One day, “my kid is so kind” will hopefully be as common as “my kid is so smart.”
Am I the only one that finds “being smart” an obsession in our current parenting culture? Your child has to be smart. Smarter than other kids for sure, and better yet, smarter than developmental standards. “My kid can stack five blocks, when she is only supposed to be stacking three….she is talking way ahead of her time…he is so good at drinking from a cup….our child knows so many signs”. This is a good thing, don’t get me wrong, and I love to see people celebrate milestones and boast their kids’ achievements. That is fine. I am saying let’s all decide not to worry about it so much and tone down the horse race. The pressure to be smart is so strong, where does it come from?
I would like to think we know that being smart gets you ahead in life, makes you successful, so we prioritize that with our children. But success includes a number of other factors such as commitment, creativity, kindness and passion that are more than just being smart. I can’t help but think its more about avoiding a stigma of our time- not being smart. Much like parents in the past have worked hard to avoid their societal stigma of having a child who couldn’t work on the farm, couldn’t get married, didn’t go to war, or was gay. “Heaven forbid I end up with any of those.”
But what does agreeing on this stigma say about our kids who are not smart, but are kind and caring or posses other valuable qualities?
Enter the book “Far From the Tree”, by ,Andrew Solomon a friend left at our house. He interviews hundreds of families that have children that are very much not like them, with identities such as down syndrome, physical disability, dwarfism, prodigy, etc. that are very different from their parents. In most cases the parents are living with a child they did not envision, and reality is different from their expectations. With this, of course, comes reflection on the standards we each set individually and as a society on what is good/bad, wonderful/horrible, or desirable/detested. It is a provoking read.
There is hope. I like the emphasis our culture has on sharing. Being bad on the playground is not acceptable. And bullying as acceptable behavior is on the run.
I gotta run, Boogie is getting up. But here is where I am at right now:
In the end, I want my daughter to be kind and compassionate. Do I want her to be smart? Hells yeah, and I will do all I can to help her. But at the end of the day, regardless of how smart she is, if she is kind to other people I will be overjoyed. Right now she hugs strangers and waves hi to squirrels. We reward that as much, if not more, than finishing a puzzle.
p.s. How many people will read this wondering if I have worries about how smart she is? If so, gotcha.
p.p.s. She is super smart by the way. Headed to the front of the class, top social click bound, spelling bee champ, future CEO, Nobel prize wearing, McArthur Genius grant grabbing type of kid.