I believe that being average is not a bad thing.
I love Garrison Keillor, especially his news from Lake Wobegon where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” Coincidentally enough, I too live in an area where all the kids are above average, and I am aware of this because the parents of these ‘super’ kids let me and everyone else know.
It seems that everyone I meet has an above-average son or daughter! These kids are whizzes at fill-in-the-blank – swimming (practicing 4 times a week for 3 hours at a stretch); art (studying advanced oil techniques at the museum); academics (taking college-prep classes in middle school), etc. The ‘gifted’ child is the new status symbol among parents.
So, I am doing the unimaginable, the daring, the unheard of — I am standing up to admit to the world that my child is not perfect; however, she is perfectly average.
That’s right, my 14 year-old daughter, let’s call her ‘Maude,’ is average; let me say it again, AVERAGE. And the only problem I see with that is how other people view me admitting it.
To me, Maude is a star! A beautiful, bright, funny, artistic, kind, empathetic, tennis-playing, Spanish-speaking teen-ager. She makes good grades (mostly), she has good friends (that she sometimes argues with), she is responsible (a lot of the time), and loving (usually).
I can accept the fact that Maude is not scary-smart, she is not hyper-athletically-skilled; she is not as artistically talented as Monet or Picasso and so far doesn’t show signs of being the next Nobel-winning scientist.
But this is okay because there is nothing wrong with being average. I am tired of parents being so determined that their son/daughter a) be on the honor-roll every semester b) take the SAT at age 10 c) be in every gifted class at school. This desire for every child to be ‘above average’ simply changes the definition of ‘average.’ When Maude was in 3rd grade, fully 50% of the students left the classroom on a regular basis to participate in gifted classes. When half of the students are not being sufficiently challenged by the classroom work, then the classroom work is needs to change. It simply defies statistics that half of the students were ‘gifted.’
No one is more special to me than Maude and she is adored by a large family and some very close friends. We see her unique and delightful qualities (a laugh that is truly infectious) and acknowledge her abilities (she’s written some wonderful poetry); we also realize that there are certain areas where she sometimes struggles (math) and that some personality traits leave room for improvement (she’s got quite a temper).
What I don’t understand is this obsession with being ‘special’ outside of the family and friend-community, I do not feel the need to make everyone we come in contact with consider Maude to be extraordinary. Like everyone, there are areas where her skills & talents may put her ahead of the general population and others where she may lag behind – hence, average!
I hope that I am giving Maude the education, skills and confidence to live her life to the fullest, to achieve to the best of her abilities. I want for her to believe in herself and strive to use all her gifts to their greatest extent – but I don’t want her walking around thinking she’s so darn special – I want her to work for what she accomplishes because I think things mean more when effort is put forth to obtain them.
I know I’m not alone in recognizing both the greatness and the not-so-greatness in my child, but sometimes I feel like a voice in the wilderness. Maybe I’ll start a 12-step program…
Hi, my name is Elizabeth and my child is average.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.