we are. That they would have no barriers to limitless success. Now .... we hope for at least one day where the bedroom is picked up and homework is done before the bus arrives.

Where did it all go wrong? What will this mean for my children’s future? How many rooms will my house need for my adult children? These and so many more, questions run through my thoughts and haunt me each time I get the report card in the mail. How will it all end?

The goal of every parent is to help their children reach their greatest potential. Sometimes this means making sacrifices for our children. Sometimes it’s pushing our children to do better. Sometimes it’s removing the barriers that limit their opportunity. No matter the experience, each of us in our own way tries to ensure that the greatness deep within our children is able to bloom and grace them with fruitful bounty.

So why are some children and families so unhappy? Why do parents attend their children’s events only to leave angry for a loss or yell at the officials? Why do we swoop in at the first sign of a bad grade and demand the teacher explain what the teacher is doing wrong? Why do we take the kid out of the hard class and suggest a class that will give them an easier grade? Certainly, it’s not for a lack of caring about our children. Is it because we care too much? Or, is it because we fear failure?

I appreciated a quote the other day, “Every struggle you’ve had in your life has shaped you into the person you are today. Be thankful for the hard times, as they will only make you stronger.” It’s the tumbling of the river that makes the stone smooth. As adults, we recognize that only in fairy tales do people live happily ever after, and so we learn that the struggle is inevitable. We learn more from our failures than our successes, yet we fail to let our kids fail. We rescue them from the experience that will make them better and pave a path to success that makes it seem easy. Then when they leave us and face a world without the safety net we wonder what went wrong.

“Kids these days” is uttered by more than one adult as they ponder the future led by children whose faces are buried deep in their electronics. How will they ever become future leaders? As adults, we lament the failures of the next generation and the reluctance they possess to persevere. They lack persistence and the grit to get back up when life knocks you down. Yet, when I ponder their experience in facing the struggle, I am left with a few questions of my own. When did they learn to persevere? When did they practice resolve?

I trust that my children will one day get it right. I recognize that the reality of my child’s experience will not be the one I dreamed of, but that if I do it right, it will be the one they were meant for. I am also learning that if I allow them to face the struggle and teach them the resolve to conquer, then and only then will they grasp the mantle that is the American Dream.

-- Aaron Nelson, High School Principal