Every damn day, my son gets home from school, throws his backpack on the ground and gets a snack before he begrudgingly starts digging around for his crumpled homework papers, or opens his laptop to look over his homework agenda.
To him, school is a pain in his ass and he does what he needs to do to get by. Most of the time he makes the honor roll, but sometimes he doesn’t.
School has always been a bit of a struggle for him and his siblings. They have to work for every grade they earn and to them, it feels like they have to work harder than most of their peers when, in fact, there are many kids who are just like them — average.
Like many other parents, I’ve had to have many pep talks with my kids about this subject. Like when my daughter came home and was upset because all her friends were in “the highest reading class” and she wasn’t.
Or when my youngest didn’t do as well as he wanted during the Geography Bee and got eliminated after the second round and watched two of his good friends make it to the finals.
These moments seem pivotal — when our children come to us and they are being hard on themselves for simply being average. As an average student myself, their feelings mirror the ones I had in school. I remember thinking time and time again I wasn’t worthy, I’d never measure up, and when I did get a A in class, I started to believe it was sheer luck.
As parents, we need to take the stigma around being average away from our kids. There is no shame in being “average,” and there’s a way to encourage them to work harder and do their best, while loving the specialness our “average” kids have. They have so much to offer and the last thing this world needs is to snuff our our kids’ personalities and their unique qualities because they aren’t in AP classes, the gifted and talented program, or the star of the soccer team.
Sure, I could make my son work even harder, punish him for not getting certain grades or participating in team sports. And maybe it would work and provide him future opportunities.
But I’ll never do that. I’d never risk straining our relationship or potentially negatively impacting long-lasting effects on his self esteem and send the message I think he’s just not good enough.
Our “average kids” have so many gifts, and if school and sports aren’t their thing, we owe it to them to give them the space to find their individual gifts to share with the world. They need time and freedom to explore interests that feed their essence and give them passion for life which will in turn, make our world a better place.
And by pushing too hard and not honoring their “averageness,” we are teaching them they shouldn’t do anything unless they can be the best at it.
Well, I call bullshit on that.
Our kids’ value is not measured by grades or goals or how well they do on the debate team. Yes, it can seem like that in this day and age when everyone is splashing their kids’ Ivy League college acceptances, their child’s grades, or how they won their track meet on social media. While those moments deserve to be celebrated, it does not need to make us, or our kids, feel less-than because they are just barely making the honor roll, or only score one basket all season.
We take the time to honor those with the highest GPA, but what we also need to be reminding our kids is that some of the most successful and influential people did lousy in school. Former Vice President Joe Biden was a very average student, and Bill Gates was quoted as saying, “I studied everything but never topped…”
I’m not promoting dropping our of school, of course, but it solidifies my point that just because you don’t excel in school, that doesn’t mean you don’t matter. It doesn’t mean you won’t make your mark in the world, and it absolutely doesn’t mean you don’t measure up.
Taking the time to teach my kids how to be aware of others, how to take care of their mental health, and how to pursue something they are wildly passionate about are my main goals as a parent — not getting them to bring home a piece of paper that states they’ve gotten a 4.0. The two aren’t mutually exclusive of course, but for so many kids, school is very hard for them and that in no way means they shouldn’t be celebrated.
I am a very average mother but I pursue my passions. I love my kids like no one else can. I have a lot to offer even if I never volunteer, I ignore them sometimes, and feed them fast food too much.
After all, it’s possible to be “average” in the eyes of everyone else, but to live your very best life.