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Your Children’s Dreams are Not about You!

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Two significant events happened last week in the Kenyan scene. The 2013 KCSE results were released, and our golden girl, Lupita Nyong’o, won Kenya’s first Oscar award.

For those who received their exam results, they begin a new chapter in their lives. There are those who will advance their education as they pursue their dreams. Others will not pursue the education path, but will still engage in activities that are in line with their dreams. Unfortunately, others will be lost, unsure of what to do next.

I’d like to talk about the role that parents play in helping their children pursue their dreams. Most parents desire to see their children succeed in life, and grounding them in a good education is one of their greatest investments.

When I was growing up, it was drummed in our heads that we should pass our exams so that we can become doctors, pilots or lawyers. Those were the three main enviable careers. And they are good professions no doubt.

However, not everyone -including ‘A’ students, are tailored for these professions. While the jobs might be dream careers for bright students, this is not the case for all of them. For some, their passion may lie in other fields, such as the arts. And the best parents can do is support them.

There is this parent who once said it would be such a ‘waste’ for him to invest years of time, energy, hard work and finances to educate his straight ‘A’ daughter, only for the child to say she wants to pursue her dream career in fashion design. To him, a straight A student should become nothing less than a neurosurgeon and not a tailor (his reference to a fashion designer). Sadly, this is the thinking of many parents.

Then there are parents who try and make their children live their own dreams. Take these parents who had always excelled in sports. They knew their two sons would automatically follow suit, and even get sponsorship into prestigious universities abroad -courtesy of their sporting acumen.

One son excelled in basketball, while the other was very good in soccer. But when the one who played basketball was form two, he announced his intention to quit the sport. He wanted to concentrate on photography as his main extracurricular activity. His parents were greatly disappointed. They spent weeks trying to talk to him out of it. The boy was good in academics, and with his superb basketball record; he stood in good stead for a scholarship. His parents had spent years strategically angling him for that scholarship ever since he was little. But the young man had made up his mind and would not budge. These parents learnt that sometimes, children don’t possess the same passion or talent that you do — even if they are your own flesh and blood.

No doubt, it can be heartbreaking when your child is set on pursuing a career that is not in line with what you want for him, especially when you have an alternative career you know he would excel in. However, sometimes you just have to step aside and let them make their decisions, and if they are realistic enough, allow them to pursue them and offer them your support. Remember, your children’s dreams are not your dreams. They have their own lives to lead.

Going back to Lupita, I heard her, in one of her acceptance speeches; thank her parents for always supporting her and allowing her to pursue her acting dream. Just look at where that has gotten her!

Lupita has opened the doors for many young people, and her success has no doubt changed the thinking of many parents. Her words: “no matter where you are, your dreams are valid” ring so true. So don’t dismiss your children’s dreams, for you just may never know how far they will go.

I published this article in The Star Newspaper on Wednesday this week.

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