Your friend rushes to your table and apologizes for being late to your monthly lunch date. “I’m so sorry.” She says. “I just got back from Max’s private cello lesson. He’s headed to Nationals next week.”
“Oh, wow. I didn’t even know he played cello.” You reply. “Isn’t soccer more his thing?”
Your friend nods and laughs in response to your question.
“Yeah, that’s his thing too. And football. Well, and I guess robotics.” Then she pauses to reflect.
“I guess it’s kind of funny to say aloud, but it’s almost like whatever he tries, he excels in. Sort of like, everything is kind of his thing.” Then she goes about ordering her drink.
You slide back in your chair with a smile on your face, but you can’t help but wonder how one kid can be so, so talented. Then your mind flashes to your seemingly ordinary kid who has quit the last three activities they have tried due to lack of talent or interest.
As the rest of your lunch continues, you begin to worry, “What happens if my child is never great at anything? I mean, when is my child going to find their thing?”
That thought lingers in your head for the rest of lunch and into your afternoon.
When is my child going to find their thing?
If we’re honest, I think it’s a question most parents have asked themselves at one time or another. I know I have. And if I’m even more honest, I’ve asked it about my children before they were even old enough to know what sports or a musical instrument was.
Yes, that’s right. I began pondering what their future talent would be before they were even old enough to know what talent was. Because we all assume that our child will be talented at something. And it’s our job to help them find it, right?
So the cycle begins.
We ask them to pick an activity they are interested in and they do. We begin to see their interest growing so we happily invest our time and money in the direction of this new hobby. As we begin to see them improving, we wonder if this is going to be the thing that lands them on the next season of America’s Got Talent or if nothing less, the thing that gets them a full-ride to the college of their dreams? Of course we don’t realize we’ve had these thoughts until we hear our child telling us they’re no longer interested in playing piano. And then we’re crushed.
So we move on to the next activity and the cycle begins again. Except this time we find that they really DO love Karate, but it just so happens that they have absolutely NO natural talent in it. So we invest our time and energy to watch other kids around our child excel while our kid falls over every time they try and do a front kick. But they’re happy. So we continue.
But while we know it really shouldn’t matter if they are good, we can’t help but feel both external and internal pressure that they need to find something they excel at. I mean, “Is being happy enough?” We know the answer should be yes, but this worry isn’t diminished when we see other children rising to the supercharged expectations that come with kids’ extracurricular activities nowadays.
I mean, let’s be honest. Swimming by age 5 no longer stands out, it’s getting a child to know breast stroke, backstroke and butterfly too. Competitive cheerleading is not about a cartwheel or simple cheer routine, it’s about standing back tucks and tumbling before you even know how to read. And music, it’s no longer enough to learn piano and perform a song, but are you dynamic enough to have your own YouTube Channel with 100k followers by the age of 10?
Okay, yes. I may be exaggerating slightly. But sadly, some of these realities are not as farfetched as I would like to believe. And the worst part about this is, when we see the rare kids that are able to rise to this level of ability, we begin to question what is keeping our poor child from doing so also. And then of course, we begin to doubt ourselves as parents too.
But here’s what we have to remember when we find ourselves wondering, “Is my kid just ordinary at everything?”
Most of us are ordinary. And that’s an extraordinary thing.
Most of us reading this were not the ‘United States Chess Champion of 1996.’ Or the ‘Little Miss Cello Prodigy of Bonner Springs Music Festival.’ Or the recipient of a full ride to play football at Alabama in 2000. Or offered the ‘Computer Programming Genius Award’ from Computers of America in blah, blah, blah.
And for those of us who were, most of the time no one can tell the difference in us now. I didn’t know my neighbor got drafted to the minor leagues until I saw him playing baseball with my son. Nor do I know if one of my other friends who is the owner of a mega successful start-up company was the outcast nerd at school that wasn’t good at anything until she blossomed in college.
