Dream crushing has a bad name. We modern parents know we are supposed to foster, promote, enable and support ‘All The Dreams’.
But crushing dreams has its place.
I’m reluctant to recount specific stories – so let me just say we have had ‘the dance conversation’ more than once. We have four daughters, many daughters like to dance, ‘making it’ in dance is rare enough, but if you are “tallest in your class” (or thereabouts) it is impossible.
Now I can hear some of you proclaiming that I am discouraging my children from pursuing difficult or risky paths, but I think the opposite is true.
The distinction I hope they learn is between the impossible and the merely very difficult. If I hope they never take a risk, never fail, or never undertake something difficult, then I have no need of dream crushing; they will never stand on the lookout of very difficult to be close enough to risk falling down the cliff of impossible. But if I hope they go out onto lookouts then it matters that they know about cliffs.
I do not want them, as ethicist Oliver O’Donovan puts it, to become “enchanted by unrealised possibilities [they] cannot bring about”, to “fall in love with what is not the case: a world free of misunderstanding and suspicion, a world free of strife and conflict, a world where nobody goes to bed hungry, marvellous worlds which [they] are incapable of bringing to pass.”
I would rather they pursued some concrete achievable good, even one with a high chance of failure.
Put differently, I do not want my children to pursue world peace, but to pursue some peace in the world – that would be good, and difficult enough.