How far would you go to support your child's dreams?

What would you sacrifice for your child's dreams?
What would you sacrifice for your child's dreams? Photo: Getty

When Greta Small was 10 years old she decided she wanted to be the world's number one alpine skier so her parents sold their house.

Greta was skiing while still in the womb. Her mother, Diane, stopped at seven months pregnant only because she couldn't find a jacket to go around her bump. For Diane and Greta's dad Boyd, skiing is more than just a hobby.

“Skiing is a lifestyle for us. We'd been involved in skiing for many years before Greta was born so it was only natural for her to ski too. She wore her first skis at 17 months old, ” says Diane.

Australian alpine skier Greta Small at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
Australian alpine skier Greta Small at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Photo: www.olympics.com

Maybe that's why it was no surprise when Greta excelled at competitions from the get-go. When she was nine, a teacher asked her to take part in the Australian Interschools Snowsport Championship's alpine sector. She came in sixteenth, a great result considering she'd had no formal training. The next year she placed first, which became the start of her career.

Greta's passion for skiing was clear but her parents never considered it as a career for their only child. Diane wanted Greta to be a musician, not a skier but “she never loved it like she loved skiing”.

In late 2005, the family made decisions that would enable Greta to live her ski dreams. Dad worked overseas to fund everything while mum micromanaged Greta's budding career. Their lives changed. Mum and dad told Greta that she had to give it her all.

“Coming from a nation where ski racing was not big, we knew we all had to give a hundred per cent. I knew I would never achieve my dreams if I just dabbled in it,” says Greta.

Life became a whirlwind of travel. They season hopped to the snow. Greta trained and competed around the world: Australia, New Zealand, North America and Europe. Diane and Boyd's lives revolved around Greta's. 

Greta says now that she is 18, she realises how many sacrifices her parents made for her goals.

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“Everything my parents have done has resulted in where I'm at today. My future is about not only the choices I have made but about the choices the three of us have made together,” explains Greta.

“I feel pretty proud they are my parents. It's hard for me to imagine what it's been like for them. They gave up their friends and social time for me. It's been hard sometimes but it's also been a great gift,” she says.

Melbourne clinical psychologist Sally-Anne McCormack says it's important to support your child's dreams but there needs to be some risk assessment involved.

“Following one family member's dream may come at the cost of another's. There are many things to consider before making such decisions,” says Sally-Anne.

But when parents become involved in their child's passion it creates a special bond between them and their child; it's encouraging and supportive says Sally-Anne. “It helps them to recognise that their dreams and passions are important, not just to themselves but to others as well,” she says.

For the Mitchell family, formerly of Far North Queensland, a relocation to Melbourne was in order when their eldest child, Alex was accepted to the Australian Ballet School.

Mum, Peace Mitchell says the decision was massive for the family of five (who became six shortly after the move). 

“We had other children to consider and a new job for my husband. There were a lot of 'what ifs' going through our minds. It was a big risk to take,” she says.

But they put their son first and made the move so he could pursue his dream of being a dancer. Peace says his passion for dance was apparent from an early age.

“We recognised his passion and dedication early on. He's never missed a rehearsal. He was always training and stretching; always dancing around the house. You could see how much he loved it,” Peace says. “We felt it was important to give him the best chance that we could.”

Nineteen months on, Peace says Alex is happy and thriving in his new environment. The entire Mitchell family is enjoying their new lifestyle in the city. The move has been “positive for the entire family” she says.

“There's been a lot of unexpected outcomes, all sorts of benefits. We've bonded in different ways. We spend more quality time together as a family. We explore the city together and go away on weekends more. My husband has a great job with more opportunity. The other boys have settled in nicely too; there's more going on for them here,” says Peace.

For Greta, her mission to be the best alpine skier in the world continues. She competed at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi and plans to represent Australia again in 2018. Her parents still play active roles in her career. Diane says Greta's success has been a team effort.

“Without the three of us working together as a team, she wouldn't have got to the level that she has,” says Diane.

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