Personally, I don’t recollect being a superstar at anything when I was young; instead I remember being mildly good at a few things. I guess you could call me ordinary. Because I was the girl that bounced from girl scouts to gymnastics to piano to dance to softball to tennis to track to student council…and my childhood did not leave me feeling unfulfilled or lacking.
Instead, I have the BEST memories of a childhood that lacked undue pressure and was full of happiness and play. Not playing piano every day to be a piano prodigy or playing softball incessantly so I would be a superstar athlete, no I just mean, I remember playing for fun.
And I am grateful my parents let me do so. (And seriously, I am forever grateful my parents let me quit piano because I was T E R R I B L E.) And I don’t think not being good at those things has held me back from being successful in my life now.
So I guess I write all of this to ask you,
“So what happens if your kid isn’t good at anything?
What if your worries are true and they are JUST average or ordinary at many different things?”
I guess my answer for you would be the same as it is for me.
Good for them. And good for you.
Because extraordinary moments are found in the most ordinary of people.
Quinn is a wife, mother, blogger and marriage and family therapist. 99% of her time is spent keeping her four boys alive and the other 1% is spent writing about their crazy times in her blog Sanctification and Spitup which is also found on Facebook and Instagram.
93 thoughts on “Help! My Kid is Not Good at Anything.”
I do not live in the U.S. and it had allways seems to me that the extra-curricular activities and over preassure Americans put into children and is a little bit excessive but, let me tell you that my parents did quite the same while raising me, and that is why i dare to tell you that for me (a girl that was excelent at almost everything) the future was not that easy, I think I would have rather been an ordinary kid. Now I tend to care a excessively about the opinion of my bosses and other people, and i am never happy with the result of anything i do… To sum up… What i am trying to tell you is that kids that are recognised for their golden medals do not know how to live without them so, they grow with a terrible fear of faliure and suffer a lot of insecurities in the path of life…
Hope it helps… It was nice to read you…
Very good reminders in a culture that’s often obsessed with performance. Thank you for your witness.
I’m 41 and I’m still trying to figure out what I’m good at. I have four kids. Two were complete nerds and sports always ended in tears. Then the other two can dance and play sports well but academics is not their thing. We just have fun. I try to stay encouraging even as the tennis balls go flying past their heads. I’m just glad that I am not alone with my thinking.
I feel like this post really sheds light on keeping expectations realistic. Not everyone is going to be the number one at everything, and I think some people don’t want to admit to it. It seems hard on the kids too. I know plenty of other people who seem disappointed in themselves because they’re “just average” because everything is about being the best, and when you’re not the best, it’s not cool, or you’re not good. I feel that is a struggle with the younger generations, if they can’t be the best, they don’t want to be a part.
Great advice. Its good that you are worry about your child. However, i am sure your child will do great things in the future, with a great mum like you. Everyone was once ordinary, and through trial, errors, and tribulations, we all somehow manage to discover ourselves. Most important part to note, is to be really honest with yourself. Not only for the pursuit of being a successful person, but to be extremely comfortable with yourself, and only then one would dare to explore anything in life. Thank you for such a lovely piece of writing. Great stuff.
This makes me think of an opposing problem of being talented, or “good” at various things and then having issues narrowing it down. I live off the mantra “life in balance” and that’s seemed to work quite well. It seems you’re having a great time being a mother. Thanks for sharing.
Gosh you’re so true. Thank you for sharing. I guess I am now in the middle of the situation of where people are not normal being around normal people. I’ll make sure that they will read about your piece of work.
Thanks for sharing
For additional references, you can read 7 habits and 3rd alternatives books of steven covey, may be we can separate between our hopea as a parents and he/she’s hope as a child
Perfectly ordinary is always good enough :)
I am so glad and relieved I came across your blog. Lately, I’ve been struggling with these feelings about my 10 year old daughter. She did competitive gymnastics from age 3-9 and since quitting, she doesn’t seem like she is good at anything. She was good at gymnastics but not super great or tons better than the girls she was competing against. What makes it worse is her friend in school does seem to one of those kids who excel at all she does. So if it’s very frustrating for me. I’m so relieved to see that I am not the only mom with these thoughts and that it is okay if my kid is ordinary.
