Thursday, August 28, 2008

I need to tell you something about your kid.

They can't be whatever they want to be.

I know this goes against popular children's books, well-loved teachers, and "The More You Know" spots on NBC.

But despite my tongue-in-cheek statement otherwise, I am a firm believer in the limitations of kids (and adults, for that matter.)

I will never be a WNBA player or a runway model. I could play basketball for 14 hours a day, followed by fiercely strutting my stuff as I watched America's Next Top Model, and it wouldn't happen. Simple reason? I'm 5'2".

And I'm glad I was encouraged to build on my true skills and talents instead of following pipe dreams. By focusing on what I was actually equipped to do, I accomplished some pretty cool things as a kid. Primarily in the field of academics, which doesn't require height or coordination.

Those terrible singers on American Idol who are genuinely convinced they have talent? Many of their parents told them they could do anything. What a hard fall it is for them when they realize it's not true.

And this one goes against our academically-focused mindset in America, but here goes....

That kid in college who flunks out not because he didn't try but because his brain genuinely doesn't fit into the test-taking model? That guy might have succeeded if he'd followed his dream of working on cars instead of listening to his parents and going to college. He might be a homeowner, a mechanic living comfortably and working happily, instead of slaving away at McDonald's convinced that because he failed his tests, he can't succeed in life.

So let's encourage our kids to try new things, to experiment, and to set goals. Let's remind them that not being good at a subject doesn't mean they shouldn't give it their best shot. But above all, let's teach them to find the things they are both passionate about and naturally good at, and cheer them on as they become better at being...themselves.

Please, somebody give me a good lashing if you ever hear me tell my children they can do anything they want to do.

A tongue-lashing, that is. My petite, 5'2" frame couldn't handle a lashing of any other kind.


Lyndsay said...

My 5'3" self is saluting you and your post. While I think I will allow Kate to "try" anything she'd like to try, I'll never tell her that she CAN DO anything she'd like.

Dan & Hillary said...

I totally agree with you:-) If our kids are filled with Christ, God will use them in the way He intends.

Laurel said...

You have put a brave foot forward and so right on with this post. And, yes while realism is important, we can still encourage breaking the glass ceiling and believing in ourselves when others tell us we can't. The key and caveat (what society does not always address to young people)is in doing so, hard work and perseverance and sacrifice must follow.

What I saw in the years of teaching in the classroom, is that kids expect and demand to be what they want but don't think any effort on their part must accompany the desire. And you are right, they additionally do not take into account their limitations...but what's so sad is do not have the capability to acknowledge those limitations to begin with.

So, maybe more collective thought like your post will put back into society's psyche that doing what one feels lead to do is not always just because we want it, it takes thought beyond ourselves, setting goals and working hard.

beckiwithani said...

Are you saying Molly (who, at almost 20 months, is still taller than most 2 year olds, and has gained 4 pounds since her 18 month checkup) won't ever be an Olympic gymnast? I'm so disappointed.

Oh well, there's always softball. Or wrestling. Or rugby.


C. Beth said...

HA, Becki! Yes, I guess that's what I'm saying. However, Ana, who has gained ZERO pounds (but has gotten taller) since her 2 year appointment about 6 months ago, may be able to be a gymnast. Don't worry, though; if Molly's jealous she can probably beat the crap out of her. ;)

For those who don't know, Molly is almost 20 months old. Ana is a year older. So, Becki, how much does Molly weigh now? Ana's staying steady at 27 pounds.

beckiwithani said...

As of last Friday, she was 30 pounds on the hospital scale (!). She was clothed in a shirt, shorts, and sandals, though....

Becky said...

I can't bear to watch the initial episodes of American Idol for that very reason. I feel so awful for those kids, who are probably hearing for the first time - in front of millions of people, no less - that they sound like a dying cat. I don't think their parents were doing them any favors by encouraging them to pursue a singing career.

C. Beth said...

Laurel, I keep thinking about your comment and I really like what you had to say. While I think it's important to be honest about our limitations, I also think that we've got to teach our kids the value of just good, nose-to-the-grindstone, hard work. While I can't be a runway model, I also can't reach my true potential (in areas where I have skills) unless I really try. And I may never be an excellent basketball player, but that shouldn't stop me from having fun on the court, and trying to improve, if I feel like it. I know teaching high school students for lots of years gives you a unique perspective--may my kids be the ones that are always willing to work hard and never expect something to be given to them. That's a lofty goal, but I think I'll at least go for it!

LEstes65 said... I CAN'T be a tall leggy blond????

jcyc21 said...

Just wondering if you are noticing the total irony of the post that is directly before this one?

"Just remember, kiddies, you too can do anything if you put your mind to it and just keep trying."