Every single person on this planet has lived a unique and singular existence. Their experiences have not and cannot be experienced by anyone else and therefore are incredibly valuable, one might even say invaluable. In our great uniqueness we are all equally special and are therefore equally mundane. I wrote an article awhile back concerning how I intend to raise my daughter and, aside from the issues of social media and cell phones (which I may address someday) , what most people negatively identified with was the idea that I don’t want my daughter to feel unduly special. That, while, she is infinitely special to me, to the world she is merely another face, another set of numbers filed away without a name. She is no more or less worthy of life than the child that sits next to her in class. Not that I express it to her in such a blunt manner, she is eight years old, but through a series of subtle values.
I think many people interpreted this as me somehow informing my daughter that she will never accomplish anything and will be cursed with a life of mediocrity. I will refrain from addressing the loaded and multifaceted term of ‘mediocrity,’ and instead assure you, kind reader, that that is not the case. My intent is to encourage my daughter to define her own means of success and that the world does not, in fact, owe her anything. She has no more of a right to her desires than anyone else by sheer want of will, or even effort. She may peruse a dream all her life and find it is never antiquated, that she is never quite fulfilled. This is not to say she should not chase it, that it is not worth the journey, only that I would hope that when the end of her life inevitably comes, she would feel that she met her own standards of success and happiness; that, rather than regret and restlessness, she achieves a feeling of deep contentment as a human being. If she wants to be a brain surgeon someday she has my whole hearted support, I would be enormously proud of her, though no more proud of her than if she felt her life would be more fulfilled following a traditional family role.
There is a general sense of entitlement that underlies many social concepts of this day and age that perpetuates the idea that we all somehow deserve something, often at the expense of others. I would hope that my daughter would never feel she is more entitled to a certain life style than any other person simply by force of her want. Desire can only take a person so far, and if the only thing that drives you is a societal sense that you deserve something, it will be a hollow victory or a miserable, confusing defeat. If her heart takes her in the direction of invention or design, I hope she has the courage to pursue that want as much as, perhaps, the more controversial idea that a woman with options might still desire to stay at home with her children. What I want, above anything else, is her happiness. And that is not for me to dictate for her any more than it is of the society she lives in. I can guide her, encourage her strengths and help her to work on her weaknesses, but in the end the quality of her adult life and the satisfaction of her adult choices, are her responsibility and I will not be able to make her choices for her.
People from all walks of life are necessary to facilitate our society. We need the CEO as much as we need the brain surgeon, the nurse, the environmental specialist, the high school teacher and the stay at home mother. They all contribute to the success of our, admittedly, dwindling economy, and as evident by our shrinking middle class in contrast with our economic failures, you might say that the ‘mediocre’ are far more valuable than an elitist one percentile. What I wish for daughter is that, no matter what tax bracket she might find herself in one day, she feels no more necessary than those around her. That she might be proud of who she is, but retain a healthy sense of empathy and appreciation toward others.
My daughter is special. She is smart, in possession of a quick wit I am actually a little jealous of (and she’s only eight), an amazing thirst for knowledge and a sense of self possession I wish I’d had as a child. She was recently awarded the ‘Principles Award’ at school, meaning she’d maintained the best grades of all the students in her grade. I was, of course, incredibly proud of her, more so than I can accurately put into words. But, as we set off for home later that day, she said something that concerned me.
“I always get better grades than all my friends’ mom,” she told me proudly, smiling at me in a way that seemed a little too self-satisfied for my tastes. I wanted her to feel accomplished, but not at the expense of others.
“I’m very proud of you honey, but you shouldn’t go around feeling you’re better or smarter than your friends. That’s not very nice. I know you’re doing really well in school and I’m very, very proud of you, but I think it would be nice if you could help your friends get better grades too.”
She seemed to consider this for awhile before asking me what she could do to help her friends. I won’t go into detail here, it’s not really important to my over all point, but I will say that as proud of her grades as I was, I was equally proud to listen to her become excited by the idea of helping others. Because there will come a day, inevitably, where she will need the help and guidance of someone who is smarter and more successful than she, and I hope she is open minded and humble enough to learn and process, that she can always be a work in progress. I hope that she can always be open to new ideas and new ways of life.
My daughter is and should be exceptional to me and she always will be, no matter what path her life takes her down. But I know that she is no more deserving of life’s successes than the child across the street or one who is born into more difficult circumstances with fewer opportunities. That is one facet of myself I hope I can impart unto her in a manner which will not doom her to a life of socially perpetuated ‘mediocrity,’ but of one filled with personal satisfaction and an ever present understanding of her herself. Because the truth of the matter is, that at the end of this life, we all die alone faced with only the accumulation of our choices. I hope my daughter can look back on her life with pride and joy and be at peace with herself, and know that she was always incredible and profound to me.