Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It Ain't Easy Being Average

Yesterday, my dear friend Michelle posted this article about "Tiger Mothers - Raising Children the Chinese Way", by psycho hosebeast Amy Chua. Long story short (if you haven't seen the sensationalized coverage) is that Americans are soft and if we want to raise winners we'd stop being so nice to our kids. Sean, after listening to my rant, sent me this most excellent f-you to Chua by Elaine Chow on The Shanghaiist.

Regardless of your opinion about Chua's methods (and my opinion is that she is clearly insane), it leads to a bigger question - since when is being average such a bad thing?

Every mother I know, myself included, wants to believe that their children are exceptional. Brilliant, talented, advanced, rare. And they are - to us. But the reality is that only a small percentage of kids excel at levels far beyond their peers. Most people have a few things that they're pretty good at, and one or two things that they're really good at and manage to make a living at, or a life out of. We can't all be professional athletes and celebrities because, well - nothing would get done.

We need carpenters and plumbers and welders and a thousand other unglamorous occupations. The guy that paints the lines on the roads - we need that guy! MOMS! We need moms. We need average people because average people are the ones who get the shit done. Lebron James has done JACK for me. Will I be proud if Henry breezes through school and goes to Harvard and becomes a successful lawyer? Duh, yeah! But I will be equally proud if he becomes a carpenter who loves what he does and takes pride in his work. We, as a society, have devalued the trades to the point that everyone wants to be a Chief and no one wants to be an Indian. (I apologize in advance to any Native Americans to whom my outdated colloquialism is offensive.)

There is nothing wrong with setting high standards, and expecting your children to be the best they can be. We have clear expectations of Katie in her schoolwork, based on her ability. We have standards for all our children in regard to their behavior, and what is and isn't acceptable in that regard is non-negotiable. It may end up that they're all C students and okay at the piano and kind of sucky athletes. But if they're happy and loved and loving and do their best to be good people, how can I care if what grade they made in 4th grade math?

Our immigrant grandparents, and great-grandparents, and so on, recognized the value of average. Not only was it acceptable, it was what they strived for. They realized that average is pretty freaking awesome.

My kids are amazing. I think that they are the best, funniest, cutest, most charming, smartest kids ever. And if they turn out to be perfectly average, then I'm awfully lucky.

Today's photo of the day - the girls put on a song and dance show after dinner. It was a better than average performance.

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