When a Dreamer Raises Realist Children: Perfect Storm Or a Perfect Combination?
By J’Nel Wright
“When I have kids, they are going to choose what they want to be and how they want to act, and they can do whatever they want with their lives!” Then I remember slamming the door of my childhood bedroom and flinging my teenaged fit of frustration on the bed for a good cry. It isn’t fair, I remember thinking. Why can’t I just be free to be me?
So goes the life of a pie-in-the-sky, determinative optimist. Things would be perfect if people just agreed with us, right?
I’m a mom now, and I’ve held true to my promise of encouraging free expression for my children. So imagine my surprise when I discovered my children weren’t free spirits, aching to unleash their unbridled creativity onto the world, but level-headed, intelligent, objective thinkers. Don’t look now, but I’m raising realists. And all of my plans to present a flexible, easy-going, unpredictable way of life has had the opposite effect on them: my kids felt unsettled and anxious.
To create a better balance in the home, I needed a different approach to child-rearing. But did that mean scrapping visions of one day winning a new car in the showcase showdown or serving fresh-baked cookies for dinner (with cooked carrots on the side, of course)?
Let’s face it: the world needs a blend of realists and optimists to bring logic and a little color to everyday life. But when those you love view the world differently, how do you create a balance between daydream believer and resident party pooper? It’s easier than you think.
For instance, acknowledging that realists identify things in a more literal, practical way is an important step in finding a balance. Because that approach to life helps the dreamer break down his or her vision into tangible steps as well.
Here are some things I’ve come to appreciate about realists and ways they are influenced by dreamers.
Realists Are surprisingly easy going—if they know what to expect
Sometimes realists get a bad rap for being uptight, rigid, and uncompromising when adhering to a routine. But experts say realists are more than capable of going with the flow.
“Because you [realists] have a very practical and realistic perspective of life, you are prepared for any situation,” says Radiyyah Hussein. “Rather than stressing or feeling anxious about what the future might offer, you live in the present and try to enjoy every moment that you can.”
And unlike the dreamers whose imagination can conjure up the most dramatic outcomes for any typical situation, a realist accepts things as they are and doesn’t use his or her imagination to embellish a situation with possibilities that don’t exist.
Spontaneity has its place when everything else is in its place
Despite a dreamer’s desire for last-minute surprises, experts say a child needs structure to feel safe.
“Consistency, predictability, and follow-through are important for creating structure in the home,” say experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC adds that establishing a routine where children know what to expect each day not only improves their behavior and your relationship, but it also creates a safe environment that is perfect for developing a child’s creativity, decision-making skills, and an independent spirit that is sure to make even the most committed dreamer proud.
A little positivity goes a long way—even for a realist
Even the most sensible realist needs a little “cheer-for-cheering’s-sake” encouragement now and then. Lucky, that’s a dreamer’s jam.
“A dreamer will be your biggest fan and loudest cheerleader because they know the simple joy of shaping their dreams and the thrill of seeing them come to fruition,” says Francesca Marinaro.
When my son had a particularly rough week at school, he walked out of the classroom wondering if he had anything in life to be happy about. After loading up the car with the familiar faces of his closest friends (who needed a ride home anyway), we made a quick side trip to “happy hour,” complete with half-priced milkshakes and all the tater tots a carload of third graders can eat. Being surrounded by laughter and chatter was just what he needed to shake off the pressures of the day and get refocused. After a unanimous vote, “happy hour” turned into a Friday afternoon tradition.
Realists and Dreamers need to influence each other
Finding a healthy balance between being satisfied with where you are and wanting to realize something more requires the strengths of both camps. Go ahead: take any dream a dreamer can dream up. It’s the discipline and the attention to the details in the mind of a realist that make big things happen.
“Are realists the doubters? Not necessarily. They honestly are the reason ideas become tangible,” says blogger Wendy Van Douwe. “They’re capable of focusing on the project at hand while cautiously mapping out the plan to execute.”
Van Douwe likens the realist to the stage crew of a live production. “They work behind the scenes to make sure everyone is where they are supposed to be. They have thought of every situation and will make sure everyone is fully prepared. Without them, the show could potentially turn into a disaster.”
Although I’d be lying if I said I miss the chance to collaborate with a fellow dreamer, I do appreciate the contrast the realist mind brings to my plans. And I’d like to think my kids appreciate the color I add to what I sometimes consider a mundane routine. The only thing I ask of my kids is that they challenge themselves to step away from the certainty of their world and venture audaciously toward big dreams.
“Everyone always says, ‘Follow your dreams!’ But not everyone does it,” writes Catherine Alford. “Your dreams are what can get you through even the worst days. If you are struggling, your dreams are your reason to keep going.”
No, we don’t see eye-to-eye on most things. To this day, my kids will never appreciate my dedication to a dining room 16-inch disco ball with spotlights. But sometimes, what you see isn’t what matters most. It’s what stirs in your heart.
J’Nel Wright is a freelance writer who specializes in topics concerning lifestyles, health and wellness, and business. Her work has appeared in a variety of regional and national publications. Her educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in English and Social Work. She has traveled throughout Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, French Polynesia, Mexico and much of the United States.