Hi Is This Normal?

My husband and I are both extremely motivated, successful and talented. I was an accomplished athlete growing up, my husband quickly picked up on languages and is fluent in several today –  we both, according to our parents, were “something special” right from the start.

Our son, and I feel terrible for saying it, doesn’t seem to have it. Or at least I’m scared that this might be the case. He doesn’t seem remotely interested in activities – painting, kicking a ball a round, etc. – yet doctors and our daycare assures us he is completely healthy.  He does like to play with his classmates and he’s a good eater  and sleeper – but we can’t help but wish he was something more. How ungrateful are we?! We have plenty of friends dealing with real problems, but this continues to keep me up at night. Is it normal to feel bummed I may have an average kid?

He’s Not Exactly Einstein


Dear He’s Not Exactly Einstein,

You know, I truly believe that one of the hardest things for parents to reconcile is that their kids are not just mini versions of themselves. Sure, genetics guarantees that our kids will have little pieces of us, from physical traits to personality quirks. But even though they’re made up of a little from column A and a little from column B, column C is pretty much a crapshoot! And it isn’t super fair, when you think about it (though I praise the higher powers that my tween didn’t get my cheeky attitude). I mean, we literally MADE them. We should get some say in who/how/what they are, right? Just, here you go, here’s your LIFE, it’s anybody’s guess from here on out! So rude.

But the fact of the matter is, you didn’t give birth to a mini version of yourself, or your husband, or even some hybrid of all the best parts of the both of you. You gave birth to your son – a wholly independent being, with his own genetic code and his own personality, and eventually, his own interests and strengths and weaknesses. He’s not you and he’s not your husband, and at some point you’ve got to let go of the expectation that he will be. Right now, you don’t know WHO he will be! You don’t mention how old he is, but it sounds like 3-5ish? He’s a little boy who eats well and sleeps well and likes to play with his classmates. He probably likes things other kids like, and has interests that are completely normal for a kid for his age. He sounds like a perfectly normal, healthy, developing kiddo. That’s amazing, and you and your husband are doing everything right! Seriously, pat yourselves on the back, because you are nailing this parenting thing in all the big ways.

I don’t think you’re ungrateful. I think you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourselves to live up to some set of standards you’ve convinced yourselves is ideal. And I absolutely, 100% get that and relate to that, as most parents can. We put an immense amount of pressure on ourselves every single day. This raising humans thing is no joke! But the standards for success we set for ourselves cannot be the same standards we expect our kids to achieve. That’s unfair, to them and to us. Kids should be happy. They should be healthy. They should have fun and feel safe and secure within their homes and their lives. Kids should be able to take risks and succeed and fail. They should be able to try as many new things as possible, to find the things that THEY love and enjoy. You say that you’re afraid your son “doesn’t seem to have it”. But there’s no way to know what he does or doesn’t have right now. We ALL have our things, the things that make us special and unique. Your son has it, too. He has a thing. HIS thing, that makes him extraordinary. And he has so many years to find it and nurture it and develop into the wonderful, special person he’s meant to be. Plus, who would have thought that a successful career could be a feed of selfies and witty-ish comments. YOU JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT THIS WORLD NEEDS. 

I may be totally off the mark here, but it sounds to me like you’re less concerned that he’s an average kid, and more concerned that you and your husband will be seen as “average” parents. But here’s the thing: if your son is happy and healthy and kind and compassionate, then you know what? He has EXTRAORDINARY parents. Let your son be who he’s going to be – there’s a little bit of nature and nurture, and you need to let that balance set in. Love him, support him, encourage him, and challenge him as he gets older. Stop focusing on all the things he ISN’T, and celebrate who he IS. We don’t get to decide who our kids grow up to be; we just get the immense pleasure of helping them along in their journey.

Average and Loving It,

Is This Normal

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