I loved everything about Julie Surrat’s piece “In Praise of Mediocre Kids” except the title. “Mediocre” has such a pejorative connotation. But what she’s really preaching, and I agree with, is that we should celebrate those pursuits that make our kids happy even in the absence of extraordinary talent or achievement. No adult achieves at the highest levels with everything we try. And a student who throws her all into a subject or activity but doesn’t necessarily reach the top is just fine.
“It’s not easy to ignore societal pressure to push, push, push; to trust that our children will find their own way without our stepping in to be their street sweeper, snowplow, Zamboni, or whatever you want to call it. But here’s some perspective: Our parents didn’t sign us up for all the extras—in fact, they didn’t sign us up for much at all, instead booting us outside to make our own fun in the neighborhood. They were more concerned with whether we ate our vegetables than how many goals we scored (at a game they likely didn’t attend). And look how well we turned out. We don’t owe our success to private coaching and tutoring; we owe it to our intrinsic desire to be our best self. That’s what we need to focus on with our children: building their self-esteem; creating a safe environment where it’s okay to fail and okay to try again; and encouraging them to be nice, honest, and loyal. And, perhaps most important of all, embracing mediocrity.”