Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Childhood Dreams

The Crazy Hip Blog Mama's started a conversation about what you dreamed about as a child. I read the list of topics for the month and couldn't wait to reflect about my ambitions at age 5. I wanted to be Wonder Woman when I grew up! I still do.

No laughing! I road the bus to an elite private school with children who did not look like, live near or seem to have anything in common with me. My saving grace was Alisha, my best friend who dreamed the same types of dreams that I did and served as my connection to my "real world" when life seemed so unfair. Between Alisha and Karen - I thought the world had great potential and I could do just about anything. Wonder Woman, an Artist and a Doctor ranked very high in my alternating list of goals.

Karen was a true friend and seemed color blind in our class and race aware school. Even though it appeared that anyone who could afford this education was part of a similar background - oh how wrong can an indicator be. I held on to that experience for 4 years, by the skin of my professional single moma's teeth. Karen was a testament to 70's progressive parents before diversity was en vogue.

The weird thing is that at 5 or 6, I was acutely aware that I was "average" in my early education. The youngest of my classmates, I used aluminum foil from my lunch to create bracelets, headbands and decorations for my pretend life. I was constantly aware of my "real" life and my "pretend " world co-existing. At that time I never finished first at reading the difficult books, finishing the SRA color or understanding the maps placed before us. I determined somewhere between average and 4th grade that I would prefer to be number 1.

I thought that I was underestimated early on and I set out to prove my potential. I was among the first children to earn pen privileges (Sr. St. Martin taught penmanship as a virtue), I learned the power of words (Mrs. Gray let me write poetry endlessly) and I set out to be the best in whatever life had to offer. As I racked up educational honors, cotillion crowns and a host of achievements...I decided that much of that success was based on meeting and exceeding the expectations of others. I didn't dream of being a stay-at-home mom, a business owner or writer - especially when I was working in the Chemistry labs at 14. I didn't learn to dream big early.

Later in life I determined that my life goal was no longer to prove everyone wrong, but to prove God right. A high school friend once said to me " don't you think I deserved to be on Nat'l Honor Society more than you..." and I thought long and hard about the coveted honor. At 16 I was still prone to judge myself by outward standards and the harsh reality that everyone near you doesn't cheer you. When I gave birth to my children I decided that I would carve out their self-esteem as deliberately as my mother had - exposing them to every opportunity that I could imagine. Teaching the ability to dream would not come much later, it would be toddler lessons 101.

I also decided that motherhood meant being there to help them navigate the unexpected waters of people who question their potential - and the freedom to both succeed and fail, with grace and love. Friendship drama followed me until I decided I was somehow worthy of people who valued friendship as much as I did.

The other lesson that my childhood dreams gave birth to is unlimited imagination. On the yellow bus I escaped what I saw around me and created worlds of my own. I foster that same ability in my children, with attention to chemistry and calculus potential as much as watercolor and walnuts. (maybe I'll have a chef, artist and scientist too!) Their futures are made brighter by my experiences and I strive to help them discover success on their own terms, under God's plan for their lives.

I did become Wonder Woman. I use that rope to harness my fears. My bracelets should be chains to God, so when I spin around I don't lose sight of why I'm really here. For more about my weapons, accessories, training and fashion (I do not do justice for the one piece strapless number) ...stay tuned. There's a lot you can learn from a Super Hero. Oh, and a good childhood can teach you lots too.


bliss said...

honey you have had a LIFE. you've certainly earned your super SHEro status so claim it always! :-)

Heather said...

By comparison, I'm sure I lived a charmed life. However, my Dad was a military man and we spent 4 years in NY when I was 4-8. Best exposure to many cultures...from African American to to Phillipines, Puerto Rican, to the American Hawaiian culture...and I'm sure others that I don't know.

Although I am a white woman, I too felt pressure to prove my worth as a child. And I'm not sure why.

Your post makes me think. Thank you.

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