I’ve been taking a lot of heat lately for suggesting that for the most part, we are all raising “average” kids. That it is unlikely there will be 100’s of Vermont kids (or kids from any other state) that go on to live exceptional lives doing exceptionally satisfying work that is sure to impact the world in some significant way. It is far more likely, that the vast majority of kids will grow up to be average, everyday individuals who construct lives that they either find satisfying or lives that leave them feeling resentful that they aren’t satisfied with the life they were expecting to live.
I know what parents are thinking when I tell them they will probably raise average kids — “She doesn’t know MY child. MY child is, in fact, exceptional, special, better than….”. Maybe, but I doubt it.
After I ruffle feathers, I go on to ask “So what’s wrong with average? When did being average become a bad thing?” I’m average, my kids are average, most of my friends are average, most of my family members are average. And we seem to be doing okay.
I’ll go on record now as saying that when I was pregnant with Hannah, 25 years ago, I prayed for an average child. Not too cute, not too smart, not too athletic. Just average. Do you know why? Because I think average kids have a better shot at creating a meaningful life for themselves. After all, no one is paying attention to them. No one has unrealistic expectations for them. I think kids who really are exceptional in some way, may have challenges that few of us recognize, because, well, we are average.
I believe that average people, who work their fannies off, and accept that life is full of ups and down and believe that the universe is conspiring for (ALL of) our happiness, have a leg up on those who think they are exceptional. Imagine the pressure to maintain your exceptional status. Yikers.
Maybe besides being average, we are simple. The truth is, I am happy a good portion of my life. Even when things suck, I can be happy. My kids are happy. Believe me there have been times in their lives when things sucked. But in spite of that, they were happy growing up and still are happy as twenty-somethings out there navigating the world on their own.
Happiness, connection to self and others, a strong work ethic, enjoyment in the simple things is far more important to me then being exceptional, special or as a my friend Cindy Pierce says “precious”. I want average kids who kick ass.
My grandfather used to say, “Work harder than everyone else for less pay.”
I like that. It fits with my idea of life. I taught my kids this value. From the time they applied for their first jobs, most of them at age 10 and certainly when they hit the job market at 14-years-old, they were taught to work harder than anyone else and never to expect anything more than the guy working beside them. When they got older I included these pearls of wisdom “from 18-years-old to 28-years-old you will, in all likelihood be eating Top Ramen, living in ratty apartments, shared with people who are complete slobs, commuting for 90 minutes one way, to jobs that are less than fulfilling. This is the path you must travel so at 29-years-old you have the skills and experience, wisdom and patience, tenacity and insight to actually create a life that has meaning to you and for you in a job you find exciting, stimulating and satisfying. It isn’t going to happen any other way, kids. So buckle up and get ready for the ride.”
And all five of them will tell you that this is the truth. And yet, for all that “tough love” talk, they are thriving and truly enjoying this rough part of the journey. As they say, it builds character.
So when I got the 35th email with the link to this article sent to me, I decided maybe it was the universe suggesting I write about it and share a few of my thoughts. I don’t care so much about special or exceptional.
- I care that my kids love their lives as young adults when so many other young adults are really struggling to make sense of the world.
- I love that my kids love each other, take care of each other and include each other in their lives.
- I love that my kids call, text, skype, IM me when there is something exciting to share both good and bad.
- I have a front row seat to their lives, because I can be counted on to sit quietly until I am asked to become an active participant.
So I guess what I am saying is this: I will take average any day of the week. Anybody else out there feeling okay about average?