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.”
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.