Dream my child, dream

I was sitting in front of Sam’s Preschool teacher who had been telling me how friendly, helpful, pleasant and charming my three year old daughter was. But even though my heart was swollen from pride and my eyes moist with happy tears, I could feel that the teacher was hesitating about what she was going to tell me next. With a little trepidation I asked her what was wrong, she smiled and said “Nothing important but I just wanted to let you know that sometimes during class she just goes away into her own world, making up stories and talking about fantasy worlds and creatures.”

Dream my child, Dream - Swapna Thomas

I broke into laughter and the teacher was at ease again. I assured her this was completely normal for her and she was like this at home too. I requested her to let Sam have her space when she was in what we call her “zone”. Yes, I raise a dreamer and happily so!! 

In our house it is not uncommon to find Sam pack her bags filling it with clothes, toys and other stuff preparing for an imaginary trip to Disneyland. She can often be found sitting staring at the vacant space completely oblivious to what you are saying while her mind is full of exciting plans and ideas. Every fairy tale that I read to her has a Sam version complete with sub-plots, new characters, exciting endings and new themes. She makes up stories at the drop of a hat complete with melodramatic dialogues, animated actions and crazy scripts. It is not strange for us to hear “Mumma, I am going out to the garden to practice my flying”. Yes, flying is one of her favourite pastimes!!

Conventional wisdom has a lot of labels for dreamer children like “lost in their own world”, “head in the clouds” and “disconnected from the real world”. It hurts me that we tend to give such negative connotations to these creative, imaginative and sensitive kids. Yes, they are loud, dramatic, easily distracted and even moody but they are also intently observant, perceptive and incredibly charming. 

Our society is programmed to value and applaud children who are obedient, don’t question adult wisdom, are academically strong and focused. It is a different story that the people we admire the most in this world are individuals who questioned authority, didn’t conform to the rules, had a bumpy academic past and most importantly followed their seemingly impossible dreams.

Children brimming with dreams, passion and creativity are continuously hammered with the reasoning that they need to get their feet on the ground, until their spirit is quashed and they become just one of the many in the crowd trapped in a boring and mundane life.

As a parent it was a bit difficult for me to wrap my head around my boisterous, wilful, seemingly rebellious and unfocused little girl. More so because I am exactly opposite to her, I am a do-er not a dreamer. I love structures, routines, lists, boundaries and everything to do with an ordered world. I lived my life in measured steps, never taking risks and basically like conforming to the norm.

According to psychologist Lucy Jo Palladino 20 percent of children have what she calls the Edison trait: “dazzling intelligence, an active imagination, a free-spirited approach to life, and the ability to drive everyone around them crazy.”

Truly, my little dreamer turned my world upside down as children often do. Rules, routines and plans flew out of the window and I felt I was on a never ending roller coaster ride with a child who awed and frustrated me in equal measures. I struggled and still do, to get her to stick to a schedule, we would be doing coloring or drawing standing lines when she will suddenly get a brain wave of something totally tangential and would run off to do exactly that. It took me time and patience to work out methods which would help her flourish without breaking her spirit.

As a parent of a dreamer child, I often found myself wondering whether she will be able to fit in this competitive world. Then I realized that I was looking at it totally wrong. The first step towards embracing a dreamer is to help them realize that it is perfectly alright to dream, imagine and be different from the world. If I find Sam unresponsive or zoned out, I don’t ask her why she is behaving like that but instead ask her about what she is thinking (which leads to very interesting conversations). Timeouts don’t work for her because she will find something entertaining to do even in the most boring places. So disciplining her also needs to be creative and imaginative.

Our education system does not exactly nourish uniqueness and creativity. It tends to reward rote learning and copying past standards.  Learning needs to be fun for kids so what I try to do is to infuse fun in her studies. Like I create songs around concepts like numbers, I don’t fret when she paints the cows purple, I try to explain science and nature through real life and I don’t focus on the rat race of who learnt the phonics first or who can write how many alphabets. All I want for her is to enjoy her learning and grow through it. Most of all, even though I need to be the wind beneath her wings, I try hard not to steer the course of her life. I will leave you with a quote that I have come to love a lot- A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams. 

How do you encourage your children to dream?

Swapna Thomas is a Work at Home Mom and a professional blogger who left the corporate rat race to raise her daughter. She loves shopping, writing, black coffee and DIY decor, in no particular order. You can catch her parenting blog TheMomViews.com and join her on Twitter @themomviews

  • Lovely post Swapna! I am raising a dreamer myself. Unfortunately, like you mentioned too, there are people out there who find fault with unconventional kids – conventional being God knows what 😉 I have had a range of reactions to my kid who would prefer to talk to animal drawings and sing rather than talk!

    • I totally know what you are talking about Nidhi!! But I think we are blessed to have such imaginative and not to mention entertaining kids. I would rather have a child who dreams of impossible things than a child who thinks every thing is impossible. 🙂

  • I was/am a dreamer myself and have had many exasperated teachers complain to my mom that I was “never mentally in the class”! What to do?! I love a child who dares to dream impossible things!!

    • You know my brother was/is a dreamer and my parents, because they didn’t know any better would ask him to be like me the so-called “model” child. But thankfully he did not change and is still dreaming up fantastic things.
      I think as Sam grows I might get lots of teachers complaining about “not being there”, I just hope I help her balance the dreaming part with the doing part. 🙂

  • Rachna Parmar

    My younger son has an amazing ability of spinning yarn. It is loads of fun just hearing his tales. I can completely understand what you are saying. And, I have the same grouse with our education system. They just do not know how to harness creativity. Good post.

