Let kids be kids: Stop with the bragging. (Plus book giveaway!)

August 25,2008
Skaddadle
Todd Lieman( )

Northern California is famous for a few things. We’ve got Lombard Street, Wine Country, famously liberal politics (for the most part) and Joe Montana. We’ve got beaches, forests, great skiing and views for days. There’s enough amazing stuff to make the cost of living seem reasonable (almost). But, what we are also known for – especially in the area where we live – is crazy parents who are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that their kids are all heads and shoulders above any others. And, while we all think our own kids are great, what’s with the incredible fascination to make our kids…adults?

There was an article in the local community magazine about a couple who started a fantastic cause to help teach kids about Global Warming. The article detailed how they got started and the effect the program has had in elementary schools, etc. The usual stuff. But the article also included quotes from second and third graders that were clearly not from the mouths of such babes. These quotes had clearly been cleaned up and enhanced for the magazine (heaven forbid our kids sound like kids, after all).

“I love Cool the Earth. It made me want to get involved. Once I heard the information, I said, “Mom, I want to help the earth by changing the lightbulbs and not wasting water.”

I just can’t imagine a kid saying, “…once I heard the information,” or “…it made me want to get involved.” Maybe I’m wrong, but those sorts of statements just seem adult. Not so kid-like. I don’t know, maybe the kid is already media trained. Perhaps that’s just one of the subjects being taught in today’s elementary school.

I know it’s probably not such a big deal to doctor a kid’s quote to make both the kids and the story sound better. (With such quotes it’s easier to say, “Look how important our cause is, and just look how dramatically our kids are being affected.”) My point is that I simply don’t understand the somewhat pathological need to make sure everyone thinks our kids are the best, brightest, smartest, most athletic, or now…most environmentally aware children on the planet.

K-Man is pretty smart. K-Man is fairly athletic. He’s tremendously coordinated, but he’s not the smartest, most athletic or even most coordinated. I’m fairly realistic about that. That’s not to say I won’t help him go after all of his dreams. But, I can be honest about what he can and can’t do. And, I’m pretty sure that when he’s in third grade, he won’t be giving media soundbites worthy of the most seasoned politicians.

It’s no secret that parents brag about their kids. It’s no secret that we’re all guilty of outlandish statements and hyperbole when describing our offspring. I just feel like it’s an unhealthy epidemic to brag and brag and brag. I feel like it puts unfair expectations on the little monsters. Kids can’t possibly measure up to the hype that most parents are creating for them.

When I see a kid doing something amazing, I’m the first to say, “Wow. K-Man wouldn’t do that – he’d just be too freaked.” I’m not suggesting that he’ll never be able to do the feat at hand, just that he can't do it now. It doesn’t make him any less special or any less perfect to me. But, I’m so very tired of conversations that go like this:

“How’s K-Man doing? What’s he up to?”
“Oh, the usual. Digging the fire trucks and playing his guitar.”
“Guitar? You should see Billy play his guitar. He’s already being scouted by Carlos Santana to sit in on his next recording session.”
“Isn’t Billy three years old, like K-Man?”
“Yes, but he’s very advanced for his age. He speaks seven languages, including Swahili…”

And so on. Let the kids be kids. The bragging thing is getting out of control.

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