J2 Content – Perspectives

A varied collection of thoughts on education and parenting

Supporting the Dream

If you still use America Online (it’s okay if you do), you’ve likely seen an article entitled  “How an 11-Year-Old Entrepreneur Crashed the Oscars“. It tells the story of 11-year-old Megan Kent and how she developed an idea she had for a clothing line.

I’m very happy for Ms. Kent, and I hope that Love Gone Apparrel proves to be a great venture for her with many years of growth and profitabilty. However, my article is not about her, the Oscars, or even AOL.  It is instead a collection of thoughts provoked by this quotation of Megan’s mother that appeared in the AOL article:

“Megan comes up with a business idea at least once a month,” says Tricia, citing eco-friendly baby products as one example. “This idea, Love Gone Apparel, came about when we were sitting around the dining room table, and she said, ‘You know what a good name for a clothing business would be? Love Gone Apparel.’ And I thought about it, and kept thinking about it, and decided, I don’t want to be 50 years old someday and wondering what would have happened if I had helped her pursue her dream of starting a business.”

We’ve all heard children brainstorm: their ideas somehow both brilliant and preposterous at the same time. They are as varied as they are ambitious: floating cars, lines of clothing, laser pencils, sister-detecting alarms, and more. A rainy day might inspire a leak proof backpack (patent pending), while a spilled glass of fruit punch can lead to berry flavored pasta or color changing mac & cheese. Earmuffs, popsicles, and the trampoline were all invented by school-age children.

Then there’s the “wanna be when I grow up” list: an astronaut, a teacher, a doctor, a race car driver, the President, professional ball player, etc., . Yes, people in these roles were all children once, but there are many children who will never see these hopes realized.

Tricia Kent took a chance on her daughter, saying “[she didn't] want to be 50 years old someday wondering what would have happened if [she] had helped her pursue her dream… “.  I can absolutely understand that. And I want to stress that I’m not saying that children should not dream big. I think it’s fantastic that young people are so filled with hope and ambition, and I believe that their drive and creativity and positive energy should be fostered.

But…

as parents, most of us lack the resources to back every venture, right? There’s only so much time, so much money, so many windows of opportunity for our children, and we must pick and choose where to give that supporting push and when to steer a child in a different direction, right?

I find one of the (many) challenges of being a parent is finding the line which defines the kind of support you give your child’s dreams. (not support of your child, mind you.. support of their dreams).

Ginger wants to be an astronaut?  Well, you can easily support her efforts to be physically fit and academically strong. You can take her to the library, planetariums, help her follow NASA launches and space news online… but would you send her to Space Camp? Twice?

Bruce wants to compete in the Olympics… in badminton. How many months of private lessons would you be willing to pay for and how good does he have to be before you suggest a different path? Do you build a regulation-size badminton court in your back yard?

Alexis has a “great” idea for a pet-related product, inspired by something she did with her scout troop. How much time and money do you invest in her peanut-butter-and-bird-seed-covered-pretzel sticks?

And when you find yourself at that line of how far you’re willing to go, how do you tell your child it’s time to shift focus without crushing his or her spirit?

I can remember my first year at the University of Pennsylvania, preparing to declare my major. I had known for years I wanted to work in education, and my parents knew it too. But they strongly suggested that I major in mathematics instead of education.  Their reasons (although never explicitly outlined in this way), I’m sure were

  1. a degree in mathematics would be applicable for a greater number of career paths than a degree in education
  2. a degree in mathematics would be more attractive to potential employers
  3. an Ivy League school was not the place to get an undergraduate degree in education (a graduate degree, sure… but it was not a wise choice for undergrad work).

It turns out they were right. Schools are now seeking “highly qualified” teachers with degrees in their specialized area. It was always my plan to get a masters degree immediately after my undergrad work, and my degree in mathematics proved to be an excellent foundation upon which to add a Master’s Degree in Mathematics Education. As a content developer, I find my B.A. in Mathematics is valued more by employers than my Master’s in Math Education; so much so that I am currently taking classes for a second Master’s degree from Texas A&M … this time in pure mathematics.

My parents didn’t steer me away from my dream, but they did steer me along a different path. And although I didn’t fully get why at the time, I see the wisdom of their efforts now.

And then, there’s my big “road not taken.” I always… always… always… wanted to work producing a show like Seasame Street (and still do). During my time at Penn, I applied for summer employment with the Children’s Television Workshop in New York City and was offered a non-paying internship with their magazine group. Unfortunately, three months of commuting to NYC from Connecticut for a job that paid $0 just wasn’t feasible for a college student… so I let that opportunity pass. 

My dream was a quiet one, so my parents probably never knew how much I would have liked to take that internship. As such, I don’t imagine they really had much of a decision to make, but what if my parents had had a Tricia Kent moment and suggested I take the chance? *sigh* Ah, well, we will never know, but this post isn’t about me.

Don’t your kids say they want to invent video games? Drive race cars? Own a pet store? Be a teacher? Play for the Giants? And if you have older kids, have they talked about wanting to go to Art school or spend a summer abroad? Be a writer? Or an actor?

They may very well go on to realize one or all of these aspirations. And, if it’s their passion, I hope they do. But, the question is “how do you decide how far to go in supporting those dreams?”

My own kids run so hot-and-cold on activities and interests, I find myself overly cautious. I’d like to be able to bankroll every “wanna” of the week, but my checkbook says I must pick and choose. Even then, I look at the piano that hardly gets played anymore, the lacrosse gear sitting in the corner of the garage, the soccer cleats that were worn twice, and all those receipts from camps and clinics for interestes we never revisited, and I wonder what to do.

In lieu of money, I give time, encouragement, effort, chauffeur service, and often become as invested in these interests as the kids do (careful not to make it MY thing, of course)… but again, I simply can’t do that for every dream.

I look at that passage from the AOL article, and I wonder if I’m doing enough. I don’t want to be 50-something and look back at where my kids are and wonder “what if?” either. I convince myself that my kids are learning life lessons by having to prioritize their interests and do more with less. “Megan Kent is just an exception,” I’ll say … and then spend an hour on the PC trying to find out just how to make that idea for a leak proof backpack idea a reality.

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One Response to “Supporting the Dream”


  1. Tricia
    on Mar 6th, 2011
    @ 8:13 am

    Hi Scott;

    I enjoyed reading your post! Thank you for offering your insight on our story!

    Tricia (Megan’s mom)

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