Recently I saw the movie The Social Network. My favorite scene is the opening one where Mark and his girlfriend break up in the bar. He's talking about what he needs to do to be noticed and she advises him to just try and be the best person he can be. The dialogue in that scene is outstanding. I watched it twice. I loved the line,"dating you is like dating a stair master."
This hit a nerve with me because we live in an area where it seems people are breeding children to be very successful robots with no flaws. The number of 'my child is an honor student' bumper stickers on the back of people's minivans is obnoxious. Even though I now (finally) have a son who can bring these stickers home I refuse to put them anywhere on my vehicle. They go on the fridge. I just think is smacks of "my kid is better than yours" and it isn't sensitive. Maybe I am the sensitive one. So sorry if I offend those of you with stickers on your vans...
The competition out there is not just in academics or music. Parents start their kids in sports as soon as they can walk it seems and they don't accept failure. The yelling from the sidelines is enough to make one want to call social services sometimes. Okay, I know not everyone is like this and I may exaggerate a bit, but there seems to be a lot of pressure to win in Montgomery County. Those parents with only 1 or 2 kids seem to have an unfair advantage over me, with fewer places to drive and fewer children to prod along. It would seem we are doomed for last place in many things. I am okay with that... really. I just want my kids to be well rounded and happy with themselves. But they feel the pressure too, and sometimes it gets to be too much for them. My mother's heart then gets a bit on the defensive and I feel like lashing out at this crazy system where we are taught that if you're not the best you should start digging a hole to hide your head in. I had to hold my feelings back when a jockish teenager in my Sunday school class seemed to be poking fun at any boy who would play the violin. I needed to remember he is just a teen, and probably tainted by the competitive environment we are raising our children in.
I am not against competition or achieving at your highest level. I think it's even somewhat healthy and is what drives us to achieve. I just think there is a balance there that some overlook. And there is never room for putting others down for what they choose or for not being the best. My friend was telling me about an article she read recently about how Chinese parents are the best because they push their kids to achieve. I informed my friend (not Chinese btw) that she should know that teenage suicide rates are much higher amongst Asian teenagers. When we lived in Korea we saw the poor kids who would have no play-time at all due to studying. Many of them, from a very young age, stay up past 10:00 pm every night studying. During the biggest exam week of the year when high school students take their big entrance to college exams, no one is allowed to honk their horns while driving through the streets. I found that pretty funny.
So it was no surprise to me when I took my two violinist sons to the music festival this weekend that it seemed about 80% of all the musician children there were Asian. Some of them played so beautifully I was moved to tears. I thought they we wouldn't stand a chance because sometimes I let my kids play video games and watch TV. So you can imagine how proud I was when Little Boy's group tied for 2nd place in his division and Big Boy's group placed 1st! I overheard Big Boy telling one of his leaders at church "We let the hammer DOWN on those other groups with our Mozart Quintet in C Major YO!"