First, Asher is feeling better! Not sure he’s 100%, or at least his appetite is still a little weak, but overall he feels much better. He hasn’t decided yet if he’ll swim this afternoon or not. (Still sleeping now- will see what he thinks in a while.) But by last night he seemed peppy and upright, which are all good signs.
Okay, onto the post.
So this morning when I woke up I was scrolling through Facebook, and I noticed that apparently many of my Facebook friends’ kids had some pretty successful Saturdays in their youth sports! My feed was full of pictures of kids holding medals, shooting hoops, videos of some very impressive youth gymnastic moves, I must say, other competitions and words like “1st place” and “so proud” and “champion”.
Now, this is all great! These are all people I know, to varying degrees. It’s great they all apparently did so well. I’m not saying these posts shouldn’t be on Facebook! I am guilty of it, too. I have certainly posted pictures before of my kids’ sporting events and shared about their (relative) successes, too, when they occur.
Maybe it’s because Asher was missing his big event this weekend, or maybe it’s because even if he were competing, I know he would not be setting any state records or “succeeding” at some crazy high level anyway, but for some reason, I had this momentary thought flash through my mind of… “Well, gee. I guess my kids are really pretty mediocre compared to some of this! What the heck?”
I know, I know- I know better than to fall into that stupid social media comparison trap! I KNOW. But, it got me for a second this morning! Darn it all, Mark.
I mean, my kids are great. They do a variety of activities and they are kind (usually, lol) and they do well in school and I love them to pieces. But they are not, I don’t know, “extraordinary” or anything. (No offense, kids, but it’s just true.) I hope that makes sense. They do well, maybe better than whatever they traditional “average” is in some things, but they are definitely not setting records or winning national spelling bees or even state or regional level competitions of any kind. Overall, they are not exactly standouts at anything.
Asher is probably the most competitive right now with swimming, and while he is definitely a strong swimmer and is certainly one of the best kids in his age group on his team, when you zoom out and line him up against thousands of other youth swimmers around the state and country, he suddenly doesn’t seem very fast anymore. lol.
Anyway, I am not saying that people shouldn’t post those things. I really do not think the answer is to like, suppress other people’s success so that not as “successful” people don’t feel bad. That rubs me wrong. Successes should be celebrated!
I guess I’m not sure what I’m saying. (Sorry, this is what happens when you have a non-monetized/ non-professional blog- you just write things off the top of your head, and they are not always fully thought out. 😆)
Maybe what I’m saying though is that…. not everyone NEEDS to be so successful? Or that we should just keep on loving our kids and our families and our people as they are– mediocre, successful, semi-successful or even an uncoordinated-but-lovable klutz. 🙂 We (talking to myself here) shouldn’t feel “bad” in any way about ourselves or our own kids’ successes or lack thereof, as if we somehow must have failed to parent them correctly if our kid doesn’t end up smiling on top of the podium at the state swim meet or (fill in the blank championship).
I mean, statistically speaking, many more people are mediocre in the world than are superstars. But my (imaginary) Facebook friend with the kid who missed 4 free throws in the game or fell off the balance beam probably didn’t post about that. 🙃 So it can be easy to feel like “everyone” is doing so amazing, because that’s all I’m really seeing. The old highlight reel.
It also all made me think of this one mom I know personally whose two kids seem almost on the other end of the spectrum- they both have a harder time in school, they are not particularly athletic at all, they don’t seem to really excel at anything right now (her words, not mine)…. and I think she struggles with this. Fortunately, I don’t think she’s on Facebook, which is probably a good thing.
I saw this post circulating online the other day, from Becoming Minimalist- maybe you saw it. But I really loved it.
“Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life. Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples, and pears. Show them how to cry when pets or people die. Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself.” – William Martin
Ugh, how perfect is that?! I just love it. “The extraordinary will take care of itself.” So good.
If you want more reading about a “mediocre life”, check out this post called “What if all I want is a mediocre life?” I think it’s a beautiful and thought-provoking post.
(Also, this post title “Sorry, Your Kid Isn’t Going Pro” is a fun read, too.)
I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the above!
I am grateful that Asher is feeling better!
17 thoughts on “Mediocre living?”
