Some parents grew up in a generation of space exploration, when each photo beamed down from a Space Shuttle came with the infinite possibilities we imagined as the Star Wars, Star Trek and ET generation. Space was never an endless darkness punctuated by stars, but maybe, just maybe, home to little green beings or huge grey types with saucers for eyes. We turned astronauts into heroes, boldly going where we couldn’t.
Take Neil Armstrong- the US astronaut who became the first man to walk on the moon. He didn’t have a laser stun gun or a light sabre- Just a spacesuit and some gruelling training behind him. And yet he bounced through the moon dust buoyed up on the dreams of the entire world.
‘I want to be an astronaut’, we’d tell our parents.
We’d become cowboys (or Indians), killing each other with reckless abandon, not understanding colonisation or repression, but just ‘because that’s what cowboys and Indians do’.
We’d dream of being pirates
finding hidden treasure, or explorers discovering new species of animals (DRAGONS!) in far-flung lands. We’d be vets healing grateful dogs and cats, or princes and princesses doing what princes and princesses do (I’m still not sure what that is, really).
The man who walked on the moon has just died, at the age of 82. Prince Harry has been snapped doing what many young men do in Las Vegas, and in fewer clothes. Pirates still exist, swarming ships with missile launchers off the coast of East Africa. Red Indians have become Native Americans, and cowboys are simply farmhands rather than cold-blooded killers shoving their way through flapping saloon doors.
We’re grownups, now, and few of us believe in the foolishness of little green men on flying saucers or in the fantasies
of discovering treasure chests full of gold, and yet we encourage our children: You could be anything you want to be
, and we do our very best to steer them along the pathways of their dreams.
Your child, sitting making a rocket out of a toilet roll tube, or looking at swimming pool water under a microscope could still become a changer of worlds, a shaper of society. The rule is, let kids dream
. Let them develop their fantasies, and, as they grow, their realities won’t be limited by our own experiences.
Many children will grow up not being particularly special at all (apart from to their friends and family), and that’s just fine, too...
In the words of John Lennon, “When I was 5-years-old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.
RIP, Neil Armstrong, the astronaut so many kids dreamed of becoming.
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