The narrative goes like this: Our modern world is not more dangerous than it was in the past. Crime is not more prevalent; our children are not in more danger of stranger abduction than they were years ago. What has changed, however, is the media saturation in which we find ourselves. We are steeped in 24-hour coverage of crime. We are constantly told about the scariest, most gripping stories and that changes how we perceive our world and how dangerous it feels. Media has reshaped our idea of what the world is like.
It got me thinking about a different side of media saturation recently. It seems as though every child in every movie or television is a tiny adult, some sort of prodigy or a genius. It is more entertaining to watch a child asking adult questions and having some amazing insight into character motivations. The news tells us story after wonderful story about a 5 year-old running a lemonade stand to help others. Those are fantastic, but we also need to remember that they are not the norm.
I feel that Seattle has its own twist to this. We are all looking for our child to be quirky and clever. Parents want his or her kid to live up to their unique name. We all want our little boys in guitar t-shirts and our girls wearing mismatching socks and tutus on the outside of their pants. We brag about how our preschoolers love when we read Dylan Thomas poetry to them at night. (That happened to me –I swear.) An interesting kid means that he or she has interesting parents. Boring means, well, you do the math on that one.
But what about embracing our boring, normal, white bread, old-school kids?
Here is what I promise to my kids. I promise to let you be dull. If you always want to go out of the house with matching boots, boring clothes sans guitars or drum pictures, that is fine with me. I promise to allow you to try different sports but I will never expect you to be astounding at them. I will allow you to dislike sushi until you’re older and I won’t be ashamed when you want to eat chicken nuggets at the vast majority of restaurants we visit. I will always let you be shy or quiet when you want to be. Your dad and I do not expect you to be a tiny genius, miniature adult or a guitar prodigy. Also, I will allow you to be selfish.
In real life, kids are selfish sometimes. That is OK. I’ll work to point out to you when I think you could do otherwise or how we can help others because that is my job. But I don’t expect you to always want to use your allowance in newsworthy or unselfish ways. I will jump for joy if you would like to run a cookie stand to raise money to help others. I swear, I will. But I don’t expect that. Most times, you’re going to want a Lego set. I get that and I think that I was the same when I was a kid.
I promise to love and embrace all of your regular kid-ness. I am constantly grateful for all of your spectacular, everyday, glorious, regular-ness. It has brought a ton of joy into my life. Thanks for just being who you are, boys. Someday, you might do something interesting or remarkable and that would be great but I’ll be happy if you just grow up to be nice, boring, happy and kind. It might not ever make the news but it would make your father and I extremely, spectacularly, remarkably proud.
Stephanie Olson is a mother of two boys who lives and writes in Seattle. She believes her golden rule in parenting, “Just wipe it off on your pants!” will be her epitaph someday. It has gotten us through pretty well thus far!