Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Above Average

"My kids are not your average kids..."

Doesn't everyone say that? Everyone's kids stretch them to the breaking point, push them to the limit and push every hot button that you own (and some you didn't even know you had)...Yet, you take them somewhere or send them to play at a friend's house and the friend's mom says, "Oh, Susie/Tommy is so polite and nice. He/she can come back anytime." And you stand there, slack-jawed, thinking, "My kid? Are you talking about this rapscallion?" All the while, you are holding your struggling kid by the arm, and gritting your teeth through your benign smile, as they try valiantly to not put their coat on and say, "Oh, thank you so much."

And, still, at the end of the day, you know, you could never deny them. Those are your kids. They have your eyes, your smile, your freckles, your faults and your flashes of genius and you love them. They are wonderful.

What is it about "my kids" that makes them so above average? Garrison Keillor announces at the end of his weekly monologue that Lake Woebegone is a place where "all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking and all the children are above average." Keillor has commented several times that Lake Woebegone is a fictional place that is designed to be somewhat like "Anytown, USA". It's supposed to be anywhere that you are and anyone whom you might know. And his statements and, now famous tag-line, point up the universality of his reflections. All parents think their kids are something special.

When I was a kid, my Mom was not a stage mother. She has totally become a stage grandmother. Seriously. Her grandchildren are the smartest, most beautiful, talented, creative children on the planet. Just ask her. Of course, her sister believes the same thing is true of her grandchildren, but, from a completely unbiased point of view (and I say this with no small amount of irony), MY mom is right.

I asked my mom why she wasn't more like that with us when we were kids. She told me she didn't want us to get big heads. I completely believe that. But actually, she told me, she'd talk about us to anyone who had ears to hear, outside of our earshot, of course. We always felt like we had to work a little harder to be better and I don't think that hurt us. We always strove for excellence and still do in our grown-up lives.

My husband's mother was different. She told her kids every day that they were the most special, talented, precious creatures that God put on the planet. Whether they earned those titles or not. It made them pretty unbreakable when it came to outside criticism. Critiques just fall off of them like water off a duck's back. They know that they are loved and wonderful. No matter what life hands them, they just get up and keep going.

My children have a mix of the two. I adore my children. I tell them often how much I love them and how smart and interesting and talented I think they are, but they have to work for my praise of the things that they do with their talents. My husband just adores them, he will still go into their rooms at night to watch their 13 and 16 year-old, giant bodies sleeping away and marvel at how spectacular they are, just like he did when they were babies.

And they are...spectacular, I mean. And above average, too. But isn't that the whole point of being individually created creatures of God? We are all wonderfully made and every one of us has something unique to offer the world. I guess that would make us all "above average."

Photo by starpuncher, found on Flickr.


  1. Being a "stage Grandma" is part of the "more fun" aspect of being a Grand Parent over being a Parent.
    My children WERE the best looking and the most talented and the smartest! And they still are!! Bar none.