Cultivating a Dreamer

Leslie Garrett by Leslie Garrett | May 4th, 2012 | 3 Comments
topic: Family Health, Health & Wellness, Personal Growth, Relationships

Daydreaming boyMy son is a dreamer. An absent-minded sort of kid who responds to every question with silence. Who’s always looking intently off in the distance or up at the ceiling. Then, when the question is repeated, he’ll look as if he’s just noticed you’re there and say, “Wha?”

It’s a trait that, not surprisingly, drives some of his teachers mad.

“Doesn’t pay attention,” reads his report card. “Forgets to complete work.”

And yet his marks are stellar. We shrug, perplexed. Somehow he absorbs what he’s being taught by osmosis, while daydreaming of LEGO spaceships or sketching a “concept” aircraft with the power of a plane and the maneuverability of a helicopter.

I admire his creativity. His no-boundaries inventiveness (rarely does he let the laws of physics constrain him). I’m his biggest fan, at least until I need him to do something. Like put his dirty clothes in the hamper. Or set the table. “Wha?” he asks, bewildered and looking around, surprised to find he’s sitting in a kitchen and not on some military mission to free oppressed people.

I’ll sigh an exasperated sigh and my voice will tighten. “Pay attention!” I’ll snap.

And he’ll look at me like he doesn’t quite understand the command. And, I imagine, he’ll note to himself that he was paying attention. Just not to what the world — his world of teachers and parents and cool kids — wants him to.

His world will continue to try to convince him that none of the stuff he dreams about is really important. That what matters is what’s in front of him. His math book. His hockey practice. His chores.

The world, including me, gets exasperated with someone who seems to float just out of reach. Who seems to see things that aren’t there. Who dreams of … who knows?

And yet I know absolutely how badly the world — always, but especially right now with such incredible challenges ahead — needs dreamers like him. Who, if the world doesn’t convince him otherwise, will develop technology and products and perhaps redemption the rest of us couldn’t possibly imagine.

And so, when I need him to take out the recycling … or when I know he has a social studies test … I’ll try to gently tug him down from wherever he is and bring him back to earth. To focus just long enough.

And then, I’ll let him go.


  1. Oh honey, I KNOW!!! It can be maddening. My dreamer middle boy has had TWO hearing tests because of the ‘Wha?’ factor, and has perfect hearing and excellent grades. In spite of forgetting to take the right books to class, forgetting to hand in homework.

    But I’ve found something that works: Write it down! If he’s got a homework notebook, write in it: ‘Bring home Football kit or it will be very stinky’… ‘Guitar at 10.30!’… ‘There is a sandwich in your bag. Eat it.’… at home I hand him a note:

    ‘1) Take out recycling
    2) Pick up dirty clothes and put in hamper
    3) THEN you may go on the computer’

    And remember to give him ‘I love you’ notes too…

    Some kids just remember/focus better when they can see the instructions! This helps me, because I HATE yelling at him, and even the tone of my voice when I say things for THE THIRD TIME. He’s hearing it for the first time, so poor guy. Aren’t dreamers great though?

    Nan | November 17th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  2. Funny — he’s my middle child, too. And believe it or not, we’re writing everything down. He has a list in his room of things to do in the morning (put away pajamas, eat breakfast, etc.) and in the evening (put clothes in hamper, brush teeth, etc.). BUT he needs someone to remind him to check his list, his planner, his calendar… But yes, he’s incredibly great. And I feel privileged to be his mom.

    Leslie Garrett | November 17th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  3. Both of these dreamers sound like great kids.

    “Who, if the world doesn’t convince him otherwise, will develop technology and products and perhaps redemption the rest of us couldn’t possibly imagine.”

    Hopefully the world won’t convince either of them otherwise…

    Love the idea of giving notes instead of impatience Nan – what a great solution!

    scribhneoir | November 18th, 2010 | Comment Permalink

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