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In Praise of Average

Photograph by Getty Images

It's tough out there for a regular parent.

Have you noticed?

There are books you should be reading about how to get your kids into Ivy League schools. There are organic vegetables you should be growing in your own backyard because, you know, pesticides. And then there are the classes and camps, which you should be applying for in the dead of winter because ... well, why exactly?

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I've watched the headlines and even read some of the books for years now, and as much as I can appreciate the desire that we all have to do the best for our kids, I think we're missing the boat.

I mean, hey, if you've got one kid (or maybe even two) and you can keep up with the all-natural lunches and yoga classes and Chinese lessons, then more power to you. I suppose statistically speaking they should be better off, at least academically or in the future job market when they're working 20 years from now.

They will have that special lunch you made them, and maybe the kale smoothie, for that high-powered Wall Street job. (No offense to kale smoothies.)

But I've got four kids, which I'm not trying to throw in your face or anything because there's a good chance your vagina is in waaaay better shape than mine (congrats!), but I can't keep up. Like I physically and emotionally cannot keep up with everything that seems to be required to raise normal kids.

Who would dare to be an average parent to her children?

I enjoy my sleep. I enjoy quiet every now and then. I enjoy not being in the car driving them all over town. I also like having a life.

These days, normal children somehow require way beyond any level of average parenting. Average is now bad. VERY BAD. Who would dare to be an average parent to her children?

But lately, I'm feeling like being an average parent is exactly what my kids need. It's not like my kids are eating Ding-Dongs and Ho Hos for breakfast. Well, at least not every day. OK, seriously, not ever.

That was average parenting back when our parents were kids.

Average parenting today is like one activity, if that, after school. It's sometimes buying a lunch and sometimes having a homemade one, which would include a sandwich and lots of plastic bags that ruin the earth. It's probably watching a little more television and playing more video games than is recommended by the AAP.

But here's the catch:

The parents are happier. The kids are happier. Everyone is happier.

Now I get that just because your kids are involved in 400 activities doesn't mean you and they aren't happy. Maybe you get a ton of sleep and have date nights with your spouses. Maybe your kids really love every single activity that they're doing.

But if it didn't matter in the long run, if all the crap you're doing and feeding them and worrying about didn't actually matter, would you still do it?

Instead of spending all that time, energy, and money on what we think might be best for our kids, why not do what is known to be best for our kids? Be a loving, happy parent who listens and accepts your kids' feelings and supports who they are without judgment.

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Yes, it's quite possible that the organic diet and the specialized classes will give them the extra edge to be successful. But who knows if it will actually make them happy, which is what I'm pretty sure most of us really want for our kids anyway.

The quality time with an engaged parent who is fulfilled, rested and happy—well, that's a better start than anything else you can sign them up for. Take all that other stuff away and you might just seem like an average parent. But I'd wager a guess that your kids will not be average at all.

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