Monday, September 6, 2010

My Child Might Be Average

Here’s to all the kids in the 50th percentile!

Is your child a genius? Probably not. Why can’t we be content with the average child? If every child on the playgroup is talented and gifted, then we probably need to redefine our definition of genius.

Every time I take my children to the park I inevitably overhear a group of mothers bragging about how wonderful, bright, and talented their children are. “Oh, Max took his first steps at 7 months!” or “Emma is already speaking in complete sentences, and at only a year and a half.” It takes all my strength not to go over to the happy group and brag, “Well yesterday, my daughter picked her nose so hard and so long that it took two rolls of paper towels to stop the gush of blood draining from her nostril.”

Maybe we all need to step back and look at our children more objectively. Whenever I am in a public place and a little toddler is racing around with a goofy grin on his face, the parent stands back with a proud smile, as if to say "Have you ever seen such a cute child?” In a word, yes. I saw this yesterday, the day before, and the day before that. In fact, I have seen it so often, it has lost all traces of cuteness and is now just annoying. Should little babies really be running all over an airport terminal or a busy restaurant interrupting childless couples' conversations? Those childless couples are the people I stare at and think “Oh, aren’t they cute- all alone and content!”

Don’t get me wrong: you probably will see my children running amok at inappropriate times and places. However, it’s not because I think that the rest of the world needs to discover my amazingly talented and beautiful girls. It’s really because I am too tired and lazy to get off my butt and collect them. It is easier to let them run wild in a crowd of strangers, and deal with the police reports later.

When Elana was a fussy, colicky baby I would spend literally hours bouncing her on my blue yoga ball while watching a rerun of Law and Order. To get in a more yogi vibe (since I was using a yoga ball), I would calm myself by saying that Elana must be so highly intelligent that her screams are expressions of her frustration at not being able to speak. She had so much to say and the only way she could release this voice was through screams. In reality, she will probably be the kid eating paste in kindergarten, but the genius angle did help to relieve some of the pain.

Let’s get back to the theme of this blog: what was this like for our mothers and grandmothers? To answer this question, let’s look to a true 60’s icon, Betty Draper. I have watched every episode of Mad Men and not once have I seen Betty or Don brag about Sally’s exceptional beauty or Bobby’s intelligence (Baby Gene is too young to comment on). And it is evident that the kids are growing up just fine (well, maybe Sally needs a bit of therapy, but who doesn’t?). Maybe the Draper’s have something here. Since they are obviously not expecting Sally and Bobby to achieve extraordinary measures, no one is going to be disappointed with they don’t.

Furthermore, aren't we just setting our children up for disappointment when they find out that they could never be a professional baseball player, prima ballerina, or Disney princess? Why do we tell our kids that they can grow up to be President of the United States when there have only been 44, all men, and only one minority? Shouldn’t reality be part of our child raising skills?

(Photo courtesy of Karin Asensio.)
Now, finally, to add a little perspective about our own children, here are some true child prodigies to compare your children to:
• Mozart: by age 5 was writing minuets.
• Maria Agnesi: by 13 she could speak in seven different languages.
• John Piaget: published his first scientific paper at age 11 (on the albino sparrow).
• Pablo Picaso: painted “The Picador” at age 8.
• Elana: at 8 months was eating fistfuls of sand.
• Maisy: at 1 year could voluntarily throw up on command.

How does your child measure up?


  1. It's true that many parents let their child's abilities go to their heads sometimes, but I think the same could be said about those who are quick to judges a parent's motives in what they let their children do. For instance, I'm EXACTLY as you are when it comes to letting my little rascals run around. While all of our kids have learned to walk around 9-10 months, in no way am I trying to "show off" when I let them do so in public; it's just that it's too much of a pain to try and get them to stay still. And while yes, it makes me happy that they were quick to learn walking, at the same time they've usually lagged behind other kids when it comes to learning to speak, potty-train, and write. So really it all evens out. I think what makes it annoying is when it seems like the parent feels that that's all that's important. But it's difficult to judge other people's motives, w/out really knowing them. Now that you posted this, I'm wondering if people are thinking the same think about me. THANKS, now I'm going to be self-conscious about it :)

  2. I am laughing so hard at this that I have tears streaming down my face. In fact, I laughed so hard that Willa actually stopped blowing raspberries on my cleavage - for the first time in thirty minutes - to see what was so funny.