Middle of the road child

I don’t have genius, prodigal children. Maybe I’m being a bad mum for saying that. But it’s true.

My kids are in the middle of the road. I am very thankful that we don’t need extra support. I know some families who would give anything to have their child tred a well-worn path.

But at the same time, we aren’t offered extension learning. Neither of my boys show extreme promise in sport, art, languages or music. There is no lack of passion for soccer or drawing, but I’m realistic about abilities.

So, you can rest assured, I’ll never be that mum who chews your ear off about my gifted children. And I actually think that’s a very good thing.

When I was in primary school I was squarely in the average category. I wasn’t a shining star and I wasn’t in need of extra help. It wasn’t until high school that I found my thing. The thing that I was better at then most of my peers. The thing that lit my fire.

For me it was debating. I still remember trying out in grade eight. It was just after learning that there was no part for me in the school musical. We had to talk for a couple of minutes on a set topic. Mine was, ironically, music. I comfortably presented for the requisite amount of time and when finished asked whether I’d given the talk before. I beamed. It was all completely off the cuff, but I’d been polished enough for the seniors in charge of selecting the team to think I’d rehearsed.

I made the debating team that year and every year thereafter. I often held the coveted third speaker position — where you had to think on your feet and talk without preparation. I loved it. I particularly loved it when our all girls team annihilated the arguments of certain stuck-up private school boys. Oh yes, the memory remains particularly sweet.

I still love public speaking, although I don’t get to do it so often.Thinking on my feet, challenging and probing are still enjoyable. I still rely on the confidence that I honed during my debating years.

But I didn’t discover it at eight years old. And there was no need to. Sometimes it feels like there is pressure for kids to succeed at such a young age. And why? We have all our lives to strive, I see no need for the golden years of achievement to start in primary school.

What I worry about is self-worth being wrapped in excelling in a particular area. Childhood is a world of development and development at different speeds. There are plenty of gifted children — those who have reached milestones, physical and mental achievements, before their peers. But where are all the gifted adults? There comes a time when it levels out. Very, very few adults work exclusively in their area of excellence and are exalted for it. And even then our sports and music stars can have short careers that ill prepare them for a more normal life.

Adutling is hard. It relies on a range of skills. Many of them more subtle that the ones we hold up and publicly praise in our children. Resilience, being kind in the face of unkindness, bravery, being articulate, integrity, emotional intelligence, the ability to inspire, ingenuity, the ability to quickly assess a situation, time management, empathy, and the list goes on. These are things we rely on daily to succeed in adult life and yet we dismiss as “soft skills”. In reality, how well these skills are learned will determine whether our children lead happy and fulfilling lives. So I will always spend more time with these skills than others.

I will always put kindness above sporting prowess. I will always hold being a sportsperson-like member of a team more important than being the best on the team. Loving learning more important than getting everything right. Joy in music more important than striving for perfection. The right-mind set can of course lead to excellence. In no way do I suggest these things are mutually exclusive, but in my mind the more important thing is always attitude.

When one of my little mates succeeds, I will be there in the front row, cheering them on. I adore it when my family and friend’s kids do well and are celebrated. And of course I love it when my boy receives an award or makes the team. These are the moments of childhood that make parent’s hearts swell with pride. The moments our kids look back on and smile.

But at the same time, when it feels like my child isn’t streaking ahead in any particular area, I resist feeling badly. Because I also support the plodders. The kids that fly under the radar, that do their best and stick to the middle of the road. After all, that’s probably the best kind of preparation for adulthood there is.


Are your kids plodders?
Does it ever get you down? 


Linking up with Kylie Purtell – Capturing Life and IBOT 

31 thoughts on “Middle of the road child

  1. Lydia C. Lee says:

    Not everyone can win, not everyone will win, but those who are happy with what they do, and how they do it is great. My daughter is still young enough to proudly tell everyone she swam 50 metres (not 25) at the swimming carnival and came second last. I like watching the adults confused faces…to her the 50 metres is an amazing achievement and coming second last is great. I’m sure that will get rubbed out, possibly by next year’s carnival but I’m hoping not…
    Lydia C. Lee recently posted…First of the Month Fiction – MarchMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      I love that – when kids are really proud of their achievements quite separate from what we might expect. I have a little friend who is so excited just to come second last. There is a beautiful innocence right there.

  2. Bec Senyard says:

    I agree with this Robyna. I do want to give my girls opportunities to try new things so they can work out what they do and don’t like. I also think it’s good for them to be involved in something like a sport or learning a new instrument so they can understand it takes commitment and hard work to achieve a new skill. I want my girls to be gifted with good manners and knowing how to talk kindly to others.
    Bec Senyard recently posted…My Homeware Purchase Regrets – All The Things I Regret Purchasing for my HouseMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      Definitely, and I think it’s extra important for those kids who seem to naturally get most things to try at something that they may have to put a little effort into. My husband tends not to bother with things unless he is immediately good at them, and I think that’s such a shame

      • Jane says:

        I was hoping they grew out of that, my son tends to think like that as well. It’s taken a while for him to understand that you can’t do everything immediately, some thing require a learning process

        • Robyna says:

          I am hopeful setting the right example might encourage my boys to try everything – even the things they don’t come easily.

