09/13/2012 09:14 am ET | Updated Nov 13, 2012

Dream Big: My Daughter Teaches Me About Fearlessness

Big crazy dreams... that is why childhood is so stinking awesome! There are no limits. There is no fear influenced by a past full of failure and disappointment and hurt.

My 7-year-old daughter has recently decided to can her plan to be in a local youth performance of "The Nutcracker" this fall. I blame the Olympics.

The Summer Olympics came along and a hot little fire ignited deep in the heart of my little girl. I'm sure the passion for gymnastics was ignited in the hearts of many little girls this summer. Ever since, my daughter has been cartwheeling like mad. She even has both types of splits NAILED. But she knows that isn't enough. She wants to take classes. She wants to get legit!

And she doesn't want to be in "The Nutcracker" anymore.

I had to have a serious conversation with her about her future. Ballet or gymnastics... one or the other.

Big stuff, right?

No ballet means no "Nutcracker" in the fall.

This is how it went down:

Me: Lucy? Are you sure you do NOT want to sign up for ballet? It means you cannot be in "The Nutcracker." Remember "The Nutcracker" and the costumes and the dancing?

Lucy: Yes. Yes. Yes, I am sure. I don't want to be in ballet. I want to do gymnastics.

Me: What if you just did ballet for a few months, and THEN gymnastics. Remember? "The Nutcracker"?

Lucy: No. I don't want to. *long, thinking pause* Is there going to be another Olympics for gymnastics?

Me: Well... yes. Every fours years.

Lucy: OK. Good.

Me: So... you want to do gymnastics so you can be in the Olympics?

Lucy: Yes.

Me: Four years. You want to work and wait four years just so you can be in the Olympics.

Lucy: Yes. That's all I want to do. I want to be in the Olympics.... Will they make us wear uniforms?

Me: Yes. And they will probably sparkle.


As an adult, I find that thoughts of all that is impossible about her dream flood my mind. I am aware of the work and the cost and the limits and the effort that my daughter's dream requires and all I see are walls. Not even stop signs. Walls. Plus, she's only 7! She also wants a unicorn, so....

Honestly, I am limited by my own fear. My own past experiences with failure and unrealized dreams prod me to prepare my daughter for the likely reality... that she will most likely never become an Olympic gymnast.

But you know what? If I stand in the way with my hand on my hip and my firm grip on reality, if I put up walls for her all in the name of protection and reality, she will ABSOLUTELY never become an Olympian.

The last few lines in The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost give me good perspective:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I want my daughter to dream... big. And fearlessly. To take the road less traveled.

2012-09-12-fearless1.jpeg Me? I get to be her cheerleader and sometimes a voice of reason. But right now I am discovering I need to let my child be a child and dream, dream, dream. And in the process I am learning to dream. I am learning (however slowly) to let go of the fear that ever rides on my shoulders, because of her. She inspires me. She inspires me to be brave. She inspires me to dream not only for her and my family, but for me. She has shown me in that little 5-, then 6-, now 7-year-old self how to knock down walls.

I have long taken the more comfortable and safe path, and honestly I have a good and happy life. However, I have lots of internal nudges about the what-ifs. Could I have done more? Could I have done better? What if I had pushed through *this* wall or *that* wall?

I always wish I had been more brave. Fearless.

The exciting thing is I still have many years ahead of me. Not my youngest years, but years. My chances to chase some wild dreams and knock down some walls are not over. And I have my little girl to thank for that.

Photo by Jenny Ingram.

For more by Jenny Ingram, click here.

For more on becoming fearless, click here.