Support Your Child’s Passion (and The Dreamer)

Chapter Book The Dreamer Reminds Us to Support Our Child’s Passion

To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while.  ~Josh Billings

It’s not only children who grow.  Parents do too.  As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours.  I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun.  All I can do is reach for it, myself.  ~Joyce Maynard


So I was reading Copyblogger’s email newsletter today in which Sonia Simone posted on The Three Surprising Simple Keys to Success:   You need talent, luck, and persistence. Pick any two. The post went on to say:  What most people call talent is usually nothing more than passion.

And this book came to mind, The Dreamer,  by Pam Munoz Ryan.  This, her latest work, is about Paul Neruda, the 1971 Nobel Laureate for Literature.  Neruda, who was born and raised in Chile, is considered one of the most important literary poets of the twentieth century, but is also known as the poet of the people because of his ability to connect his poetry in ways that every day people could relate to.  He is also considered the most widely read poet in the world.  For example, I just read a quote from Paul Neruda in a Saveur Magazine about an Ode to Olive Oil!

Paul Neruda’s childhood is the focal point of Ryan’s fictionalized novel.  With regard to passion, Paul’s interest and gift for words was not embraced by his domineering and controlling father.  His brother’s gift for classical voice was also rejected by their father in an effort to steer his sons into careers in engineering or medicine.  Neruda’s mother died when he was very young, and the novel seems to indicate that they were similar in spirit.

In the case of Paul Neruda, his father did everything that one would caution against as a parent, and yet, something within Paul was so strong that he managed to flourish despite of it all.  So, is it possible to quash your child’s passion?  And if so, imagine if you actually nurture it.  Here are three true stories:

  • My Dad Friend, who is a famous musician and wrote the song Devil in a Blue Dress told me this story.  One day, when he was about 3, he walked by a music store and saw the accordion and wanted to learn to play it.  He marched a parent inside the store to inquire, and the music store manager told him that he’s too little to learn accordion (need arm span!), and to come back when he was 5.  On his 5th birthday, he told his parents that he was ready to learn the accordion.  They signed him up and as his says…the rest is history.
  • My Mom Friend (and pole dancer friend), is a soccer player of elite status.  Most recently, as the coach of a Division I college, her women’s varsity soccer team went to the sweet sixteen for the first time in the school’s history.   When she turned 5, her mother said that all she would do was play soccer.  Their family vacations were centered around her national level tournament schedule (and her siblings sometimes hoped she didn’t make the elite national team because they were really tired of vacationing in Pennsylvania!).
  • My Dad Fried, also a Varsity Soccer Coach said the same thing: at age 5 when he discovered soccer, he did not want to do anything else in his spare time.

My personal take away with regard to kids and pursuing this passion is this:  sometimes they get to choose and sometimes it chooses them.  If “it” chooses them, whatever “it” might be (sports, arts, words, science, you name it), then their life path is pretty clear.  But if “they” get to choose, and it really is the child and NOT the parent, then that is a more typical path full of twists and turns and no clear path in sight.

The worst case, it seems, is when the parent chooses.  Whose life is it anyway?  I do hate parents who choose to pursue their unfulfilled dreams through their children — it is your job to pursue your dreams not your children’s!

OK. Whew!  I’m off my soap box!  My oldest daughter has read several books by Pam Munoz Ryan that were assigned to her in 3rd and 4th grade, and has raved about each of these books.  Her classmates, including, reluctant readers, have also been enthusiastic about her novels.  I highly, highly recommend this author.  Read any of her books; all are excellent.  My daughter and her friends would also  recommend Riding Freedom and Esperanza Rising.  [chapter books all, for ages 9-12]

ps I think The Dreamer will win a Newbery Award this year!

To buy The Dreamer or any other book, please click on the image of the book.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. I plan to look into this book. I have a son going into fourth grade next year.
    I love your take on passion and talent in children. My husband and I want our children to find a passion of their own choosing. We get them involved and try to support them. So far our 8 year old is showing interest in drums and basketball. We have to push a little to get practice etc. in though. His real passion is goofing off. Our six year old boy/girl twins both love gymnastics. We have to encourage a little practice at home though.
    Sometimes I wonder if we didn’t encourage and provide opportunities if they would find a passion on their own. I didn’t get much encouragement as a child, and I didn’t discover a passion. My husband found music, his passion, on his own.

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