The kid can get better at stuff with practice. We all do.
I loved this story. will follow to read more. Thank you for this.
Great post and indeed the need of hour. Everyone is in a race right now and if you don’t win it, you r doomed for life. Childhood is a time for kids to live with freedom and enjoy. Hope everyone gets the message conveyed here
Hey! Your kids are good at being themselves – their own unique little selves. And the kids who merge with the walls in school/life don’t have the stress of having to perform as adults and in this blissful state land up becoming the most successful. I should know because I grew up being good at so many things that now I’m good at NOTHING!
Meanwhile, for many, ordinary life continues.
As a mother you have to be responsible and patient,,
I find your topic really interesting because it really catches the eye of the reader.
Loved reading this article. And I so agree with you. All I want for my kids is for them to be able to look back at their childhood and think: “How happy I was, how much did we play and have fun!!!” I don’t want them to struggle achieving some milestones. I just want to see them with a fullfilled smile on their faces! Thank you!
Every blessing will come upon us and every talent will be revealed to us in the Lord’s good time.
Have faith, be patient :) Christ’s Will is perfect. Whatever talents your children have inside of them, He will use them to better yourselves and many others. He Loves us more than we can ever understand.
God Bless you, Quinn, & your family & friends.
I love this. I have 4 kids. Each of them are special in their own ways. My oldest is seriously a genius, shes 7 and reads at like a uth grade level and does 5th grade math. She is just really excelling in anything acedemically. But she is socailly awkward and has a hrd time making friends her age. My 6 year old is the sweetest little girl, takes care of her friends, looks out for her cousin at school but when she is set off there is no stopping a massive tantrum. My 4 year old is an amazing little artist but he also colors all over my house, the walls, doors and everything. My 16 month is special needa but he is still so smart. He is nonverbal and can navigate almost any electronic at 16 months. Every kid has their positives and negatives. Sometimes kids are good at things that are just unrecognizable by others.
I could not agree more. My parents encouraged me to try everything, and I always enjoyed the variety of life. I was a jack of all trades and a master of none. But I was also, well-rounded. It’s a life skill.
Excellent post. My sons are all grown up now but I can certainly relate to these feelings thoughts and reflections.
Part of the joy of childhood is that of discovering and trying new things …even if one is not particularly good at them. Its fun to try things out. One of my sons played a different instrument every year of grade school, and was not particularly good at them. He played a different sport each season, each year, mostly for enjoyment and comraderie.
We all know those adults who were child prodigies at something and then as adults they end up either hating that activity or just dropping it completely.
Excellent. In the world we are living in today, so much exposure to media is making thibgs worst. Thanks for a great prospective
Made me think of alan watts
I loved reading this post. I have raised 5 children of our own and helped with foster children. All were ordinary. I love the way they have turned out.
I know a lot of people who excelled at certain things when they were children, and they are living mediocre lives now. I also know some people who failed at everything and are living impressive lives now. I guess it doesn’t really matter if your child is the next child prodigy or a genius, as long as they are happy with who they are. And besides, with those kids that are seemingly perfect at everything, did you personally see them excel at everything, or are you going based on what that kid’s mom says about him/her. Not all parents see their kids for who they are, some have rose colored glasses on and see their kid as excellent at something when in reality that kid is mediocre. For example, my ex-husband thought his daughter (from his first failed marriage) was a great artist, great singer, and great guitar player. He paid for lessons, and always bragged about how great she was at all those things. In reality, she drew lopsided stick figures, couldn’t hit a single note, and was horrible at guitar.
This post resonated with me.
I was a dorky and horribly uncoordinated child. It got to the point where women in our church would ask my mom “What are you going to do with Drew?”
Eventually something clicked. Can’t say exactly what it was, but I got athletic and became captain of our wrestling team. I’m still a nerd studying Computer Science, but I’ve gained a lot of other skills and confidence since those days of everyone being worried about me.
