I know a couple living in a tiny Wash Park apartment, who dream of having a place with room for a dog. He’ll be named Peanut, and they already have a photo of him on their fridge.
No real dog can hold a candle to Peanut. “Peanut won’t jump up on people,” my friend tells me. “And he won’t bark all the time.” Peanut the super-dog has become a joke between us. Seeing other people walking their dogs, she’ll say something like, “Peanut won’t need to be walked. Peanut doesn’t poop.”
My husband and I sometimes fall into the same trap when we think about the kids we might have someday. This happens in particular when we’re faced with rambunctious kids in restaurants; “Our kids will never do that,” is a favorite refrain. (This is your free pass to point and laugh when you see us wrestling with screaming children in the future.)
The truth is, I haven’t got a clue what it takes to be a good parent or to raise great kids. Lucky for all of us, kids seem to be pretty resilient. I’ve known kids who thrived despite numerous obstacles.
In fact, I think adults frequently don’t give kids enough credit. It’s a fault born of love. We want to protect them, keep them safe and give them the best, and sometimes, through the haze of our protective nature, we forget to give them room to be themselves.
I read, write and review young adult novels in my spare time, and through this lens, I’ve seen the protective urge manifest when parents and educators ban books that contain challenging ideas or even a single “bad” word. Last year’s Newbery Award winner, “The Higher Power of Lucky,” was banned in several places for use of the word “scrotum.”
Leaving aside the implications of censorship for the moment, we can’t blame a parent for wanting only the best for his or her child. But the world is wide, and we can’t protect them forever.
Why do some kids soar when faced with adversity that would cow anyone else? I tried to find some common denominator when I was interviewing the Super Kids we profiled for this month’s issue. What was it about Naomi, the always-prepared Girl Scout, that made her decide not to be a victim? What inspired David to start his own business? How did Helena dream that she could build libraries in Tibet? What motivates Jose to keep reaching for his dreams?
They have each overcome their own unique adversities to rise up and become admirable people before they even reach adulthood. But is there one single factor I could point to and say, “There. That’s the secret ingredient to greatness”?
Of course not. What makes these kids so outstanding is not the sum of their accomplishments, but the sum of their characters. It’s a gut feeling you get when you meet them. In fact, as you read this, you’ve probably got an outstanding kid in your life who comes to mind. They are everywhere, and we struggled picking just a few for this issue. (In fact, we’re such big softies, there are more on the web! Go to yellowscene.com/blog all month to read more.)
I think the trick to nurturing kids toward greatness may be at times to simply to get out of their way. Provide the opportunities, the experiences, and then let them thrive. Hopefully, our Summer Camp Guide and 35 Awesome Reasons to be a Kid will provide some inspiration to help you encourage the kids in your life.
And if you figure out the secret ingredient for growing outstanding kids, you let me know.
Do you know a super kid? We want to know them too! Leave a comment and tell us—and the entire Yellow Scene community—about the outstanding child in your life.