When I was a kid, we used to sing a cute little song: “Bend and stretch, reach for the sky, stand on tippy-toes, oh so high!” Actually, it was a tune they sang on Romper Room—a show that children used to watch pre-Sesame Street. For some weird reason, these flowers reminded me of the show and that tune…reaching with such confidence and exuberance for the stars, for the sky, for the absolute zenith of flower-dom.
I broach this topic today because my youngest son has graduated college and is about to set out on his journey in the music field. As his mom, do I now tell him the grim truth, or the Romper Room version--the stark reality, or the flowers reaching to the sun story? Or the third option; a combination of the two?
Had anyone told me years and years ago how hard it would have been to become a writer, perhaps I wouldn’t have traveled this route. And I’m quite certain, had my husband (a classical clarinetist) listened to the naysayers he never would have succeeded in his profession. He started out playing for quarters on the sidewalks of New York; I started out at a trade magazine (after a stint on a community newspaper) writing about the enlightening subject of paint (as in house paint). I was determined to write…and so I doggedly pursued my dream (as did my husband, who successfully segued from sidewalk to orchestra pit).
Decades and many, many pages later I’m still on my path and thankfully have found ways to write about topics that interest me a lot more than what’s hot in house paint. I reached for my sky, and I’ve never regretted trying.
It would have been regrettable if my parents had sat me down and told me that I would never find a job as a writer, and that I would never be able to live a decent life (financially, that is) married to a classical clarinetist. They zipped up their lips and let me carry on with my fantasy. To this day, I’m amazed that my glass-half-empty parents were able to stay mum; they must have been listening in on those Romper Room episodes, too.
When it comes to our kids, there’s a fine line between responsibility and possibility. We certainly don’t want to mislead them; nor do we want to discourage them. I’ve heard all the sad tales about the music business, and I’m not about to pass them on. I’m reminded of a psychologist I know who happens to be dyslexic; his high school guidance counselor once told him he’d better think about getting a job in a gas station. But…he wanted to get his PhD and teach at the college level. With the encouragement of his parents, he reached his goal.
I grew up on Romper Room, so I guess it’s no surprise that I still believe that by standing on your tippy-toes you have a chance of getting to the tippy-top. Hail to the hibiscus, and to the hollyhock!