Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Girls & Dreams

When I was a girl I wanted to be a gymnast, a writer, and a veterinarian who traveled to the remote corners of the world in search of exotic beasts. There were plenty of other things in between, passing dreams, but these were THE DREAMS. I remember something from the Paul Zindel book The Pigman, in which the characters try to do two real things every day to bring them closer to their dreams, and they keep a record of these things. I don’t remember the book well except for that part but that really made an impression. I think I got the message very young that there are dreams and then there are DREAMS. There are flights of fancy and wishing to be a princess or a super hero, and then there are our real, soul-deep hopes for the unfurling of our lives. Our lives will unfurl come what may, even if we don’t do anything but watch television all day, but they will only unfurl in the direction of our dreams if we steer them that way.

I was a competetive gymnast blessed with a mother with infinite patience for carpools and bleachers. She braided my hair so tight my scalp felt like a prisoner. The living room was kept empty of everything but a gymnastics mat (I think this was more because we were a young military family of limited means than because of my gymnastics, after all, mom drove me to practice almost every day, but that empty living room was where I finally learned not to put my hand down at the last minute doing ariels.) I pursued that dream one backhandspring at a time, and I learned that dreams have to be built, assembled -- they aren’t delivered by dolly all ready to go. And girls -- and boys -- need back-up, parents who’ll sit in bleachers watching the same boring compulsory routines over and over, who’ll drive them to the gym or dojo, or the library, the museum, the bookstore, the observatory, the zoo, to whatever place feeds their dreams, and that’s how you give kids the tools to build themselves. To build their SELF.

My brother and sister and I were very lucky in our parents. And the thing that inspired this thinking was reading about another lucky, powerful girl and another awesome bleacher-sitting mom. If you haven’t visited her site before you’re in for a treat; she’s an amazing storyteller. Anyway, eleven-year-old Maya has qualified for the Junior Olympics in Taekwondo, and you can help send her there. Reading this post about her drive and motivation really brought me back to myself at that age, and how I did my homework in the splits to work on my flexibility, how I could just NOT walk past a patch of grass without a flip or two. I made a small contribution to the Maya fund and I’ll give some bracelets to my niece Izzy, who’s an incredible athlete and artist herself, and who I hope will grow big dreams of her own, and learn to follow them doggedly into a beautiful life.

28 comments:

Caroline said...

Wow - sounds like you were one wonderful elastic band ready to sproing into action!

But what is a bleacher, please?

papyrus said...

Hi and thanks for your kind comments on my Sunday Scribblings piece. You may like to know that I've posted a sequel to it. You can find it here:
http://my-thoughts-for-a-penny.blogspot.com/2006/05/first-love-sequel.html

paris parfait said...

Such a beautiful description of childhood joys, dreams and efforts to make them real, Laini. Also a nice nod to Maya. Thank you!

liz elayne said...

my face just smiles whenever i come here and find another little piece of your past to help me know you a bit more.
love this image of realizing dreams need to be built and assembled. yes. we can spend so much time wishing without actually taking any action, just hoping things will happen. thank you for this gentle reminder.

Alexandra S said...

I love your mom too, Easter poet and coconut creme tart and meatball soup master that she is! I feel blessed too to have a mother who really encouraged me to pursue whatever my whims wanted, whether it was ballet or piano or basketball (don't forget ever that I was 8th grade basketball team captain!)It is SO important that parents expose their children to new worlds of activities, not bombarding their afterschool schedules to death, but just really following their child's lead and laying out feasts of activity possibilities. As I say this, I am aware that all this often costs more $ and time than many families can afford, but for those moms (and dads) that have the choice and let their kids watch endless hours of TV or sit on the computer rather than insist they do something actively with that time, that is just sad to me. Its such an important time developmentally to cultivate habits and an interest in life around you.

Amber said...

Reading about your happy childhood makes me smile. It also gives me more clues as to how I can give that kind of childhood to my own kids. ;) Thanks.

I will Maya out. I love it when people reach their dreams! It just makes me happy. It is why I always cry when I watch the Olympics. I am such a sucker for it! lol.

