It’s funny that we have studies to show that the kid who can look at a marshmallow and not eat it will do better in life than the kid who eats it right away. But what about the parents?
I have a hunch that the parents who can let their kid look unremarkable as a child will end up having a more capable child as an adult. This is because adults who do well do things like fail, try the same thing over and over again, and don’t bother competing with their peers. This makes sense to me because when I was playing professional volleyball, I always wanted to be the worst player on the court. That’s how I grew my skills the most quickly. The same would be true for kids—they should be in a setting where they are mediocre.
The New Yorker has data to back this up: kids’ brains develop better when they are the youngest in the class. If you get pushed to try harder and harder to keep up, you’ll learn more. Same principle as volleyball, or any endeavor.
This is hard for parents. I remember when my son was first playing soccer, he was by far the best on the field at age five. He played with eight-year-olds. The dads on the sidelines would always come to me and tell me to put him on the traveling team.
I didn’t tell people that my son was the best at everything he did. Because child prodigy-ness doesn’t last. It’s a sort of ephemeral thing that parents often would do best to ignore. The soccer coach confirmed this. He told me that my younger son has amazing field instinct and amazing body control, but other kids will catch up to him and then it’ll be about endurance and aggression and reading a team member, and we have no idea if my son has that or not.
So we didn’t just say no to travelling team. We quit soccer. After all, he can’t do everything.
Quitting soccer was not hard for him. He’s happy at the playground. Quitting soccer was hard for me.
I am an overachiever. I want my kids to be great at everything. I can’t say I didn’t relish the moments when those soccer dads realized that my kid could blow their kid away. I had to tell myself that there’s no point in my son being on a soccer field where he’s the best. It wastes his time.
I am pretty good at finding how my kids can be the best. It’s a muscle. But it’s one I have to let atrophy.
I had these exact worries when I started homeschooling. I’m always finding the coolest stuff, getting the best stuff, smartly navigating the world for my kids. So I felt like they were losing out because I was letting them stay home with me all day and eat corn flakes and play video games.
It’s a really big mind shift for a high achiever to do homeschooling. There is very little opportunity to enter the competitive zone, the zone of let’s-get-the-best, whatever that zone is that I love playing in. That’s not really for homeschool. So you have to learn to just be okay not getting the kids the best of everything, because the best the kids can get is right there with you.