I'll Never Tell My Son He Can Be Anything He Dreams

by Beth Pugh
Originally Published: 
parenting encouragement lies
Alena Ozerova / Shutterstock

In my short time as a mommy, I’ve caught myself telling lies to my son.

Like when I tell him we’ll get ice cream tomorrow—tomorrow comes, but he doesn’t ask for it again and I don’t offer to stop. I know it’ll ruin his dinner, and my silence keeps that from happening. By the time he remembers, we’re already past the restaurant and the opportunity is gone. So instead of ice cream, he gets real food when we get home. Prime example of a lie told for his own good.

Then, there are the times I tell him if he doesn’t go to sleep within the next 10 minutes I’m going to sleep without him. Truth is, until baby goes to sleep, ain’t nobody going to sleep. But the thought of mommy not holding him as he drifts off to dreamland is unbearable. It’s a threat scary enough to change his mind about the sleep he’s so adamantly fighting against. It causes him to wave the white flag of defeat. So I do it. I threaten. I lie. Then, I let him sleep, and I do my nightly chores. This one makes my life easier, but I’m not sorry. Desperate times in parenting call for desperate measures.

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It’s true I told him Santa was bringing him presents this year. I’ll probably tell him that one for the next few years. I’ll ask him if he’s ready for the Easter Bunny to visit come spring, too. And when he loses his first tooth, the tooth fairy will leave him a surprise under his pillow. These are lies and untruths I can live with. But there’s one lie I won’t tell my son:

You can be anything you want to be.

I can’t say these words to my son. I know this phrase is said with the best of intentions. I get it. The words are meant to inspire and uplift. The words are meant to fuel a child’s freedom to dream. But this lie holds the potential to hinder dreams.

It isn’t that I don’t believe in my son. I do. I’m his mom, and I’ll always be his biggest fan. But he can’t be anything he wants to be because he can’t do anything he wants to do. Everyone has limits. And he is no exception.

The truth is not everyone has the heart to do everything, or the mind to do everything, or the body to do everything. Not everyone has the hands to perform surgery, because some people are just shaky. Not everyone can be a teacher, because some people lack the patience needed to teach. Not everyone can be a fighter pilot, because some people are too tall to fit into the jet. It’s just the way it is.

He can try anything, though.

I want my son to test his abilities and try new things. If he wants to try out for the school spelling bee, and he has trouble spelling “cat,” I’ll still let him. But, I’ll definitely help him prepare and practice words ahead of time. If he wants to join band or choir, more power to him, even if he’s tone deaf. And if he wants to try every sport from football to tennis to golf, I’ll be there to sign him up and take him to practice, even if he has the worst throwing arm in pee wee.

I’m going to do everything in my power to help him get better at whatever he wants to do, as long as he wants to keep trying. He can go out for the baseball team every year for pitcher, if that’s what he wants. But when it’s all said and done, his arm may still be too weak to ever pitch for the middle school team, or high school team, or college team.

And that’s OK. I want him to know that’s OK.

I want him to be aware that some dreams might be beyond his limits and that doesn’t make him a failure. It means he’s human. It means there are things he’ll be great at and things he won’t be so great at, just like everyone else. It’s my job to help him realize this. If I don’t, someone else will. And they won’t have the lioness love I have for him. They won’t be there to reassure him of his capabilities. They won’t be there to help him find a new dream the way I will.

Right now, my son is only a toddler. I have no idea of how strong he’s going to be, or how tall, or how driven. I don’t know if he’ll love the spotlight or shy away from it. I don’t have any idea if he’ll prefer the field to the classroom, or vice versa. And I certainly don’t know what his strengths will be or what dreams he’ll dream. I do know, though, I won’t lie to him. If a dream is beyond his limits because it clashes with his physicality or his personality, I’m going to tell him so.

Because I’m his mom, and I can’t tell that lie.

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