I think raising kind, well adjusted resilient children who are connected to their parents is fairly extraordinary. It is really all I am striving for as a parent. Although I know in our social media culture it’s hard not to compare, I honestly do not care much at all about these awards and accolades, they matter so little in the long run in terms of being a functional and happy adult.
You’re totally right about “they matter so little in the long run in terms of being a functional and happy adult”. I actually often think about this when I consider kids/teens who are extremely skilled at a sport. I often think, That’s awesome, but what’s next? I mean, presumably the child will continue to play the sport in college, which is neat, but then what? The odds of going “pro” in anything are SO small….so for the majority of even the super talented athletes, college is where they max out. And then after they graduate, they just become a regular, working adult like the rest of us, anyway! (Granted, with some amazing memories I’m sure- not saying it’s a waste, but just that in the long run, it kind of really doesn’t matter for 99.9% of the people how great they were at 15 in their sport.)
I totally agree and often they give up a lot too. I had a family member that was on the Olympic training team for speed skating as a teenager/ young adult and while he learned a lot from it and made a lot of amazing memories it actually set him back in terms of career goals and he felt he missed out on a lot socially and gave up on pursuing other interests when he was young because of it.
No one is that remarkable around here either 🙂 I celebrate their accomplishments and some kids are more talented in some things than others but no one in our home is going to the Olympics I am pretty confident 🙂
But as a mediocre runner i see lots or value in doing things anyway and celebrating hard work and participation! Which I know you do
PS: another reason social media sucks lol
Yes, absolutely agree that there is a ton of value in doing the activity anyway, even if you’ll never be one of the “elite great”!
This is why I am not on social media. Ha! But overall, this post is a good summary of why I HATED high school. I was terribly unathletic and if you weren’t good at sports in my tiny town, you were basically an outcast. My parents reminded me often that my skillset (being good at school and things like drama/speech/music) would be far more useful later in life. I was certainly not at all extraordinary at that point of my life. I feel very good about how my life turned out, though. But in high school I struggled big time with confidence and a lack of good, true friends.
I doubt either of my kids will be athletic. Phil was very athletic, so maybe one will be decent at sports. I can see Paul being more into things like chess. Time will tell. I’m just glad they will grow up in an area where sports aren’t the only area of focus like they were in my tiny, rural town!! It’s hard when you are not ‘traditionally’ successful!
And I totally agree with that quote!
I know, I thought of you yesterday when I was having these thoughts and how you went off social media! Like others have said, being great at sports is always admirable and exciting when kids are young, but you make a great point that those other skills are really more important, anyway! (in the long run/ life)
Yeah, I’m basically mediocre in every aspect of my life and I own that. I mostly want to be happy know that my loved ones love me, despite my many imperfections.
I also want to just chime in that social media makes us all think that everyone is doing so much better than they are. I have a friend whose daughter is a state-level cross country athlete (breaking school records as a sophomore) and they celebrate her achievements on social media, but I also know that she has an eating disorder and occasionally self harms, so it’s not all sunshine and roses, even though it looks like it is on social media!
Right, social media totally does not show the whole picture…. Also, in many cases, you don’t even know the context, either. Like say someone posts a picture of their kid who won first place in some event. Well, that would be extremely impressive if it were, say first place out of 400 people. Less impressive if there were only 3 people in the race. hahaha! 😉 (Still exciting and worth celebrating, but you know what I mean!)
I read this blog post about being average years ago and have since appreciated all of my averageness! https://andreadekker.com/average-is-awesome/
I don’t use social media or instagram and I think I would have the same thoughts you did – I think my kids are great and I’m so impressed with my two year olds linguistics but I bet if I as online I would find lots of two year olds even more verbal than her.
Also I was always told I was super smart and special and it was a long and somewhat painful process to find out I was just medium-smart normal. I wonder if it’s nicer to be medium smart normal from the start, or medium athletic normal, or medium anything normal…
I love that post! Thanks so much for sharing! And yes, absolutely spot on about your two old/ linguistics thing. There have been times that I felt my kids were doing something pretty remarkable, or were pretty darn good at something… only to later find out, yeah, no. They are still just average. haha! I also think I was kind of the same way. In elementary school I was in the “gifted and talented” program and was always told how I was so strong academically, etc…. But once I got to a huge university, I quickly realized I was very much middle of the pack smart. I do not feel exceptionally smart AT ALL anymore, which I think as you say, is kind of an adjustment to realize and process!
