Dream Big

A dream is a wish your heart makes - when you're fast asleep.

Sunday dinner (a weekly ritual where we all reunite for an afternoon) was about over and the dishes were being cleared.  My middle daughter was wiping down the table and we began to talk about the challenges of the coming week. She and her husband are raising three young boys and are at that stage of child rearing where they rarely have time to do anything for themselves. It’s all about the kids; what they need, what they want, what they simply have to have. Money is tight because it always is when you have kids and clearly, for now, they have forgotten what it’s like to dream.

I heard her sigh. “I know you like what you do for a living, Pop,” she started as she held a plate in each hand, “but is it what you always wanted to do?”

I smiled at her and pretended I needed to think about my answer as I re-wrapped the unused bread and sealed it closed. Of course I didn’t really have to think about it but I felt the illusion was important. “Well ... I was a Disney kid,” I said.

She smiled and brightened, “Really? Me too--do you remember?”

“Sure I do,” I said. “For me, the ultimate job would have been to be a Disney cartoonist.”

And then she told me her goal and I had to stifle my grin at how serious she was. “I was hoping to become a mermaid,” she said flatly and matter-of-factly with no sign of sarcasm in her voice.

The differences between us are fully described therein.

Pragmatic old Ron saw the colorful Disney fantasies come to life before his eyes and hoped he could one day draw among the staff that produced such magnificent works. My daughter didn’t draw the line at reality. She wanted to hop right into the sidewalk chalk drawing on the pavement and become a mermaid and return to the sea. God bless her though; when you dream you may as well dream big, right?

Her ability to suspend reality has always been part of what made her so unique and so delightful. Her boys have a great sense of humor just like her and I find it is based in the sarcasm and wit I laid on her from the time she could talk. It takes a certain kind of reckless abandon to be that care-free and to actually belly up to the bar and say, “Yeah life is a fact but that interpretation is too boring. I believe in Santa Claus, I think I will see my long-deceased dogs in heaven and I think praying for snow days off of school still works.”

Here’s the question. Who am I to disturb or interrupt her dream, no matter how illogical or unlikely? It’s her dream, her world, her responsibility to cope with day after day. If it helps her to hope for things that may never come true is that any better or worse than the person who dreads each day knowing that fantastic things like that rarely if never come true? Now, as I look back, I realize that the ability to dream is tethered to the stone of security.

I think everyone maintains illusions of grandeur within their minds. Deep inside we all think that somewhere, someone is going to notice how hard we work, how hard we try, how incredible the things we produce and step forward and reward us for it. “Mrs. Jones we here at Homespun Cable Network have had our cameras watching you since 1995 and now that you’ve raised these three kids so successfully without any consideration for yourself we’d like to give you this award, this new car and this vacation in Hawaii.” I mean we know it’s not going to happen but deep in our fantasies we all believe there is some sort of payoff when we work so very hard at something. So my daughter has chosen to loosen the grip a little on the likely and reality handle and I find that I am not only beginning to think she’s got the right idea, it is indeed a philosophy I have been practicing for a long time. And suddenly it hit me. This freedom to dream was a belief I implanted in her mind as part of the method I used to raise all of my children.

See, I always felt I needed to put in boatloads of quality time with my children, individually.  Time committed only to them despite the fact that there were five of them. My intention was to create an early view of the world that was so secure and reliable that I could build a confident and strong person that felt there were things in life he/she could count on; mom and dad being the first set. So the coaching, the family yard work, the vacations, the trips to the zoo, the sports lessons, the laughs, the sense of humor, the funerals, the weddings, the sad life lessons, the bullies, the humorous give and take with their mother, the crushes, the Valentines, ALL OF IT. I believed the parent was supposed to be the kid’s absolute best friend. In those early years every time a kid reaches up, turns around, looks into a crowd--mom and/or dad should be right there, completely visible--TOTAL security being supplied in stone--never any doubt. My wife and I believe that raises confident, strong young people. Then around 7 or 8 years old, I found that kids start to have their own opinions and it's time to back off and let them stumble, skin their knees and choose their own paths. They will be back eventually and looking to their folks for more guidance but at the moment they are initially stable and on their feet they need to test their wings. Years later when they have kids of their own and you see the lessons you taught being applied on their kids, you realize how symmetrical it really is.

When my youngest daughter was around 8 years old, we decided it was time to paint her bedroom and we wanted to give her the chance to pick a color. “What color do you want your room to be, honey?” I asked. “Ummmmm,” she pondered, “Easter morning.” I understood completely and painted her room a dusty orange pastel which she just loved well in to her teenage years. Flash forward 20 years. Last month she and her husband were at our table debating what color they were about to paint their living room. They, too, are a young couple with a young family and pride themselves on being very independent for their age.  I want to paint it … “successful,” she said.

Her husband rolled his eyes and said, “I see so I just go the hardware store and ask the guy to give me two gallons of “successful,” right?”  She smiled and looked over at me, her father, supplier of her dreams and said, “No--just take dad with you. He understands.”

Ron Ciancutti has worked in the parks and recreation industry since he was 16 years old, covering everything from maintenance, operations, engineering, surveying, park management, design, planning, recreation, and finance. He holds a BS in Business from Bowling Green State University and an MBA from Baldwin Wallace University and has held his current position as Director of Procurement since 1990.