The Cult of Mediocrity


I recently watched the Pixar classic The Incredibles for the four hundredth time last week and while the credits were rolling I received an interesting comment from my slightly more observant than usual four-year old. “Why do they celebrate when Dash doesn’t win?” What you might be saying to yourself right now is how many computer animated movies can one woman watch without qualifying as both annoying and juvenile? Answer, threshold about 1000, which I am well past by now. There’s a scene in there that sums up the flick quite nicely in a shiny bow wrapped package.
“When everybody’s special, then no one will be”.
How many times have I found myself cheering on one of my three at a sport they don’t excel at while they fumble around and otherwise destroy what could have been a perfectly good game? How many times have I enthusiastically screamed “good job!” when presented with a jumbled swirling mess that clearly did not represent their best efforts? The depressing answer is far too often.  I’m not one of these soul crushing critics that voice their concerns about the need for improvement in various areas but I might just take it a little too far in the other direction. The proper foundations for massive failure are laid pretty early on in life and the more confident a kid is the better off they probably are in the long run but how much is too much? You can’t start telling your two-year old that his prospects don’t look too good or he’ll be hanging out in front of the 7/11 all day making dubious calls on his prepaid cell phone in no time.

The future.

Perhaps my negative perception of this whole idea of “I’m okay, you’re okay” is colored by the privileges I’ve had. I was smart, not a behavior problem in school and had nice similarly intelligent peers. I was never saddled with large or fine motor issues, dyslexia, crippling shyness, sensory problems or parents that were too busy. I was the center of attention at my home and pampered like a delicate princess with brittle bone syndrome. In other words, I freaking had it all. Sometimes I think I could have benefitted from some real adversity or obstacle I had to find a way to vault over, as it clearly builds character and a real understanding that the world doesn’t always work the way you want it too. I watch my three negotiate difficult and uncomfortable situations every day that would have made me fall completely apart at the same age.  I try to imagine myself subjected to hours of rigorous tutoring and skill building sessions instead of running and playing in my neighborhood after school and know that after drowning in a puddle of my own tears I would have lost all hope and given up. Not my three.  I’m not sure where they inherited their tenacity or never say die attitudes  or why they apply this fierce determination to the most difficult of tasks- instead of say for instance putting on their clothes before school- but it’s not from me. Like the French, when there  appears to be some sort of battle brewing, I raise my white flag and lay down and die. It usually takes an army of motivational speakers and someone pushing me along in a scooter to get me near something even approaching difficult, much less tackle it with unwavering chutzpah.

So, strangely I have managed to do a complete 180 about this whole thing from the beginning of this blog post until now. First I’m all like “hey, we shouldn’t reward people who should be on the short bus for being great when they’re not”. And then I’m all ” I’m a heartless idiot, because my kids have huge issues they have managed to overcome, so they deserve some core confidence building exercises despite not being the best at some things”. Further proof that I have no real concrete ideas of value and that if I ever ran for office my waffling back and forth on issues would lose me the election for sure.



Filed under 1, adversity, I'm mean, mediocrity, not everybody is going to harvard, pixar, the incredibles

16 responses to “The Cult of Mediocrity

  1. Do you read TheSkyIsFalling? She had an interesting post the other day that might make resonate with you. I don’t know what any of it means because my cat doesn’t need much parenting.

    • dufmanno

      I just read it and was blown away. If I can’t get her to come here and parent my kids, I’m getting Yoda. Do or do not. There is no try.

  2. Yeah, I dunno. Maybe try praising their tenacity and drive to succeed, rather than inflating their actual skills. Tenacity and ambition are incredibly important tools to have anyway.


  3. I’m not sure what you mean by waffling.. it all makes perfect sense to me from every vantage point.

    • dufmanno

      Ehh. I’m not sure if I lost focus somewhere there in the middle, but I started feeling like I was being mean. Then I thought about how much hell I would raise if that was someone else saying that about one of my kids (well, he/she is just below average, good luck with that lady) so I went all softie by the end.

  4. You’ve inspired me to be all I can be, fight for my right and stand for what I believe. No… that was army commercials, Beastie Boys and Poison… Still your parenting skills outweigh mine, so I’m planning on sending ours to you when it gets tough. Ok?

    • dufmanno

      Yeah, we’ve done a STELLAR job. Can’t you tell? The other day I actually found myself under the table trying to get to my happy place while they ran in circles around the room Lord of the Flies style. Sometimes the only things we are missing here are the loincloths and a burning effigy.

  5. The Last Post

    I sometimes wonder if we are pre-programmed to be the way we are. My sister had the exact same childhood as I and now has a family, full time job and her own business while I on the other hand am scared of my own shadow.

    I admire any parent bringing up children in todays world. I wouldn’t last long, what are you supposed to do when your child (or niece in my case) looks at you wrinkles up her nose and runs off.

    I spent ages examining my face in the mirror and am now totally paranoid.

    • dufmanno

      You know she’s playing an evil game with you that you can never win? Children are born with the ability to destroy you. They like to take their time and savor every moment. I’ve spent a LOT of time looking at myself in the mirror, can you tell?

  6. Aw, shucks…I’m glad my post was helpful to you. I should point out that I’m referring to an established, published method of parenting, for which I can take no credit. It just really makes sense to me, so I use it when I teach and plan on using it with my kid. The idea of using encouragement to develop kids’ sense of self based on their own opinions, rather than other peoples’ approval…you avoid all the traps of judging the worthiness of each drawing, field goal, ballet recital, etc.

    Of course, because I was not raised that way, I have grown up to be a total approval junkie, and am going to hug your praise to my heart in a desperate chorus of, “She likes me! She likes me!”

  7. You’re so….so….involved.

    My parenting techniques as of late? Hiding under the covers.

    • dufmanno

      Oh trust me when I tell you it’s much warmer under the blankie. I’m shitting a pickle worrying he’s headed down the tubes and then being handed a report twenty years from now that indicates his parents are completely to blame.

  8. Try to get me to confront any one or any thing…no siree bob…You + Me=Francy Pansies

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