When I was much younger, back in the olden days – the late 1970’s, I fell in love with any and all things having to do with journalism. My family consisted of avid readers and news junkies and I followed suit. I would come home from school, do homework then, while eating dinner, watch the 5:00 local news, then the 5:30 national news (with Walter Cronkite – remember him? If not, don’t tell me) and again the local 6:00 news. I know what you’re thinking…I was really wild, wasn’t I? If I wasn’t watching the news, I was reading the newspaper or some news magazine like Time or Newsweek. I was very well-informed but, I must admit that reading at the table while eating created very bad table manners. Unfortunately, I passed this habit on to my son, who is also an avid reader but, would often rather be reading that talking to others. Originally, my dream job was to be a television newscaster. I was totally enamored with Jessica Savitch. She was a media darling and the NBC weekend nightly news anchor. She also hosted a television news show on PBS called “Frontline” and I thought she was just perfect. Smart, beautiful, independent…I imagined her to be the epitome of glamour and success in the field of broadcast journalism. Of course, after her untimely death in 1983, it was revealed that things were not exactly how they seemed. Isn’t that always the way things turn out? I held on to this dream for a few years until one day my mother told me that I was just believing in a pipe dream that would probably never come true. One reason was because my right eye wanders, my eyes don’t track together and well, people on television don’t have such flaws. I know, not exactly what one would expect a mother to say to her daughter but, unfortunately, this is a true story and it happens to be mine. And, then there was the fact that I am Black. There were not many African-American newscasters at the time, let alone female. Mom wasn’t the type to encourage me to break barriers, although, she loved it when other people did it. By the way, a little known Black History fact is that Carol Simpson, out of Chicago, was the first Black female network (NBC) news anchor back in 1974. Anyway, needless to say, after my discussion with my mother, my dream was pretty much crushed. I moved on to something else, although I don’t remember what it was. I never stopped my love of writing. In fact, my bachelors degree is in Journalism. However, I never thought I was a good enough writer that anyone would ever want to read or hear anything I had ever written.
Now, in 2013, it is my turn to be the mom and potential dream crusher. As you know, I have three adult children and our first one is about to graduate from college. She, too has a dream. I won’t share with you exactly what it is because it’s her dream to share with the world but, I will say that it’s not exactly the direction we would have expected. However, for obvious reasons, I am very sensitive to dream encouragement in my children. I believe that anything is possible with hard work, planning and perseverance. Parents need to let their kids know along the way that they believe and support them, but, also (and this is where it gets tricky) that their dream is dependent on their own sweat equity. Success doesn’t happen over night and it doesn’t come without some sacrifice. I am starting to believe that this generation doesn’t really understand this concept. For illustration purposes, let’s consider this girl: Remember Tiana? She had a dream to own her own restaurant. A dream cultivated with her daddy and fueled by her love of cooking. So, she worked hard as a waitress (working 2 jobs) and saving every dime that she had in order to purchase a building. Now, it is true that her hopes were dashed after those two unscrupulous real estate men denied her the property they had promised and then there was that whole ordeal with being turned into a frog and chased by the Shadow Man. Yet, still she persevered and along the way she fell in love and claimed her prince. Ultimately, she and her fella opened their own restaurant in NOLA and I hear that it’s a rockin’ jazz joint! See? Hard work, planning and perseverance…the keys to making dreams come true! I know that it’s a movie and a Disney movie at that, but the message is still true. So, in the age of over paid sports figures and reality television stars, how do you convey this message to your children and have them take you seriously?
I am not a fan of reality television. I am a fan of Dancing With The Stars but, that’s about as far as it goes. However, this current generation of young people seem to really love reality t.v. and the more mindless, the better. All of these shows ( such as Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Basketball Wives, Honey Boo Boo, Real Housewives of everywhere, etc.) take people with little to no talent and make them instant stars. Reality television is like the microwave to instant fame and fortune. What’s worse is that although this only happens to less than 1 percent of the population, this generation now thinks that this is a viable means to success. I’m not just picking on reality t.v., but I use it as a metaphor for all things wrong with this society that values money over absolutely everything else, especially hard work.
So, as parents, Big Poppa and I listen to our adult children tell us their plans for the future, or shall I say, an out line of their plans for their future because another thing that they don’t like to do is make plans. We are attentive and we try to be positive. We do not give unsolicited advice or suggestions because they don’t like that either. We listen intently for the parts of the outline that involve our check book or any other resources that may come from us and make sure that we remain non-committal. Above all, we try to make sure that they know that we believe in them and that ultimately, no matter where life takes them, they will be successful. Then, once they leave the room or we hang up the phone, we look at each other in bewilderment and go “Whaaaaaat?” Obviously, we are from very different generations and often it seems like we are speaking completely different languages.
I recall that the transition from college to the real world was one of the most difficult adjustments of my life. I was excited to have college behind me but, I had no idea who I was or where I was headed. I felt the pressure to pull it all together and figure it out right away. Quite frankly it was overwhelming. I think that my soon to be college graduate is feeling the same way, although she will never admit it. Yes, her father and I have more practical thoughts like people who have lived a lot longer than she has, but I do want her to dream and dream big. I want her to put her whole heart and soul into it, along with some elbow grease. Then, I want her to take off and soar! That’s when I’ll know that I have done my job…and so has she. By the way, I find it very cool that after all these years, I find myself writing for an audience. A dream deferred but, not denied.