Monday, February 20, 2012

Above Average?

In 1985 Garrison Keillor created the fictional town of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. On his radio program A Prairie Home Companion he tells listeners that in his fictional hometown "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average."

I recently discovered that there is actually something called the Lake Wobegon effect (nope you can't make these things up) and I believe there are a lot more people struggling with this syndrome than are willing to admit it. It seems everyone today has children that are just incredibly outstanding. They're either skipping grades, the star player on the team, incredibly artistically talented or curing cancer. Or for the younger set they were potty trained at six weeks and speaking fluent French at 15 months. Seriously, just listen to any group of women chatting at Starbucks.

Which reminds me . . . I have never been a big fan of the Christmas Newsletter either. Let's call it what it really is... "Look at how absolutely incredible our family is; don't you wish you were this good" press release. Now I'm not expecting anyone to announce that Johnny broke the school record for detention or Amber's been kicked out of Church choir for making out with the boys. However, what happened to reality? When did being average become a synonym for inferior? “We had a wonderful year as a family,” is apparently too boring for newsletters.

I continue to stumble into situations where I am faced with the in-person version of the Christmas newsletter: I run into a mom I haven't seen in a while and I ask about her children. I remember that the last time we saw their son he was in fourth grade, a bit of a handful and not really a sports phenomenon. Well after four years and thousands spent on personal trainers and camps he is going to be the next Pele! Or maybe it's little Suzy who couldn't carry a tune if you put it in a bag but is now studing privately with Ms. Opera Star and is destined to be the next Jackie Evancho. 
Here's the thing: If I only heard this once I might be impressed but when comments like this become the norm you just have to wonder what is going on. 

I get that we as mothers want to brag about our kids. We're proud of them, we love them and we want the world to know. But it makes me wonder what kind of world we live in when our kids have to be outstanding to keep up with the other kids. Do they need to win awards and contests for us to be happy? Is it us? I think it is. I think there are many parents out there who need their kids to be outstanding so they feel like they're doing something right.

Sure I want my children to do well in school and in life. What parent wouldn't? But I really hope than when The Girl starts kindergarten next year that I won't be out there letting the everyday things that she does pass by while I wait for some spectacular accomplishment to fall from the sky. I want her to know that she should work hard to be sucessful but that it's okay if you're average. It's okay to be in the middle. The middle is pretty great too.

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