:)

madness rivera said...

Hi Laini - thanks so much for the Maya love, support and shout out. She has been spectacular. She's been working so hard every day for the JO's which is in about a month now. There is nothing like watching your baby do her very best -- give her absolute all -- whether she becomes a champion or not. She inspires me to kick down any obstacle to clear a path for her.

And then I read about how supportive your mom was and how -- from what I can tell -- great you turned out, and it inspires me more to continue to place my girls on a pedestal and cheer them on.

OH - and the 2 real things a day to reach dreams? Genius.

Cate said...

I loved reading this post, Laini. And I love your Maya "nod"--what an amazing person she is (and her mama, too!).

The power of this post just knocked me down at a number of different levels. This is the kind of writing that lingers and makes a difference!

deirdre said...

So that's why you can do those great handstands! How wonderful to have parents who believe in you and help you be more you. What a gift.

Jamie said...

In an Early Childhood Education class I learned that having just one person in their lives who really believes in a child makes all the difference in the world.

I'm so glad that you had that. I wish that for all little girls and boys with dreams.

Becca said...

I am a sucker for young people who are pursing a dream. Thanks for sharing Maya's story (along with your own!) and giving us an opportunity to help her.

HoBess said...

It is so much about the support ... I'm off to learn more about Maya!

Left-handed Trees... said...

Dreaming--this is really what life's all about. And I think the role of parents is to foster their kids' dreams however they can. I'm headed for your links now, to see another mother doing just that.

Kristy said...

I remember the empty living room...I'm trying to decide if I remember your first aerial -- is is possible? In any event, did the "empty living room" follow you to other homes in your (later) youth?

M said...

Just wanted to say I loved the ending of Life of Pi too- was completely caught off guard and surprised- so rarely happens in books these days!

Patry Francis said...

Two things a day...Zindel marked you with his idea, and now you have marked me. Wonderful writing, Laini.

chest of drawers said...

Your children will be very lucky!

Caroline said...

Thanks for the explanation... I don't know if there is a word in English English for bleachers... maybe stadium seats... or grandstands.

Most people used to stand at sports grounds... now there are more seats but I've not heard any names for them except seats! I'm not a sports fan, nor is Jim so I'll have to ask a nephew to get the full story on this...

I think its funny that people sit in grandstands....

And on olives - do you like olive oil? I still like it though not if its had olives in it!

krista said...

I did competitive gymnastics too. When you mentioned finally being able to not out your hand down at the last second of the ariel it reminded me of all of those challenges- the backwalkover on the beam, the free standing back handspring.

I loved gymnastics. I looked into lessons for adults in my area, but there were only lessons available for children. I was kind of disappointed. I haven't tried a backhandspring since after my first pregnancy. I'd love to try that again.

Brandi said...

That photo is to die for! Everytime I read your posts, I picture that you had such an amazing childhood. Sounds fantastic and fun! Your mom sounds like the perfect mom, we should all be so lucky! Brandi

melba said...

My sister read The Pigman to me. What a flashback! Wow. She would read to me all the time. Oh, I miss that. reading to someone is so powerful. A great way to hear a story.

Kim G. said...

Thanks for inspiring us to reach for "our real, soul-deep hopes for the unfurling of our lives". It makes me think I need to spend more time looking beyond my surface, day-to-day lists and focus more on the long term "what am I going to do with the rest of my life?" kind of lists!

Tongue in Cheek Antiques said...

Is this a personal photo? Such a wonderful image to go with your words! It seems like a photo of the 50s this cannot be you, it it of your Mothers?

Pearl said...

What a lot of guidance and structure in your childhood. Your parents certainly were conscious of equipping you for life with a sense of capability. I can't imagine what that would have been like but sure sounds positive then and now. Fascinating glimpse.

Marilyn said...

This post brought to mind my youngest niece who's a gymnast...she, too, does gymnastics moves moving through her daily life...without even realizing it sometimes, I think. You were lucky to have the parents you did. I don't mean this in a sad-sack sort of way...but I often wonder which adult roads I might have taken if I'd had even one adult in my childhood tell me that even I was entitled to dream...

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