The prodigal child is viewed as rebellious and incapable of structure. The label “prodigal” alone has negative connotations that is not socially accepted. There are many religious stories and songs that tell the story of the child who leaves home for a life a chaos. This child’s naïve mindset and arrogance always causes them to crawl back home defeated, which is celebrated at the end of the story. The take away: “structure and conventional ideas are essential for a balanced life.”
When I think about the prodigal child, I see an individual who wants to live life on their own terms. They are the dreamers with goals placed at the forefront of their mind. They run from mundane ideas and routines, seeing firsthand the limited spaces for pleasure and enjoyment.
What often happens is that the prodigal child fails, as we all do naturally. The difference in their failure, however, is the response from those who waited for it to happen. Rather than identifying ways to push the prodigal child to pursue their dreams, many choose instead to welcome them home with open arms and messages of reform.
Now, this is not stated as a way to condemn love ones for wanting what is best for their child. However, limiting the dreams by emphasizing one’s failure is a practice that is more harmful than the actual act of failing.
Lorine Chia’s “Wondering Where” tells of the story of the prodigal child perfectly. The song is about a man, maybe even a boy, who left home to pursue his own way. He soon fails, becomes homeless and he finally decides to go back to this parents’ home. Instead of celebrating, Chia does a wonderful job creating a picture of a dream coming to an end. It is depressing.
A dream ends when it is no longer supported by the prodigal child, their family and motivating factors. Support from family and friends is essential to not only the dream, but the prodigal child. Failure is inevitable. Therefore, celebrating one’s failure, while ignoring their goals and dreams is an action that will push that child away, even when they may return.
I am a prodigal child with dreams that are quite structure in a sense, but require a great deal of time, resources and energy to fulfill. My support system cries with me and talks me through every failed attempt because, like me, they see the bigger picture. When I fall down, I am told to get back up and when I cannot, someone physically places me back on my feet. When I feel that my dreams have ended, I am told to try again. I constantly leave and return home, knowing one day I will not have to.
We need to believe in the prodigal child. There have been too many individuals that have risen to success, even when they felt success was nowhere near.
Let’s not forget Oprah-a former prodigal child with a television network.