Every now and then the film “Race to Nowhere” surfaces and a discussion ensues about how we can prevent an entire generation of teens from getting too stressed out.
We worry that our children are striving too hard for perfection and they worry too much about living their lives according to what they think admissions counselors want to see. They worry that one B on a test will ruin their lives. We worry they will burn out doing this and never find their true passions.
It is certainly a problem and an awful lot can be said and written about this topic. But, that’s not what I am going to do.
I am here to write about the opposite. Perhaps I should make a film about a different problem – The Slow and Not Very Straight Journey to Somewhere Though I’m not Sure Where.
These are the kids who apparently have no stress at all. They accomplish this by completing some, but not all of their homework. They study for tests, but not always enough.
They make sure to get a great night’s rest and stay in touch with all their friends all the time. They get plenty of fresh air and athletic activity and plenty of good food. They often grab an ice cream with friends or go down to a field and play pick-up games of football. They walk places.
Do they have passions? They explore things. They might play a few sports, then switch out and try something different. They might participate but never become captain or most valuable player. They will have fun and stay busy.
They might make a movie one day or play some music the next, but informally. They are not winning competitions or performing before an audience.
These are essentially happy-go-lucky kids doing what they enjoy without too much thought to tomorrow let alone their future. Is that okay?
We, as a society, seem to have no idea what we value. We send mixed messages to our children. On the one hand, we want to see depth and passion in activities, perfection in school work. We think this will lead to something important. Then, we bemoan the loss of youth as a time to explore.
We program them into formal activities and then worry that the overscheduling will make them sick. We worry about the loss of informal, outdoor play.
We really don’t know the formula for success. It won’t be the same for each child. Some kids respond well to a life plan. Others balk and need to experiment.
A friend recently said, “You don’t want your kids to peak too soon.”
It sounds like a good mantra. They are kids after all. Their journey has just begun.