Linda Campbell: Parents can open doors, but kids pick their own paths

Admit it, parents: There have been times when you were so daunted by the immediate hurdles on the parenthood journey that you couldn't even imagine what lay ahead.

Those wee hours sterilizing bottles and washing clothes and wishing for just a few hours of sleep uninterrupted by wailing before you had to get up for work.

Those nights of walking an inconsolable toddler for hours, feeling helpless to provide comfort, exhausted beyond comprehension.

In the blink of an eye, it seemed, you switched from little ones crawling onto your lap for book reading or TV watching to angry teenagers wrestling to be free from your supremely annoying presence.

Of course, there were the fretful emergency room excursions. Yikes! A broken ankle. Heavens! A concussion. OMG! A sliced off thumbprint.


Somehow everyone survived high school — you didn't pull all your hair out, or theirs, either. Once they got off to college, you discovered how desperately they wanted to learn the hard lessons of adulthood through trial and error. (Chances are, they got that obstinate trait from you.)

More often than not, you rudely stumbled on those errors when you least expected.

Once upon a time, you were most exasperated by the piles of clothes and empty food containers on the floor that made their bedrooms impassable.

That was until you became thoroughly frustrated at the realization that you were useless to protect them against life's injustices, its disappointments and the unfortunate consequences of their dubious choices.

Often you wondered what you should have done, why hadn't your admonitions gotten through, how could they veer so far from the neatly ordered, calamity-free life you had tried to construct during all those years.

Then one day, you saw it.

Those winding, bumpy roads they were traveling were leading your kids toward their dreams. Sure, they've meandered at times more than the wandering paths of Billy, Dolly, Jeffy and PJ in the Family Circus.

But as you've watched them stand at the threshold of reaching those goals, it's a sight to behold.


I wouldn't have imagined that my son's dream of playing Division I college baseball would have led him through a community college to a small university in Arkansas. But there he is, living the dream with his teammates, competing in their conference postseason tournament this week.

I wouldn't have expected my daughter, once shy and timid, to venture off to New York, but there she'll be in a couple of weeks, living in Manhattan and working for a dress designer for the second straight summer.

Even more powerful evidence that dreams come true showed up on my Facebook page this week: A spectacular photo of my nephew Timothy in his Navy dress whites and my dad in a sailor's uniform like the one he wore for his service during the Korean War. Timothy graduated from college last week and was commissioned as an officer, and his grandfather gave him his first salute. They had both looked toward that day for years.

Watching life unfold, though, I'm struck that even when dreams are in view, the path will still manage to have detours and potholes and surprises that aren't always welcome.

The most you can do for your kids is what — if you were blessed as I was — your parents did: Give them the opportunity to build productive, worthwhile, happy lives.

And hope they keep having the audacity to dream big.

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