    • Thanks Rachna. You are right our education system lacks the creativity to harness this potential. Such kids are often relegated as “has potential but no focus” or “can achieve lots but is distracted”. I wish instead of giving these reasons they try to tap the true value of kids. Thankfully parents are now more accepting of these traits in a child.

      • Rachna Parmar

        Truly, Thank God that we are better informed and know how to accept our kids who don’t fit the regular mold.

        • Really, we should thank god for that!!

  • Fab

    Ha ha, I know exactly how you feel!! At one point, my son even had an imaginary friend who turned up whenever he wanted to get out of eating or bathing!! It creeped me out at first, but then I realized it’s just a normal thing for preschoolers :-). Very nice post!!

    • Thanks dear Fabida. Oh my daughter talks to her imaginary friend all the time. Have you seen Charlie and Lola series? She is quite like Lola. All springy and boingy. 🙂

  • Sounds very very familiar to me, Swapna. 😀 I am raising a dreamer myself. Sometimes it is scary.

    I loved what you wrote about the Edison trait: “dazzling intelligence, an active imagination, a free-spirited approach to life, and the ability to drive everyone around them crazy.” – absolutely true. Until real life intervenes and slowly squashes their spontaneity through rules and discipline. Sigh.

    Very nice post!

    • From what I read about your son on your blog I knew he had to be a dreamer. I feel scared too sometimes about the world quashing my girl’s spirit but I am determined to keep it intact as much as I can, even if she drives me crazy! Thanks for your lovely comment. 🙂

  • Mark Twain had said, “The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them.” It’s the imagination and creative thinking of these lil’ dreamers that changes the world… so let them dream their dreams while we continue our role of nurturing them and their creativity!! Wonderful post, Swapna! 🙂

    • That is a wonderful quote Shilpa. Words to live by for sure. Yes!I think the next generation is very passionate about their dreams and all we need to do is to believe in them. 🙂

  • Nice post Swapna!

    I guess we are mostly raising dreamers…ask me – I have two of them at home, and one is literally a dreamer.

    Yes, I agree there should much more done in their schools that what they are made to do. I wish there was a better education system in our country as well where there was more fun and creativity, which somehow was more during our time than our kid’s. But yes, that part I tool care of from home, so kind of balanced things out for them.

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Thanks for the lovely comment Harleena. I am glad to have found so many moms who are raising dreamers happily. We definitely need to incorporate fun in learning even if the onus falls on us parents. 🙂

  • Nice Post. More power to dreamer and her courageous Mom.

    • Thanks Amrita. Love the little dreamers. 🙂

  • It took me a while to remember how I stumbled across this post, I was so engrossed in this post. I love it! What you said about people’s general reactions and he education system is absolutely true. I’m one dreamer, and while my parents didn’t discourage whatever I did, it definitely isn’t their favorite thing about me, now that I’m a college goer and I should apparently, ‘think on the ground’, whatever that means.

    Still, that’s what I love about myself and I’m not going to let it go. Thanks for this post and the best wishes and the most creative stories to your daughter! She’s a lucky kid 😀

    • Oh Ashna, you have made my day!! I was hoping that a dreamer would be able to relate to my post. By the way I can understand how your parents must struggle with a girl with her “head in the clouds” but I am SO happy they still encourage you. I don’t know whether my daughter is lucky or not but I sure am lucky that she came into my life and opened my eyes to the DREAM WORLD. 🙂

  • Well written Swapna!
    Calling it as a post won’t suit. Its your personal life experience…expressed in words. Even I am a dreamer and my friends call me “day dreamer”, actually I like being called by that name. Everyone has his/her dream and fantasy that he/she can only feel, I can relate myself to your story. 🙂
    What you dream about can completely change your life. Cheers to Sam (lil’ dreamer)!!! 😀

    • Thanks Priti! I am so glad you could relate to the post sorry *my experience*. 🙂
      You are so lucky that you are an eternal dreamer because unless one dreams, one can’t create any thing beyond the imagination.
      Dream On Girl and Dream Big!! 🙂

  • Hi Swapna, yes, I can identify so much with your thoughts. I am raising an eleven year old extremely spirited daughter who still plays make-believe. And as a mother I don’t find anything weird about it, as I too had been a dreamer. Who says every one has to follow the same path? I wish everyone, even children, are allowed to charter their own life, in reality or in dreams.

    • So true Moumita, kids should definitely get the freedom to charter their own course and walk the unusual paths. We should be there to guide them gently but not to force them to walk on paths that we consider safe and normal.

  • Hey Swapna..

    I totally loved the post. I was a dreamer myself and once my teacher reported almost exactly what Sam’s teacher did. But my dad took a class of me that day!

    Dreamers have their own world and I think we all have just that dreamer’s world is a little bigger, little far away and a way bit more whimsical. But this world keeps them going even if the real world turns upside down.

    The best thing about your post is that it kind of restored my faith in my dreams and I am dreaming again. 🙂

    Thanks for the touching post.

    • Just saw your comment Surabhi. I am so glad that you are still keeping the dreamer inside you alive because this world definitely needs more of them. Sam’s dreamer attitude brings me so much joy and happiness that it is worth a little bit of exasperation that I sometimes feel. 🙂

  • Mehroo Mistry Turel

    Love this post Swapna. Just written something on similar lines on my blog.