A few weeks ago, my son announced he had been a finalist in the school’s Geo Bee. He told me how nervous he was and that he didn’t want to do it. “I’m not going to win, so I just feel like not doing it,” were his exact words.
I understand how he felt. Even now at 42, I share the same feelings and it’s so confusing because I know better. So, how do I give him the self-confidence to do his best and try, regardless of the outcome? It’s not an easy feat, that’s for sure. But the last thing we want is for our kids to feel so much pressure that it takes the joy out of something.
So I told my son to just get up there, focus on me if that will help, and do his best because no matter what happens, I will be proud of him.
And that’s what he did, although you could tell he was struggling because he wanted to be the best. While he didn’t win, he got through it and hopefully enjoyed it more than he let on. He knows he’s an average kid, but I never want him to think that translates into never being good at anything or failing in any way. And I will never make him think I am disappointed in him because he’s not the best at something — or even good at something, for that matter.
In fact, all three of my kids are average — they make the honor roll sometimes, but they have to work hard for it. There aren’t a lot of things involving school that come easy to them. High honors might be in their future one day, but it might not. They play sports and are in different clubs. There are times when they play really well and score during some of the games, but oftentimes they don’t.
They aren’t star athletes. They don’t excel in academics. I have three very average kids, and I am okay with that.
More importantly, so are they. Are there times when I want more for them and hope they really excel at something because I think it will help their self-confidence? Of course, I am their mother and I want it all for them.
Are there times when I feel like they could be trying harder and I know they are slacking and I get frustrated? Yes. But part of that stems from me doing the same thing in school. I wasn’t interested in school work, and sports were just okay. I never felt passionate enough about any sport to continue with it through high school.
But even though I wish I had done better in school and gotten involved in more activities, ultimately I turned out okay and so will my kids.
A few years ago, I saw a fellow parent who was coaching his son’s team. His son was the star player and, to me, he looked flawless on the basketball court. But when the game was over, I overheard his father yelling at him, and berating him for all the ways he screwed up and could have done better.
It was all I could do to not take that father down right there. (And looking back, I kind of wish I had.) It made me wonder if that poor boy was good at basketball because he loved the game, or because he was afraid of letting his father down. That’s too much pressure to put on a child, I don’t care what anyone says, you will never convince me otherwise.
Our kids do not need to be ridiculed for being average. They need to be accepted. Period.
We can encourage our kids to do their best and try hard, but we can’t mold them into something they aren’t by putting stress and pressure on them to be the best — at least not without doing lasting damage.
Remember: You did not have kids so you could live vicariously through them. They are their own people, not possessions.
I never want my kids to feel that I’m disappointed in them simply because they didn’t score a basket during a game, or missed a pass. I will never be the parent who yells at her son because he missed a question during the Geo Bee. I’m just proud my son made it and got up the courage to stand up there in front of his peers, and the community, and do the best he could.
So yeah, I’m the proud parent of three beautiful, very average kids. And I love them just as much now as I would if they had perfect reports cards and were the star of a basketball or soccer team.
I care that they are happy. I care that they are kind. I care that they try their best. And they know that’s how I feel because I tell them all the damn time. Yeah, they can excel and be kind and happy, but average kids are fucking amazing people too.