I think most of us are mediocre. Isn’t the definition of mediocre “average” and if so, basically if we are graded on a curve, I think most of us are supposed to get a C, right?
This article has some interesting points. https://hbr.org/2022/03/ask-an-expert-how-do-i-deal-with-being-average He talks about the “Pygmalion effect,” which posits that we rise to meet positive expectations, so that we should surround ourselves with people who encourage rather than discourage us. He also talks about how with hard work we can increase our chances of being better than average in some aspects of our lives.
So I guess my takeaway is that even though we are possibly doomed to be average in many or most things, I do think it is worth trying to better ourselves even so. That is why I personally like running and trying to just better myself, literally do better than I did last time, not better than someone else. That way I can still feel a sense of accomplishment, even though in the grand scheme of things I have not risen any higher on the list of all runners!
Yes, I think despite the fact that most of us will never be “exceptional”, it’s still totally worth it to work on bettering ourselves (at our level)! In fact, I think that’s the best part about things like running or swimming or other more
personal sports (or other non-sport activities, too). It’s not about winning the race or being “the best”, it’s just you vs you. I do try to emphasize that with the boys, too.
Thanks for sharing that post! It’s so good! I love that Carol Dweck quote at the end too about people’s true potential really being unknown and unknowable.
Like many of the other commenters, I strive for mediocrity. I have no interest in excelling in anything – truly. I have a (small) job I enjoy that gives me a sense of purpose, some hobbies, and a family I love. That’s wonderful and all I have wanted! I do think there is some benefit to setting goals and working toward something, but as I’ve written here before, that isn’t something that motivates me personally!
I do think that if you are a person who knows that social media impacts you in that way, it does make sense to limit it significantly! I see those posts and it really doesn’t even bother me at all. Good for those kids! I also 100% know that there is so, so much more to the story than what is posted anywhere. I also think that because I’m not an athlete myself, it’s just not something I even think about. One of my kids is in a few sports, but he’ll never be an all-star. I just want him to do a few things he enjoys! (and my non-athlete kids too!)
Someone above said it was a struggle to realize they were “normal smart” vs “exceptional smart” and I have seen that struggle with several of my friends who were valedictorians at my HS/went to very prestigious colleges/etc. I was glad to be average from the start 😛
Some of the comments here remind me of a book I was reading a few years ago: Midlife: a Philosophical Guide by Kieran Setiya. Setiya writes about what makes people feel fulfilled as they approach the last half of their lives, and he points out that Aristotle talks about there being telic and atelic activities in life. Telic activities are those with end goals (Telos is from the Greek for goal). Atelic activities are those that do not have end goals or finishing points. It’s kind of the difference between finishing a marathon and just running for the sake of running – living in the present vs. living for a goal. As applied to the concept of middle age, Setiya argues that atelic activities are more fulfilling because you are not pre-occupied with the end result, you don’t think about not living long enough to accomplish the goal or see something through to the end.
And even though I read the book as I turned 40, I realized that there is some value in encouraging my kids to embrace activities in an atelic way too. Like my daughter used to get so discouraged because she couldn’t swim as fast as other kids, and I just wanted to remind her to tune into how good it felt to move her body and exercise and get the exercise glow. Someone can always beat her time, but no one can take away exercise glow. (Of course there are things that do dictate an end result…. things like picking up their room, I guess. But even that… seems pretty pointless and without end point sometimes…)
I read somewhere that if something makes you feel bad 9 out of 10 times, you should stop doing that, which is me looking at FB, so I stopped. Unless I want to post pics of my trips with the family, I don’t have FB on my phone nor check it because I swear I always feel I am living a “boring” life compared to everybody else, which I know it’s so not true. But that’s what social media does to me, so I just stopped.
our kids are amazing in so many ways… not defined by one sport, one metric. I don’t want them to be successful in one thing and failure for the rest either, I prefer they be mediocrely okay in many things, and not super in any one in particular. let’s celebrate an ordinary life for our mediocre kids. hahaha…
Most people are mediocre/average and it’s totally fine. I definitely understand though what you’re talking about … the comparison game on social media is real, even if it’s pretty lopsided.
Here’s another great read regarding this topic: https://getpocket.com/explore/item/in-defense-of-being-average