to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
― William Martin, The Parent's Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents
I read an amazing Wall Street journal article this week by a teenager named Suzy Weiss entitled "To (All) the Colleges That Rejected Me (If Only I Had a Tiger Mom or Started a Fake Charity)." It's a very entertaining look at how she just can't be competitive with some of her peers. Go ahead, take a minute and read it now (I promise I won't be jealous).
Reading the article spurred me to think about what I expect from my children and then to think about what my friends and I do to set our kids up for failure. How many times have you gotten a Christmas letter highlighting about how wonderful and perfect everything (and everyone) is? Don't get me wrong. I LOVE hearing about the many and varied accomplishments of all my friends and their kids. But a few years ago, I started a Christmas letter writing campaign that included details about how screwed up the year was and laughed about everything that went wrong. (I haven't sent these letters out in a few years because, quite frankly, I've been tired with all this single-parenting... Christmas sneaks up on me and it's St. Patrick's Day before I know it!) I found out that many of my friends looked FORWARD to the annual recitation of crap that went on in my house. It made them laugh out loud and then they shared the letter with THEIR friends and family.
In short, people LIKE hearing about how screwed up someone else is because then they can relax their own facades and admit that they, too, have shortcomings and things aren't completely perfect in their homes.
So, I'm here to admit it: My kids are ordinary. (WAIT! SHH!! Did I say that OUT LOUD??)
Do I love them any less because they are not gifted geniuses in one field or another? Nope. Do I consider them to be somehow distasteful because they haven't invented a new app for the iPhone prior to their 13th birthdays? (I left room there...neither one has yet turned 13.) Nope. I adore my kids and appreciate them tremendously, perhaps even more BECAUSE of their quirks.
They're smart kids. But, boy, they screw things up. And I'm totally OK with that. Because you know what? I'M ORDINARY, TOO! And you might be horrified that I wrote those words down because (God forbid) what if one of them READS THIS BLOG? Well, I say this: ordinary people make the world go 'round, kids.
Growing up, I thought I was going to be "somethin' special." I just KNEW I was going to make vast and sweeping changes in the world and be admired by all. But I didn't. I haven't. And, here's the thing: I WON'T. I'm an ordinary person living a regular life and someday I will die a perfectly plain death.
I'm JUST NOT THAT SPECIAL.
I'd love to think that my kids are going to grow up and cure cancer or invent a new kind of chewing gum but, in all reality, they are probably going to become much like myself or their father and they will live out plain ol' regular American lives. The truth is that they are unique and they are certainly special to me but, thus far, they are not outshining their peers in anything. They keep up, sure, but they're not smashing any records.
I love having ordinary kids.
- They can have whole days in our jammies. They are not (by ANY stretch of the imagination) overscheduled. I allow one, MAYBE two, activities at once. Thing 1 has opted not to have ANY activities currently and I'm perfectly OK with that. He has time to dream and to believe that he is anything but ordinary. I love that my kids have this SPACE to be kids and to just not do anything at all.
- They have no pressure. People should apply their own pressure. If YOUR kid wants to be the first medical doctor to live on Mars, then your kid should DEFINITELY go for it. I'm not going to force my kids to do things in order to make them more perfect, more socially acceptable or less ordinary. I have EXPOSED them to many things. I did require that they learn about sports at an early age. We have been to concerts. We have volunteered as a family. But, I want them to find their own way and they're not going to find it chasing MY dreams.
- They know they are loved. They know that they don't have to accomplish anything to "earn" my love. In this way, I hope they understand that's the joy of God's love...it's not something you can earn but something that's given freely and without condition. My love is TOTALLY FREE for them. I love them exactly the way they are and appreciate them for the beautiful, complex, irritating, and profound ways they impact my world. They don't have to earn straight A's (even though that would be easy and sooo nice sometimes) and they don't have to hit the winning run. They simply have to exist as Thing 1 and Thing 2.
- They can experience joy without restraint. Because there is no pressure and they know they are loved, they are fully free to find simple joy. They are not reaching for the next rung of success...they are already successful in their own rights. They can stop and know that THIS plate of spaghetti smells good and will make them feel full and, WOW, it's GOOD! I want them to find the joy in life's smaller moments. Don't wait to reach that goal to find your bliss. Find it now and find it here within the beauty of your own life.
So, kids, if you're reading this, I hope you know that I embrace your ordinary selves fully. I want nothing for you other than to be happy...but now that I think of it, that's a pretty extraordinary goal.
Thoughts? You KNOW you're horrified... :)
If you like my blog, share it. Or Like my FB page to get updates. Or subscribe to the e-mail list. Or make a comment below. If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings. I'm sensitive.