Thanks for sharing this great article on an issue of concern for most of us parents. At what age in life do children discover their thing? Some indeed start to play the violin or tennis at the age of five and achieve unreal mastery. Others are still searching in their late teens and beyond.
According to Spinoza, there are six possible pursuits in life: fame, fortune, happiness, knowledge. love & wealth. Only three of these are worthwhile.
This one is seriously thought provoking!!!
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Reblogged this on Megha's World and commented:
Reblogging this…cause being a mom every word of this post resonates with me. Thanks a zillion for writing this.
Thank you for sharing!!
You are most welcome.Very practical post.
It is always difficult to find the right balance between pressure and encouragement. In my opinion, it is important to give our children free time and space but also important to put goals ahead of them and gentle pressure say to do the music practice because we know at the end what the benefits will be to them, whereas the child does not, and let’s face it we would all rather just please ourselves. What sort of people would we be if we just did everything for our own pleasure? However working towards something and being encouraged to enjoy that is very important too, more important than pressure which makes a child feel a failure because they have not reached a goal that is set too high.
I really like this. I think that as long as we raise our kids to know the value of hard work, and to know the value of having fun, they’ll be happy. I’d rather they were happy and rich, but I guess that’s my own perception of success. My daughter is a woeful ballet dancer, but she enjoys it and so I pay for it, attend the shows, wince a lot.. my point is- it makes her happy, hobbies are for fun. Well written 😊
I love this post x
I am ordinary too…thanks for showing me that extraordinary thing about me.😊
As long as we raise happy, kind, caring and moral kids I think we can be proud of them and ourselves! We have to keep life in perspective and celebrate the little things that our children can accomplish. While it would be great if every child succeeded at everything they did, it is not true for most. Bravo to you! Ordinary is extraordinary, especially in the fast paced world we live in today. I’m afraid that many kids will be burned out by adulthood with the schedules parent keep for them these days. We all need to slow down and savor the moment of childhood. After all it really is just a flash of a moment in time.
As a concerned parent I will not talk to my kids. I would not tell my tell my children they are not good at anything
This will sound weird, but I can give you a perspective from someone who was once an extraordinary kid.
I always had straight A’s. Easily. I memorized chapters in 3-4 minutes. I still do. I retain incredible amount of information. I competitively danced ballroom.
My friend told me exact thing your friend said; “Aldina how do you do it? How do you stay focused. Everything you do, you do until you are best.”
I couldnt explain. It just came naturally to me. But as I grew up I changed. I noticed how good I was. And then fear appeared and I would self sabotage due to it. Also it is kind of hard to stay interested once there is no challange. Once you know you are going to anyways be best at it.
So in large picture, it doesnt matter. Most of my “worse performing” friends caught up. i still excel at things I give my attention to, but it is not that big of a deal as you imagine.
Sometimes being normal is the best thing you can be.
I really really love the ending of this. Extraordinary is found in the most ordinary moments. We miss out a lot on these special amazing moments because we are too busy chasing extraordinary which is sad.
This is seriously just amazing and so relatable
A wonderful message to many parents…
Great read! I have two that excel at some things and stink at other things and one that hasn’t found his thing by DragonMother standards but I think his thing is being a loving, soft-hearted, animal loving, fact memorizing, video game playing wonderboy and that’s okay with me. He’s pretty special even without excelling at any of the things other kids seem to be great at by 9 years old. I don’t think the world could handle him if he was great at soccer or karate or swimming too.
Love your perspective, so uplifting on a topic not often touched upon!
Great post. An escape from the epic syndrome.
Actually I am too.. Ordinary.. Thanks for sharing ur story. And plz be patient and happy while carrying ur child.
I thought that only indian parents were obsessed with making their kids extraordinary.
Its a universal phenomena.
We should celebrate life.
Its what I have tried to portray this idea in my blog, Indishe
Amazing write up. An eye opener to many parents.
Beautifully comcieved and the emotional intensity had me nodding my head at every sayso. Its to celebrate our ordinary nature, rather than shunning it. Great work darling xx
Have a nice day!
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