Our son was a newborn when American Idol became a craze more than a decade ago. Greg and I watched the auditions and gawked at the hopefuls who waited hours in line for their chance to hit it big, only to learn from the merciless Simon Cowell that they have not one iota of vocal talent.
We were mesmerized by these poor souls who had no idea they couldn’t even carry a tune. “Don’t these people have friends?” we wondered. I found it especially curious when parents were there. Did these parents knowingly set up the kids for
humiliation, or did their love for their children blind them to what’s so obvious to the rest of us?
Greg and I vowed to be clear-eyed and objective with our kids. We’d never give phony praise or engage in the hyperprotective parenting that creates tender egos, raising kids who can’t function in the workplace without Mommy there to cheer them on.
But eight years later, Ben started baseball and became an aspiring Major League player. Georgia, meanwhile, decided she wants to be a pop star.
Neither displayed a natural gift for their chosen profession, but both were eager for reassurance that they had the right stuff. How do you tell kids with big dreams that, well… they kinda suck?
It seemed crucial to check Ben’s fantasies when he explained he didn’t need to concern himself with schoolwork, since he wanted to be a MLB player. We suggested he get a backup plan.
Then Georgia signed up to perform an Adele song (ADELE!) for the school “Talent” Show. (Yes, I put quotes around talent. Don’t judge. YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT I’VE SEEN!)
Me: “Um, honey, shouldn’t you choose a song that’s a little less… well… challenging?”
The diversionary tactic did not work. So we told them that all they needed to achieve their dreams was to work really, really hard! Nothing makes our kids drop the subject quicker than the suggestion there’s work involved.
“You think great singers just walk up onto the stage and belt it out?” I asked Georgia. “No! They practice for hours a day. They train.”
And for the first time ever, our kids decided to listen to us. The World’s Laziest Children got to work.
Ben got picked for a Little League team with a tough, serious coach and practiced like a champ. Georgia spent hours in front of the mirror, practicing and taking my constructive feedback to heart.
And then: They got better. A lot better.
The kid with poor eye-hand coordination has made some great plays at second. Georgia’s performance in the “Talent” Show made me envision a day when, with enough training, she could be Auto-Tuned into pop semi-stardom.
My kids finally learned that the only defense against the world’s dream-crushing forces is hard work. Because sometimes, hard work looks a lot like talent.