I was never the captain of a sport’s team. I was never top of the class. I was never the popular girl. I’ve never been the best at anything, I’ve always been alright, middle-level, average. It’s something that only bothers me sometimes; when looking at Instagrams that define #SquadGoals or that time I didn’t get the lead in the year six Christmas play (that I still know the lines for). Being average generally means being left behind and feeling a little bit forgotten.
It’s not the memory of this happening to me that bothers me though, it’s the fact that I can already see these attitudes being reflected on my Tiny Idiot.
She’s not flying ahead academically, she’s doing well and I’m endlessly proud of her. I find it amazing that after a year and a half in school she’s learnt so much. But it’s not as much as other children. Watching them be praised and rewarded (and listening to boastful mothers) while she misses out on another sticker or certificate is hard, I can see the hurt in her eyes when her name isn’t called out again. It breaks my heart to ever see that little girl sad.
The kids at the top of the class get rewarded for being so, the kids at the bottom get extra help and rewarded for when they do get something. But the middle kids tend to get a little bit forgotten and ignored, they plod along, working to the level expected, but rarely getting any praise. Of course children should be rewarded for understanding something, but when the children in the middle find themselves learning something new, being so proud and then finding no praise at the end of it, that’s not fair. For us it’s not just been reward charts either, being slower with her writing has meant she’s missed out on getting to do things she was excited to do – painting her Diwali candle mostly, which she was so excited to bring home. That just isn’t fair, she shouldn’t be punished for not understanding.
Of course academic ability isn’t the be all and end all in life. She is kind and caring and funny and loving. She makes every day better and brighter. That’s what’s more important when it comes down to it. There are so many different paths to take in life, they don’t all involve straight As, but being kind can take you a million places.
Also, average isn’t a bad thing. Being average means that you’re doing exactly what is expected of you, for your age and situation. Averages are average because they are the majority. If everybody excelled then that would be the new average. Yet even at the age of five children are being taught that being average isn’t good enough, being average doesn’t result in reaching the top of the behaviour chart or being named Star of the Week.
I know I’m not alone in feeling like this, I can’t be. There are thousands of children who are considered average, and thousands of parents who remember feeling that way themselves. Does anyone else ever feel the prickle of frustrated tears behind their eyes when their kid tells them something else they wanted to do but couldn’t?
I just have to ensure that she is never made to feel less than brilliant at home. I will tell her every day that she is perfect to me, that she is loved and amazing, that she is kind and beautiful and will never, ever be anything less than the best to me.
Remind your children how special they are, remind them that working hard at school is very important, but being kind, being caring and being themselves is a million times more so.