The Bucket List

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Often the best conversations I have with my kids happen on the way to somewhere. I don’t remember what errand we were running when my son Adam and I had this exchange, but I’ll remember the talk for a long time.

Him: “Mom, I’ve decided to write a bucket list. You know what a bucket list is?”

Me: “Yes, it’s a list of things you want to do before you die. You do realize you’re only 10-years-old, right?”

Him: “Yeah, I know. I just think it’ll be good to have a list.”

Me: “You’re right. So what are you gonna put on your bucket list?”

Him: “Well, the first thing is ‘Be on a game show.’ Either Kids Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune.”

Me: “Excellent choice. What else is going on the list?”

Him: “I also want to write my name on the moon with a Sharpie.”

Me: (Stunned silence.) Uh, okay… That’s pretty interesting. So does this mean you’re going to be an astronaut and go into outer space? Did you change your mind about playing in the NBA for the Chicago Bulls and being an announcer for ESPN?”

Him: “No, I didn’t change my mind about that. I definitely want to do those things, too.”

Me: “Oh. Wow. So you’re going to play for the NBA, be a sports announcer AND become an astronaut?”

Him: (Noting the skepticism in my question) “So I can’t do all those things? Is that too much? Maybe I should mark the moon off the list.”

As he thought about scaling back, I remembered something I saw online recently – a quote from an unknown source that says, “Have big dreams. You will grow into them.”

And it reminded me that I should never imply that my kid’s dreams might be too much or too big. Because I don’t know what he’ll grow into. Who knows what possibilities may exist for his generation? Perhaps by then people will be taking quick sightseeing adventures to the moon the same way we rent a hotel room in Branson for the weekend. So I retracted my earlier skepticism.

Me: “Actually, I bet you can do all those things. Who knows what you’ll do when you’re a grown-up? And you shouldn’t take things off your list. If you want to do them, then they should go on the list. Your bucket list can have all kinds of cool dreams on it.”

Him: “Good. Because it would be really cool to write my name on the moon.”

Me: “Definitely. I’d have never even thought of something that cool. And it’s smart to use a Sharpie marker because then the ink won’t wear off.”

He smiled and nodded, and then we moved on to other important matters like whether or not we could have pizza for dinner.

But that conversation has stayed with me – reminding me how important it is to reach for something that forces us to grow. As adults, we often compress big dreams down into more practical packages. We edit them down so small that they disappear or become something that looks more like a mundane to-do list versus a big-dream bucket list.

I’m realizing now that part of my job as a parent is to protect my kids’ ability to dream. I don’t have to figure out how they’re going to accomplish those dreams. I just have to help them believe in themselves enough so that they’re not afraid to try – to “reach for the stars,” so to speak, or possibly even autograph the moon.

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