At some point during my interviews for this month’s SuperKids profiles, I recognized my own ordinariness.
Maybe it was when a 12-year-old lectured me on types of early childhood education philosophies, telling me there is no right way to teach and there are many means to the same end when it comes to educating children. Or maybe it was when a 14-year-old entrepreneur revealed to me that his savings account and stock portfolio could pay off what I still owe in student loans. Possibly it was when a high school senior schooled me on immigration policy or when I began comparing my meek athletic abilities to the triumphs of a petite 13-year-old girl.
Maybe, and most likely, it was the culmination of all these interviews that led me to this conclusion: I was an average kid. 100 percent average. I played countless sports but was never particularly good. My report cards were filled with Bs. I took piano lessons for six years, but even at my peak I played like someone who hadn’t grasped how to read sheet music. I was always put in the chorus in theater, and I wrote really mediocre poetry.
But you know what, I’m OK with it. In fact, I’m happy with my average youth. Being a typical child is totally underrated. First of all, you get to be a kid. You get to enjoy kid things…like striking out in kick ball or gluing your fingers together with
Part of being an average kid is learning to deal with not being special—not being the smartest person in class or being the leader on the playground. You learn you won’t win the race unless you work your butt off. You learn you have to study to get an allowance bonus. You learn to work for your triumphs.
In a culture in which being “special,” “talented” and “gifted” is shouted loudly and proudly by parents and teachers, I don’t think it’s totally horrible to be a kid with little to no talent. Seriously. Studies have shown that kids who are told they are talented or smart are less willing to try new things, scared of being challenged and wary of working on overcoming shortfalls. Kids who are taught to work hard—and taught hard work pays off—are more likely to push themselves and realize they can do anything with a little elbow grease.
The kids featured as SuperKids in this issue, I believe, are truly extraordinary. But they, too, understand it’s not all nature or nurture that has made them super awesome. Ksenia Lekhina, who is the reigning mountain biking national champion in her age group, looked me in the eye and told me that she does not believe in natural talent.
“You have to work hard,” she said. And she does—two hours a day on the bike during the off-season, countless hours during the season. When Ksenia said that, my inner child fist pumped just a little (my inner child knows full well that she would have been better at piano if she would have practiced a little more and played Nintendo a little less).
So, while this issue celebrates a few of the exceptional kids in the area, know this: Average kids become extraordinary with time, confidence and hard work. And when they find something to be passionate about—something to work at—there is no limit to what an average kid can do.