Parenting Goal: Raise Two Happy Average Generalists (HAGs)

28 Mar

You read that right.  I want to raise two HAGs.  Happy Average Generalists.   Happy.  Average.  Generalists.   This is my parenting goal.

I’m going public with this goal (and seemingly odd acronym) now because it has come up several times with other parent friends of mine in our chats about the challenge of raising kids, the pressures on them at far too young of ages, our crazy over scheduled lives, and the over stressed peers our kids have with parents who seem only to feed into it all.

As a parent living in the backlash of the Millennial generation of helicopter parents raising kids where “Everyone Gets a Trophy” and teachers fear the critique they’ll get from daring to give a student an A, not an A+, I sincerely hope my generation of parents can do things a little differently and adjust and ratchet it all back a bit.

I hope I’m not alone as a parent who most desperately wants her two daughters to be HAPPY.

Not a prodigy in anything really.  Just confident and comfortable with who they are, undertaking those things that give them joy and smiles, not that might get them a college scholarship or a place on an Olympic team (and a whole lot of stress and pressure to boot).

At our house, school and homework is important, of course, but so are play and imagination and creativity – and candidly – veg time in front of the TV or downtime with a computer game when their minds are only focused on what to dress their digital animated Barbie in or what’s happening on ANT Farm.

We have our share of extra curriculars, of course.  But so far, my girls are a bit like their Mama: dabblers, generalists.  And honestly, average at best in their skills and abilities.  We aren’t seeing any glimmers of unique, exceptional talents.  And that’s AOK by me.  It’s honestly preferred.  Average Generalists.  Happy ones!

I feel this way for two reasons.

First, from working with a generation so driven and ambitious, so singularly focused, perhaps also a bit entitled and just a bit of a challenge for bosses and managers.  (for more, read: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wait-but-why/generation-y-unhappy_b_3930620.html  BOY do I know Lucy!)  Millennials come by this naturally, they were raised by helicopter parents who wanted and accepted only the very best for them.  Seems like the absolute spot-on approach to parenting, right?

Nope.  This approach disserved those kids.  With them never hearing no, never feeling they weren’t absolutely fantastic, they never:

  • Knew failure, felt defeat, thought about why they didn’t do well in a sport or on a test, and then accept it, be OK with it, brush it off and move on
  • Acknowledged and realized not everyone can be great in everything, and some things you so deeply want to do may just not happen, or may be such a struggle it’s not worth pursuing for the pain.
  • Felt disappointment in their own shortcoming but at the same time celebrated the friend who beat them, were proud of and happy for that peer, not jealous or resentful.

These are all critical life skills.  Sometimes experiences and moments that will break your heart watching your child go through them, but will make them stronger later.

The second reason I’m so pro Happy Average Generalist is, turns out, I was an Early Pioneer HAG.  Whether because of me, or my Mom, or likely a combination, in my childhood, I dabbled.  I played piano, flute, piccolo, tuba (true dat!), none exceptionally well.  I took classes in pottery, weaving, puppet making, cooking, painting, even Mime – yes Mime.  I was OK at all, not bad, but surely not great.  I was a 4th grader a full foot taller than my 1st grade peers in a beginners ballet class.  And I saw that class through, all the way to the Lotus Blossom recital where I’m certain my mile high long lanky legs compared to my tiny classmates was comedy for the audience.  I was a cheerleader only in the 6th grade because it was the year they did try outs based on grades.  I played on the 7th grade volleyball team when I was in the 8th grade because they needed a sub on the bench.  And though I was president of the student council in 8th grade, when I moved to a brand new city and high school, I ran for student council every year, and lost, not getting voted in until my Senior year.

I’m sure sometimes these experiences, and being so average, never excelling, brought on tears from me and a broken heart from my Mom.  But I think they all contributed to raising me to be extremely (almost to a fault, some might say!) confident and comfortable with who I am – goods and bads.  I take on things that give me joy.  I’m happy.  I’m a HAG.

With 9 year old and 5 year old aspiring HAGs of my own now, I’m sharing these thoughts to see if other parents agree with this approach, if maybe we can all give our kids a break and cut ourselves some slack and ease up on this Millennial Generation path we might still be taking.

My timing for this reflection is triggered because this very week, my oldest dropped out of Hip Hop because her schedule would make her miss several classes, which wouldn’t be fair to her classmates when it came to recital time.  And after 9 months of lessons, she also quit piano because her kind, insightful teacher coached her out, seeing it just wasn’t in her heart, and she wasn’t improving.  But the same 9 year old celebrated 2 kickball team wins in a row after a season last year where her team had only 1 win the entire season.  Some defeats, some victories.  That’s life right?

Both girls brought home report cards this week where they improved in some things, and went down slightly in others.  Overall, great report cards we are very proud of.  But we didn’t excessively celebrate them, nor challenge the teachers on any of their decisions about our daughter’s performances.  And we certainly didn’t give out any trophies!

So, what do you think?  Do you think my husband and I are hurting – or helping – our girls by not pushing them to be prodigies in anything at all, and rather hoping they are simply Happy Average Generalists?

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