Saved in boxes of “must keep” items are a couple of school papers from our children. Some are drawings, some are stories, some are humorous, child-answers to questions. They each tell a story of their lives at the time. They are funny and poignant. I periodically pull these out as reminders of the past, who they are and where they came from.
With five children we had a lot of art work and pictures created through the years and it always created a dilemma. What do you do with all that art work? With all the stories? With all the pictures? One mom I knew framed them and all over the house were frames with children’s artwork encased in glass. They were color-coordinated to match the colors of the ‘art’. But if you looked closely, the attractive thing about these arrangements were the frames – not the scribbles. The frames were beautiful and classy. The art work was mediocre at best. Every scribble was not worthy of framing, every scribble was not ‘awesome.’
We live in an age where everything children do is put into the category of ‘awesome.’ We want the world to know that our kids are amazing. They are smart – smarter than your kids. They are beautiful – better looking than your kids. They are talented – more talented than you can possibly imagine. Anything less and our children will suffer from serious self-esteem issues.
Or will they?
Probably not. In fact if they grow up with a realistic view of who they are in relation to the broader world they will be healthier and wiser. They don’t need to wear booty shorts that say ‘Princess’ across the butt; they don’t need to wear t—shirts that proclaim how ‘special’ they are. Our children need to know who they are in healthy ways before God and man. And sometimes that means knowing that someone is better than them.
We are told that all men are created equal. And this is absolutely true in the purely spiritual sense. There is no hierarchy in the Kingdom, but on earth our children will meet kids who are better than them. Everyone cannot be the lead in a play. Everyone does not have a voice like Celine Dion. Everyone does not have sports ability equal to Olympic competitors. Everyone does not have equal talent.
Everything your child does, everything my child does is not awesome. It just isn’t. If you tell them a scribble is awesome what will you say when one of your kids draws something that shows real talent, real potential?
As I was writing this piece I picked up the book The Narcissism Epidemic and began to read it. The book is a candid look at the obsession with self in American society. It points out the real dangers of a society obsessed with self; a society that thinks everything it does is awesome. Toward the beginning of the book the authors relay a story about one of their kids in preschool. The curriculum began each day with a little song “I am special, I am special, Look at me.” The author suggested to the preschool teacher that a better song might be “I promise to listen to Dad and stop kicking him in the face when he tries to dress me.” As they discussed the pros and cons of the ‘I am special’ song the author told the teacher that these sorts of songs are linked to narcissism. The authors are careful to say that one little “I am special song’ does not a narcissist make, but a daily deluge of “you’re special, you’re awesome, you’re the best” has that potential. In their words:
“Of course, one “I am special song” is not going to turn a child into a narcissistic nightmare, just as a single raindrop won’t get a child wet. But a deluge of these “special” ‘messages could have a negative impact. Today’s culture rains enough narcissism to get everyone wet.“
Parents have probably always thought their kids were amazing and special. Perhaps the difference is they didn’t expect the world to agree. They were content holding it in their own hearts and affirming their children in healthy ways that were honest and validating. Ways that produced character as opposed to narcissism.
If your kids are like my kids, everything they do is not awesome. Some of the things they do are excellent, some of the things they do are unique, some of the things they do are average. But it doesn’t really matter. I love them. A piece of art that wins an award does not make me love them more, and my guess is you feel the same. You don’t love them for what they do, you love them for who they are.
Perhaps if we figure out healthier ways of communicating this to our children we will see the death of the narcissism epidemic in my life time. Perhaps it’s too far gone and it will take another generation to kill it.
If more of us understand that everything our kids do is not awesome perhaps we have a fighting chance of changing a generation to be kinder, less self-centered, more concerned about the world. I for one want to give it a try.
Picture Credit: http://pixabay.com/en/character-development-child-95769/
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