I’m Likely Raising an Average Kid and That’s Exactly What I Want

Baby laying on grass in park

I want my child to be average. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t want my child to struggle or be unhappy. I think we’re too quick to attach a negative meaning to the word “average.” We assume that to be average is to live a substandard life in some way when that’s not the case at all.

I do have dreams about my kid being wildly successful and happy and amazingly talented at everything he attempts (of course), but my goal as a parent is to give him permission to be, simply, average.

My husband recently said to me, “I want to be okay with Ben being mediocre, because the odds are that he will be.”

That may sound pretty cynical, but he meant it in a purely mathematical way. The odds of our son being a genius or a professional athlete (or both, as my husband dreams of) are pretty low. It’s much more likely that he will be of average ability – it’s just simple statistics.

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More than that, my husband had realized something important about his expectations for Ben: they were more about him feeling successful as a parent than about what was best for our son.

As a parent, I want to do everything I can to help my child be successful, but I also want to be aware of the messages that I’m sending. He should be free to define achievement on his own terms, rather than basing his successes or failures on my expectations for him.

Before having Ben, I worked as a mental health counselor. In talking with clients, I became acutely aware of language’s effect on our emotions. Even subtle shifts in the way that we talk to ourselves and to each other can have a major impact on the way we think and feel about things.

For instance, whenever someone asks me, “Is Ben doing _______ yet?” (fill in the blank with any sort of developmental activity), I automatically have an emotional reaction.

If the answer is yes (“Yes, he is crawling!”), then I feel pride and relief. (“Whew, he’s doing well, which means I’m a good parent!”) If the answer is no (“No, he hasn’t started talking yet”), I feel a mixture of anxiety and guilt. (“Is everything okay with him? Have I done something wrong?”)

This is typically a brief, temporary shift in my emotions, so I’m not too bothered by it. However, what if I get asked these questions over and over? The accumulation of small emotional dips can add up to a big concern over time, even when there’s no need for it.

(To this point, when Ben is old enough to understand these types of questions, how will they impact him?…

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