QUESTION: We’re older parents with one son who is just entering college. Since he was very young, our son has been interested in astronomy and aspires to be an astronaut. He believes that space exploration is our next frontier. My husband thinks this is a far out, unachievable fantasy even though our son has been an excellent student all through school, is in excellent physical health and works out regularly – some of the requirements to be an astronaut. His plan is to major in astronomy and take minors in history and English. I believe as parents, our responsibility is to support our child in a way that will support his ambitions. Our family has had many heated arguments over this issue.
Do you have any suggestions for my husband that will make him see this in a different light?
While I understand your concern, imagine the parents out there whose children aren’t so much interested in outer space as just being spaced-out. Somebody has to be our world’s stars, and some of our best and brightest reach for them. Neither you nor your boy knows if he has the “right stuff” unless he tries. In the trying, he may discover a better path for himself than the one he sets out to achieve. These things have a way of working themselves out but imagine that he pursues a career as an astronaut and then discovers a knack for space geology or some other field that reaches into his current interest (or some other yet unknown). Perhaps he’ll fly, or teach, or maybe he’ll simply write about what he loves. Let him go where no man has gone before, whether beyond our atmosphere or with his feet still on terra firma. The future is coming, and he will be a part of it, one way or the other. Our lives will conclude around the time his generation makes its next leap, so trust him to make his own travel arrangements – with you as his booster.
The Bible says, “You do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well” (Ecc 11:6 NIV), so support your boy in trying, and encourage him to discover his eventual calling, “whether this or that.”
Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church
It is totally understandable to want to support your son’s vision and yet respect your husband’s desire to be practical. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. You have already mentioned the key ingredient to resolving this disagreement when you stated that it’s important to support a child in a way that will support his ambitions.
What if the three of you were to sit down and discuss what each of you really wants your son to achieve in a college education? Wouldn’t the answer be success in both his academic achievements and in the choice of a career that he will find fulfilling on all levels – professionally, financially and spiritually as well? Life is always inviting us to grow and to reach upward toward a greater expression of ourselves. It sounds to me that the path that your son wants to embark upon is his calling because it’s something that he feels passionate about. You know from your own life that when you want to do something, wild horses will not stop you if you truly feel driven to proceed.
There are stringent requirements to become an astronaut. If your son has the ability to meet the rigors of those requirements, why stop him? There is a beautiful quote from the Gospel of Thomas that says, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” If you have ever regretted that which you did not do, either because someone dissuaded you with the best of intentions or you second-guessed your own instincts, you know all too well what that saying means.
With every choice we are reminded that we can decide to follow our heart and trust our intuition. So often we look to the outside circumstances for our answers, when really they come from within. Intuition is the voice of God speaking to us. When we trust and listen to the Divine Guidance of our inner voice, the right direction always reveals itself. If your son is listening to an inner calling it can only manifest in success – as an astronaut or not! Who knows if by following astronomy it leads him to another career just as exciting? We are never given a vision without the ability to create it in form. While a career as an astronaut may not make sense to his rational father, it makes perfect sense to him – precisely because he’s the one with the vision. The important emphasis is that your son knows that you both love and support him, and trust him to make the right decisions for his best and highest path.
Rev. Mary Morgan
Center for Spiritual Living – Redondo Beach
Resides in La Crescenta
QUESTION: I’m the stepdad of a 7-year-old boy with learning disabilities. I’m having quite a time being patient with the little guy even though I dated his mother for three years before we married. My stepson didn’t seem to be as much of a problem during those years as he is now. I know how important self-esteem is because my own father berated me constantly, and it took some doing and a lot of therapy to become the person I am today. I want to be a good dad to him because he doesn’t know his own dad.
Is there a spiritual way to deal with this problem?
~ Troubled Stepdad
Dear Troubled Stepdad,
This is a difficult letter but the way you ended says so much about your heart in this situation. First, you say you want to be a good stepdad to this special boy. Second, you are searching for a spiritual way to deal with this problem. I can’t help but think you’re on the right track already.
You went into this marriage with your eyes open, didn’t you? You had an idea of what to expect. Perhaps God was preparing you for fatherhood for three years while you dated the boy’s mother. Let me be as practical as I can be.Here are seven suggestions that, to me, seem like Godly responses to this difficult situation: 1) Consider this boy not as your stepson but as your biological son. He needs a dad. That’s you. He’s not your wife’s son. He’s your son. Now you have an opportunity to be what your dad wasn’t. 2) Learn more about what this little guy faces developmentally. Can you learn more about his disability? You are blessed by God to have the clear-headed intellect you do. But what if you didn’t? Would your life be like his? God put an angel of mercy in this boy’s path – you. 3) Have his doctor describe what life is like through your son’s eyes. You may have a good idea of this already, but hearing it from his doctor is really something. 4) Find a support group for parents who deal with the same issue. You are not alone. This would be helpful for mom, too. 5) Find an activity to do together that is fun for you both. Do it often. Then watch for God’s hand at work. 6) Look for ways to ease your wife’s burden. She needs you, too. Fortunately, you have broad shoulders. 7) Perhaps I should have listed this last one first. Pray. Pray for grace. Pray for strength. Pray alone. And consider praying with your wife. This is a hard thing you are doing! Ask God to keep you strong wherever and whenever you feel weak.
Perhaps God has designed this situation to be too hard to do by yourself. Maybe He is waiting to hear from you about this a little more than He does.
The first question you asked is, “Is there a spiritual way to deal with this problem?” Well, being spiritual will help but it will not solve the situation on its own. Much as a broken leg needs a doctor, issues of learning disabilities and the dynamics it causes in the home, need professional help as well.
So prayer is important – it sounds like you know the comfort that can be gained from prayer and having others pray for you. But I believe your best bet is to get into some short term therapy with someone who deals with special needs children to gain the support and learn the tools you need for you, your wife and the child to flourish.
Raising someone with special needs can be hard on not only the child but the entire family. You probably were not exposed to the ins and outs of what mom did every day. But being what it is, and the fact that you care about this child and have already taken his self esteem into consideration, I recommend giving therapy and perhaps some special needs parenting classes a try. You can certainly choose a therapist who brings spirituality into it. I hope this helps.
You are a good stepdad to reach out for help to assist not only this child but yourself.
Kimberlie Zakarian, LMFT
Thrive Therapy Center
Kimberlie Zakarian Therapy, Inc.
The Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian is an ordained minister, psychotherapist and owner of Thrive Therapy Center in Montrose.