Average? Not a Problem

In a world that worships superstars, one parent believes that 'ordinary kids' can be a blessing

BY: Sally Stich

 
Reprinted from Parents magazine. Used by permission of the author.

Everyone I know, it seems, has gifted children--children for whom the regular school curriculum is boring; children who play tennis like miniature Steffi Grafs; children whose musical talents pit them against the ghost of young Mozart. These are not kids who just do things--they do things exceedingly well.

My children, on the other hand, define the word

ordinary

. They get mostly B's (and a few C's) and read at grade level; they play sports for fun, since neither is particularly competitive; they listen to music rather than make it. They are, compared to the gifted and talented, pretty average kids. And I consider their ordinariness a gift.

I didn't always. As part of a generation that is highly motivated and extremely competitive, I got sucked into the belief that being the best counts, that being ordinary is dull. When Max, our first child, was born, I was quite certain that with two high-achieving parents it was only a matter of time until his natural talents emerged. Would he be a great soccer player? Would he excel in school? I wondered the same with Sarah. As both of them developed and demonstrated no outstanding gifts, I couldn't figure out where I--or they--had gone wrong.

Surrounded by friends whose kids displayed impressive intellect or true artistic talent, I found myself embarrassed when the topic of achievements came up. After one mom mentioned a highly selective academic program her daughter had been accepted into and another told of her son's baseball prowess, I made feeble jokes about my kids' "achievements." "Max was sent to the principal's office three times in one week." "Sarah found a new way to braid Barbie's hair."

As these moms talked, though, I came to realize that they were kept plenty busy nurturing their children's gifts; transporting them to extra lessons, out-of-town tournaments, night-time rehearsals, and the like. I'm sure I would have done the same had my kids demonstrated special talents, but I'll admit I didn't miss the sacrifice of my time and energy. Just taking care of normal activities--like soccer, Brownie meetings, and orthodontist appointments--is enough for me.

I also did not miss having kids so driven to succeed that they drive themselves nuts. True, not all gifted kids are neurotic or maladjusted, but in my 20 years as a teacher I've seen many who made themselves miserable with their perfectionism. I'll never forget one of my students, a brilliant girl who suffered from chronic stomachaches. If she received less than an A or came in second on a test, she berated herself. At age 16, she was diagnosed with an ulcer.

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