  3. Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid says:

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. One of the things I didn’t like about primary school teaching was the constant pressure from parents and government standards, to perform. I think if you’ve got a gift and you’re good at something – that’s just magic – but I’m #teamplodder too. I think if we encouraged children to be better at being better humans rather than being better at stuff than other humans, adulting would be much easier and the world would be a much nicer place.
    Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid recently posted…Taking Stock – FebruaryMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      Better humans all the way! I think we should be as careful moulding our children’s characters as we are their knowledge.

    • Robyna says:

      I always avoided first speaker – we had an excellent one in any case – I never wanted to be first up! That was more nerve wracking then thinking on my feet. We should have a bloggers great debate 🙂

  4. Erika @ Ever-changing Life of a Mum says:

    Love this post and totally agree with everything you have said, particularly the need for children to discover their emotional intelligence. I was always a quiet achiever in school and found my passion for writing at a young age, but it was something I found myself, no pressure, no commitment, just my own curiosity and I think that’s very important. While I encourage my children own passions as they arise, I let them go at their own pace which also allows them to succeed at their own pace. #teamIBOT
    Erika @ Ever-changing Life of a Mum recently posted…More book reviews for different reading stages and agesMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      I think that’s so important – letting them discover their own passions within their own time. My little one LOVES soccer and even though he’s far from the best on the team, seeing his abilities grow is amazing.

  5. Cherie says:

    Beautiful post. As you well know Robyna, I have a plodder, fly under the radar kind of kid but his heart is so full of kindness and nurture, which I believe is his gifted talent and I think its pretty damn awesome. Here’s to middle of the road!! ?

    • Robyna says:

      I just watch him with little E and think that is a definitely a gracious talent – that will serve him so well in life.

  6. Tegan says:

    I think perhaps you may have misunderstood what a gifted child truly is. They don’t choose to be gifted, very often their parents aren’t the driving force behind them being gifted. It’s not a label that most parents take on lightly because gifted children often struggle relating to their peers, navigating their way through society and with ‘street smarts’. Having a gifted child is hard work as parents try to find the balance between academic and social.

    • Robyna says:

      I think gifted is used in a lot of different ways to describe children. I have friends with kids who are well beyond expectation and their peers academically, but not socially, which definitely causes issues. I have other friends who have a combination of children needing extra learning support and children who are exceptional at sport. That can be difficult as well. In absolutely no way was I disparaging the parents of children with exceptional abilities or suggesting that they are pushing their children to succeed. But to be perfectly honest, this post wasn’t written for those parents. It was written for the parents who seldom see their child recognised – because there can be difficulty there too.

  7. beck @ craftypjmum says:

    I am of the philosophy that each and every child is special and will find their own path in life. I too am happy that my boys traveled the well worn path of neither struggling or genius status also. As they have grown they have found their niche and excelled at what they love x

    • Robyna says:

      While I am sure that the highs and lows of having an exceptional talent teach kids something, I also think being middle of the road teaches kids important lessons as well. Just look at how many successful people didn’t do so well at school – it’s quite clear that excelling in a particular area as a kid is no guarantee of success as an adult. So glad that your boys are doing well as adults.

  8. Melinda says:

    My husband and I have been, academically, used to being at the more prestigious pointy end of the bell curve (hard to believe after reading my posts, I know), so it has taken quite the mental shift for us to recognise and be supportive of the fact that our children, at seven and four, have not displayed any genius or even above average type tendencies. Was it us? Have we not performed some critical and crucial learning activity? Did our kids watch TOO much Baby Einstein?? No.They are just kids. Very normal, average kids. And wonderful at it too. I can never remember any such pressure on myself at the same age.
    Melinda recently posted…Family Fun at the 9 Mile Cobb and Co CampgroundMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      You crack me up (and your writing is sensational so I’m not sure what you are talking about there). My kids are around the same age – eight and three – and I’m sure they will find their thing as they get older 🙂

  9. JF Gibson says:

    Nothing at all wrong with being middle of the road – especially in primary school. They will one day find what lights their fire, and it will happen naturally, when it’s supposed to. I think as long as they are happy and engaged that’s what’s important. And kindness and manners. That goes so much further than any star or gift in my book.
    JF Gibson recently posted…Don’t put all your eggs in one basketMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      Oh exactly – it’s ALL about kindness. It always makes me smile to see the kids rewarded on assembly for being particularly kind.

  10. Virginia says:

    I have just now read your post bit late sorry.
    I love the fact you feel this way about the boys, they are both magical and special in our eyes.
    Its not about being the first to the goal post it’s about the how you get there and what you learn along the way.
    The boys will grow up to be well grounded, productive and confident young men.

  11. Virginia Sliedrecht says:

    I have just now read your post bit late sorry.
    I love the fact you feel this way about the boys, they are both magical and special in our eyes.
    Its not about being the first to the goal post it’s about the how you get there and what you learn along the way.
    The boys will grow up to be well grounded, productive and confident young men.

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