Living the dream?
I’m generally quite a mild-mannered bloke, but sometimes it takes just a few short words to get me really riled.
‘Living the dream’ is one such phrase. Maybe just because I think it wreaks of American sensationalism, but perhaps more justifiably because it’s simply not possible. You can never actually ‘live’ a dream. Living is reality; dreaming is fantasy. Perhaps there are indeed times in our lives when it feels a bit like we are doing just that – but I’d argue that they are incomplete dreams, or transitory moments which finish as soon as we dare to believe that it our lives are indeed dream-like.
‘Watch this space’ is another phrase that ‘gets my goat’ (now there’s a better quality example of characterful language). What space? How long do I have to watch for? I’ll move on before my blood pressure rises too high …
But I’m an optimist at heart, honest. So if living the dream is indeed an impossible dream, what steps can we take towards that aspiration?
To re-define the debate (if that’s allowed at this post-rant stage) perhaps it’s better to talk in terms of turning vision into reality. That’s a much more palatable phrase. It’s language that crops up in all walks of life. At my work, we run an event for church leaders all about turning vision into action. When my wife and I walked into the house we now own, we had the same vision for the project which we later embarked on to revive a tired, unloved shell of a house (described to me recently as ‘the brown house’) and turn it into a proper family home.
And last night my wife turned a bit of her personal vision into reality. To help her through the unwanted side-effects of pregnancy she took up knitting to restore a bit of sanity. A few months down the line and she was hooked (if you’ll excuse the crochet pun, for those in the know) – a fully-fledged enthusiast. But it didn’t stop there. She began to dream of turning her new interest into more than just a hobby. Plans for a high street haberdashery started to take root, but as a first step she decided to start online. And just over 24 hours ago, The Yarn Barn went live. It’s the start of a journey, but a start nonetheless.
So what has all this got to do with parenting, you may ask.
I’m sure we all had our dreams of what parenthood would be. Perhaps it’s slipping into lazy stereotype mode to suggest that many women would have dreamt of that first babe-in-arms moment, while blokes would have looked forwards to having a kick-about in the back garden with their son (or daughter).
As great as those moments are (yes, we may even experience that passing sensation of ‘living the dream’!) any parent knows that the reality is quite different. We don’t look forward to exhaustion accompanied by short tempers. Sending your child to the thinking step – or at least the behaviour that prompts such disciplinary measures – is something that surely happens only in nightmares, not dreams.
But there is hope. Earlier this summer, despite the complexities, my wife and I had a shared vision of how we wanted our family holiday to be. Our main objective was survival (of course), but to help us on the way we decided that we would only carry out child-instigated (or at least child-focused) ideas or activities. We wanted to live life at their pace, not try and force our own agenda on our little companions. Productivity went out of the window. The to-do list was usurped from its usual role in my life as judge, jury and executioner. (There’s more on the benefits of this approach in a previous post.)
And the result? We had a ball. Our two weeks of family holiday did still have the occasional moments of exasperation, but the over-riding memory is one of fun and laughter. We had to make a few sacrifices along the way, and everything took at least three times longer than it might have done if we crammed our own plans into the day as well. But was it worth it? By ‘eck, of course it was!
So, are you living the dream? Probably not, unless you’re a resident of cloud-cuckoo-land. But are there a few small things that would make your vision of parenting a bit more real once again?
Now, where’s that football …