The Burden of Ordinary


I met a student last week – A nice kid, had all the right things to say, courteous and friendly. I don’t think he troubled his parents or his teachers much. He must have been one of those kids who submitted work on time, did neat work and even extended help to fellow classmate. Sounds like someone you know?

Well he was all that, so I was pretty confused because the conversation with the parent started on a strange note. They were almost apologetic for their child. So here I was trying to make sense of it all. The grades and reports said nice things about him but the parents seem to have a completely out of sync behaviour. After much contemplation I figured, they were apologetic because their son was an average student, his fault being – he was JUST ORDINARY

The description of the son went something like this:

“He always gets good grades but he does not focus enough to get the stars.

He is a soccer player. His coach tells me that he is a good team player but LACKS leadership Quality.

He plays the guitar. Always the Life of the party, we tried but he does not take it seriously enough to be professional.”

So on so forth, you get the gist right?

“Can you see the trouble here Madam”, asked the mother.

I could NOT SEE THE TROUBLE, not to begin with, but I certainly could now?

The problem was that the child was ordinary, Good but ordinary. The Trouble however was that the parents did not begin to appreciate that.

He would not make star grades; he would not be a professional musician or a soccer player. Effectively he had nothing for the parents to SHOW OFF when they sit over drinks and talk about the achievements of their child. It’s the most sought after social sport – counting the achievement of the child. Sometimes we want this perfect child only to score points in the social sport. Oh yah, all of this in the light of “I do not believe in Pressuring (its the favourite word) the child”

My Daughter can be anything so long as it is Doctor, Engineer or at least an MBA.

She can have any hobby so long as it is Piano, Guitar or Robotics

She can go to any college so long as it is an IVY League.

Does this sound Familiar?

I know the dilemmas of the parents, oh yes I do. I am a parent and I have, pretty much, the same concerns. I am an education consultant and yes I see and feel the excessive competition in the job market. Do I, Therefore, Identify with them? Totally!

But do I agree with them?

I wish I could say TOTALLY NOT. But this is the grey area that most parents live and face. What do I do? Direct the child to excel in everything he does or appreciate and encourage everything he does?

If I were to appreciate being ordinary or mediocrity, what if he relaxes and does not aim to excel?

What if I push too much, what IF he snaps?

The questions that torment most parents are similar but with varied answers.

My question to you is –

Why should a child face the BURDEN OF ORDINARY?

He carries this weight in addition to all the other weights of education, shouldn’t that be enough?

Being ordinary should not be made out to be a fault of the child and then punish him for it. The future is just that – FUTURE but it cannot define everything that we do today. A word of encouragement will go a far way with your child. Why not applaud a race well run rather grumbling over the medal lost?

You might argue that we are not punishing the ordinary just encouraging excelling. There is a fine line there that we as parents often cross. The encouragement often becomes an identification of failure for most students. It highlights all the mistakes that were made and focus from what was done right gets lost somewhere in the MEANINGFUL encouragement talk.

Do you know why you got 85%? It’s because you spent the last day watching a movie.

Do you know why you missed the Soccer Team?  You have been missing the soccer practice for all those parties.

Can you spot the fault?

Actually there really isn’t any! Each child reacts to criticism and appreciation differently. As parents we have to find the right mix and no one else can really guide you with this.

So what I am really trying to do here is to tell you that sometimes the problem is not the child. The problem is the approach. BEING GOOD should be the most important factor. Appreciate the good, applaud the effort and encourage the child to therefore take pride in him/her. By counting the faults or the shortcomings, even in a kind manner, will only lead him/her to doubt himself/herself at every step of the way.

Am I dressed fine? Should I add a scarf?

Should I submit this report or do I need to add another research study?

I have been offered a job with more salary, but it requires me to manage a whole team. Can I do it?

In this last question, the question should not be – Can I? It should be – HOW can I?

Doubts and insecurities will find a way to pollute their minds because we put these notions of DOUBT YOURSELF. There is a difference in doubting your abilities and analysing them. Analysing is a good sign, doubting has a whole new connotation.

Being Ordinary is fine. Being hard-working should be good enough. Don’t carry the burden of being ordinary – look around you it is a commodity hard to get by these days. Appreciate it!!






Author: pratimamittal

I am an education consultant since 2004. I have worked with top ranked universities from across the world. A Mother of two , I understand most concerns that parents have. I counsel and help students and parents to chose a direction that is in their interest. I read anything that catches my attention. I write about things that matter to me. Music keeps me going.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: