By Liberty Bradford
“Mom, what did you want to be when you grew up?”
My 8-year old daughter lobbed that seemingly softball question from the back seat of my mini-van as I ferried her and her little bro school one morning. She’s been having the what-should-I-Be-when-I grow-up debate – particularly whether she should be a fashion designer or a scientist, and should she choose the latter, which type of scientist. I keep pimping green energy; ignoring me, she’s already considered and dismissed chemical engineering, elephantology, astrophysics, and is now inclined toward the study of gorillas. I marvel at her, as being a scientist was never on my list.
“I wanted to be an Artist. First a painter. Then an actor, and later a playwright/director. And a screenwriter. Or just a writer in general.”
There was a slight pause.
“So… your dreams never came true?”
Thud. Quick breath! Save face, Mom. Let her know quick - Dreams never die!
“Well, some did. I also always wanted to be a mom and that dream came true.”
The draft from the dismissive roll of her ice-blue eyes sliced across my neck.
“Yeah, but I mean your real dreams. None of that happened.”
She’s right of course. I am not an Academy Award winning actress. I’ve never had a screenplay produced, or made it to the tent at the Independent Spirit Awards. And I don’t even have a blog, let alone the Pulitzer Prize in literature. I didn’t leave a fat career of any kind when I stayed home to raise my kids to toddlerhood. And the truth be told, as thrilled as I was to have the babies I indeed always dreamed of, I struggled when maternal sleep-deprivation took it’s toll and all I could dream about was the impossible quest for more ZZZ’s. My artistic aspirations slithered away before my foggy eyes.
I resented my husband when he dismissed my effort to write scripts during the kids’ naptime: “You had your chance. It’s their time now.” A bit harsh, yes. But I was the guilty one, letting his off-hand comment be the excuse for shelving those dreams and in doing so, so much of who I was. Fortunately, a most important wee part of me always refused to believe that being an artist (even at heart if not for profit) is mutually exclusive from being a devoted parent. Some dreams are who we are.
Do I tell my daughter that today my biggest dream is that my kids don’t have as twisted a childhood as I did? That at her age, I often dreamed of simply being normal, not a hippie kid with a crazy name? That when I became a parent my dreams became more basic – that my children outlive me and be healthy, content human beings. That if they want to be scientists and fashion designers and rugby players and mothers or fathers, they’ll have the will to pursue all of the above and more.
Today I’m a fulltime executive assistant, a part-time yoga instructor, and a public school advocate. I also have a surprising knack for delivering eulogies and singing Karoke. None of those were ever on my list of dreams. But, neither were the sizable tragedies I had to survive in my early life, nor the spiritual practices I discovered in response to those rocky milestones. It is often from the unknown and unexpected that the sweetest bounty is presented to us dreamers.
I turned around just before the light changed, and with a squeeze of her knee, looked my daughter square in those baby-iced-blues. “Honey, I’ve always been a late bloomer. It ain’t over yet.”
Liberty Bradford is many things, including a grateful member of The Women's Conference team.