Have a “Curious Child?”

William and Mary had three children, two girls named Kristi and Libby and a son they nicknamed Trey.  Since William was a successful Seattle attorney and Mary was a school teacher they thought a career in law would be an appropriate pursuit for their only son as well.

Imagine their pleasure when Trey scored 1590 out of a possible 1600 on the SAT.  His parents were thrilled when he was accepted into Harvard in 1973.  But Trey had a hard time finding a clear focus for his studies and spent most of his time playing around on the schools computers. 

According to Trey’s parents they were “sick when he told us he planned to leave college to take advantage of a window of opportunity he believed would be long gone by the time he graduated from Harvard.”  Much to the dismay of his parents, he dropped out of school forever in 1975.

In the father’s recent book, Showing Up for Life, Trey’s dad explains the lesson he learned as a father:  “Perhaps there’s a lesson in this for parents of other curious children who, from the start, require the freedom to meet life on their own terms:  It is that there is no statute of limitations on the dreams you have for your children.  And there is no way to predict how much delight you might feel when those dreams are realized in a far different way than you could have imagined.” 

Incidentally, Trey was chosen as a nickname because this son was the fourth William in the family tree.  You may know him by his adult name, Bill Gates.

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8 Responses to “Have a “Curious Child?””

  1. Phillip Swindall Says:

    The only problem with being a “dreamer” and NOT being allowed to chase those dreams is that, eventually, that child becomes an empty man or woman with NO motivation to succeed… no dreams at all to accomplish… no vision for a future. Parents (AND TEACHERS) should NEVER quench the spirit of a “curious child,” yet, they do it on a daily basis. Perhaps its because its so much easier to handle those who don’t ask the tough questions, or seek answers on their own, or have fantastically wild imaginations. But, as you have proven with this article, it is exactly those students who send society through its paces to the next level, instead of tromping around and around on the same path, killing the grass, but accomplishing little else.

    I know… because my dreams were snuffed out long ago… so long ago, that I can’t even remember them.

  2. Dan Miller Says:

    Phillip – wow your response is both poignant and painful. Never think it’s too late. Just start where you are to rediscover those dreams. Knowing they were there at one time makes this process similar to peeling an onion, rather than having to go outside to find something new. Just get excited about getting in touch with those long dormant dreams and releasing them at this point in your life. Your memory may have become somewhat numbed as “life happened” but be confident those dreams are just waiting for your permission to come storming out.

  3. Phillip Swindall Says:

    Thanks for the encouragement, Dan. I would love to revive those dreams like a phoenix rising from the sand… however, its awefully hard with the constant pressures of life forcing you to do whatever you can to just survive. Numbed is a perfect word… only its a numbness on the exterior alone… the pain is all inside… the emotional equivalent of autism, I suspect.

  4. airwanderer Says:

    Coming from a very traditional Asian family, a person isn’t expected to live wildly and with curiosity but rather to do the expected (get a degree, find a steady job, settle with a family near family). I’m not allowed to do anything that will endanger myself physically or emotionally however remote that possibility is nor to dishonor my family’s name. The funny thing is, I’m still very curious but feel very stifled in the confines of my family’s rules. And no, the family won’t bend to reasoning — but I sure wish my parents could read/understand English well so that I can give them the mentioned book! I think that I would prefer to be an outcast and rebel with curiosity than be the obedient child and dull even though I love my family very much. I just can’t think of any way that there would be a happy medium for myself.

  5. Carrie Says:

    Once upon a time I was too curious for my own good. At church I played any piano available and taught myself songs, at the beach I made a beeline for the water and went for the deep end, at people’s homes I rifled through their book shelves. I also used to be a real “ham”–entertaining people. What happened?

    Phillip, life got in the way for me, too. I’m trying to climb out of the numbness you and Dan speak of, but it’s not easy. I am terrified of the idea of allowing myself creative and dramatic expression, but that is what my heart craves.

  6. Bill Says:

    Yes, I think all of us have experienced numbness at one time or another. The important thing is to realize that we have our WHOLE live ahead of us. The problem with that is: It may be too much time. and, there may be too many choices. I have spent too much of my life being good at a lot of things but not really in love with any one thing. Someone once told me I would be great at analyzing and solving problems and moving on to the next challenge. It seems important for me to remember that all choices have consequences and freedom requires responsibility. Once we avoid the responsibility… we give up our freedom. Life is boring. Have fun when you can. Leave more than you take and give more love than you receive. Happiness will find you.

  7. Deb Says:

    As a mother of a seven-year old with his own style of dreams, I struggle with providing direction without judgement. He dreams of being a pizza delivery man. From his viewpoint its perfect: you get to drive a car, eat free pizza and get paid for it. So just this week rather than squelch that dream or steering him other ways, I’m chatting with him about what qualities a good pizza delivery man would have. He came up with his own list of being on time, being honest, being clean, and a good driver. I’ll keep the “curious child” entry above handy to remind me that my ambitions for my child should not hamper my child’s dreams. Thanks!

  8. Bethany Says:

    My Father has always told my brothers and I that it did not matter what you wanted to do with your life as long as you were the best you can possible be at it. If it was empting septic to walking on the moon what matters is you feel good about the job you did when it was alll done.

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