One of the greatest perks of parenting is to engage children in meaningful conversations. They set us thinking about important questions.
A Conversation About Pursuing Dreams
Several months ago, I had a conversation with my thirteen year old son, Conan, about “pursuing dreams”.
I said to him, “Before you turn fifteen, try to have a dream that makes you passionate enough to learn and do everything you can to realise that dream.”
To illustrate my point, I gave an example, “You love watching Youtube. Rather than spending many hours consuming the content as a viewer, wouldn’t it be more satisfying if you become a content creator? You are capable of that.”
And I went on, “Be a Youtuber! Isn’t that an idea you had before? I’d rather you try working on your dreams even if it means compromising a little on your school grades.”
Conan’s eyes lit up and remarked, ‘Dad, do you know that successful Youtubers make millions of dollars and influence millions of people?”
I nodded smilingly. “Yes, you told me that before.”
Then he challenged me, ‘But do you also know that only a few become that successful? Most people eventually give up their dreams, make do with a nine-to-five job, settle down with a family and lead a normal life like anyone else. So, what’s the point of pursuing a dream?”
Ouch! That sounded like an insinuation at his old man. But I was impressed with what he said. Letting out a chuckle, I replied, “You have given an apt description of many people’s lives. And you spoke as if you have seen it all.”
Then, I continued, “Life does seem pointless if you look only at the sketches. Life becomes colourful only if you fill in the colours.”
Conan pondered over my words quietly for a few moments while looking intently at me.
I posed him a question, “If life is just the same thing for everyone, then you wouldn’t mind swopping your life with anyone else. So is it okay that if I were to get you to study in another school that you don’t like, have a different set of friends or grow up in another family?”
Conan laughed at the absurdities of my hypothetical question.
I explained, “The truth is life may look the same for everyone, but it carries different meaning for different people.”
He replied, “I think I am okay with my life as it is now. It’s just that I lose interest in things so quickly that I don’t know what my dream is.”
“That’s a problem you have to solve fast. Do you remember you were very keen on playing soccer at primary four, and we supported you fully? But you eventually lost interest when things did not go well despite your best efforts.”
Conan gave an awry smile.
I said, “It’s not a bad experience actually. At least you found out that group sports is not the thing for you. You get to know yourself better. And one day you will know what your dream really is and no hurdle can stop you from pursuing it. ”
What Is The Point Of Living?
Interestingly, Conan and I had a sequel to this conversation today when I told him about a friend’s seventeen year old daughter’s troubling question to her mother.
Her daughter questioned, “What is the point of life if all we do is to wake up, go to school, eat and sleep. And everyday we repeat the same routine!”
Conan said excitedly, “Dad, tell her this interesting story that I read. A man fell off a cliff and caught onto a tree branch. At the top, there were hungry tigers. And at the bottom were poisonous snakes. In that precarious situation, it’s a matter of time that he could not escape death. Suddenly, the man noticed a droplet of honey dripping off from the branch. And guess what he did? He leaned forward with all his might to lick the honey and cherish every bit of it. The meaning of life is in that droplet of honey.”
That’s a tad too philosophical. I pressed Conan, “What do you think she should do?”
Conan replied, “Let her think through it herself.”
Let’s Hear What Children Have To Say
Growing up, it is only natural that children start to question the meaning of life. But some friends are having serious trouble dealing with the tough questions their children ask. They question the purpose of school life, work and family obligations.
The problem does not lie in our children. It is completely understandable that children who are going through rough patches in life to ask tough questions. The problem, perhaps, is in we adults.
Perhaps, we have become too caught up with dealing the imminent problems (the tigers and snakes) in our lives that we forget to look out for the things that make us feel alive. Or perhaps we have become so jaded that we forget to saviour the occasional honey in life.
Children remind us of important things in life. Let’s engage in meaningful conversation with our children even more. And hear what they have to teach us.
William W K Tan (aka Uncle William)
4 August 2019, Sunday