I feel a little bit nervous for my son Max this morning. He’s in fifth grade and he’s a young fifth grader. At this age, my other two sons were growing into their pre-teen status and were transitioning from the magic of childhood to the realities of more homework and new social norms. Not Max. The world is full of magic and possibility and I absolutely love this about him and I also fear for him.
Yesterday he video taped himself making a news presentation for his class. The children have a choice, they may create a Powerpoint presentation on a current event in the class or send in a video. He wanted to create a video. He sat at his father’s desk and started his newscast “This is Max Lundqvist with Lundqvist news. I have an intriguing adventure story for you today. A snow leopard fell of a cliff BOOM and survived!”
Yes he used special effects, his tone was excited, quirky and engaging. He had the time of his life and even signed off the video by saying Adieu! ADIEU! What kid says Adieu? I’ll tell you what kid, a kid who reads all the time and is not afraid to be himself. My first reaction was pride and my second reaction was to worry about what the other kids would think. I sent the video to my husband who was simply thrilled that his son has inherited his presentation skills. This is not my first rodeo and I suspect that this video that Max is so proud of may be very different from the presentations that have been done so far. This IS an age where kids start to quiet their inner personalities to avoid ridicule. But why? Why should we dull our shine?
Last night Max told me he also wanted to wear pajamas to school. If you pledged a small donation for the school Fun Run then you could wear pajamas.I made the donation and he happily put on his pajamas and we went to the bus stop. Not one child was in pajamas. Not one. Not the first grader, not the third grader and not the fourth grader. Max had his pajamas on AND his Chewbacca hoodie.
I drove home and sat down at my computer to write and to think. I encouraged him this morning to be himself, to celebrate his creative spirit and to be unapologetic for his uniqueness. And yet….for all of those pretty words and intentions I still have a pit in my stomach. This is not allowed. We are told to conform to social norms and kids are punished and bullied for their differences. Even when those kids grow up to be adults, many of them conform and focus on not standing out.
It makes me mad. I see parents who have gifted kids, really gifted kids who are not very academic but are inventors and unique and their friends make fun of them. In an effort to protect themselves these very same kids hide their talents, talents that may take them really far in life. They dull their shine. I know kids who love nature and paint and play music and celebrate the wonders around them but can’t sit still in class. They are labeled and flattened and scolded and told to burn less brightly.
Why? Why do we try to quiet the future leaders of our world? As their parents we need to stop being afraid. We need to celebrate our kids and help make them more resilient. We need to also push back on other parents and their snide comments and judgmental bullshit. Don’t dull my kid’s shine. Don’t dull my shine.
Don’t dull your shine.