For the first time ever, I helped one of my children write a speech for the election of leaders at his school. I’m a firm believer in merit from your own efforts. It is what builds self-esteem, they say. Aiding and abetting my children in activities they are supposed to complete themselves does not sit comfortably.
So, why now?
My youngest child is a caring, sensitive soul with a mischievous streak. This places him in the position of not perfect enough to earn rewards through favouritism but not naughty enough to earn rewards through desperation. I also know, given the chance, that he would make fabulous leadership material. If he ever got the opportunity. Unfortunately, he seems to have fallen into the cracks.
Kids who are not straightforward, who do not follow the dictated education narrative, who do not Fit The Box, inevitably miss out as teachers and peers alike shake their heads and decide it’s all too hard.
Parents of complex kids do their best to reinforce pride in the efforts their children make, to emphasise that true success is not represented in prizes, awards or badges and to encourage them to keep trying in the face of repeated rejection. They know that their children have much to offer but that the narrow world they currently inhabit is not ready for them yet.
But no parent likes to see their child hurt, disappointed or sad. Wanting your child to succeed in everything they pursue is not about the success in itself (well, for most of us), it’s about seeing the joy on their face when they achieve what they have worked for. I wanted that for my son. So I helped him with his speech. (I was tempted just to write it myself but my honest soul would have shrivelled.) I suggested what he might talk about in his speech, let him write it in his own words, then I typed it up and tweaked a few bits.
It was a good speech. He talked about different types of leaders – how some become leaders because they are popular and lots of people like them, some because they are funny and make people laugh. And he spoke about a different sort of leader, “the hard-working, caring leader who relies on his wits and his heart to become a leader”. (That was his line, not mine. He’s 12. You see what I mean?) He talked about leaders who care, of how he cares about people and issues such as the environment and poverty and how he would be a caring leader of the school.
It made no difference.
It was a sad and disappointed child I hugged at pick up time today, having found out this afternoon that he missed out on any sort of role.
There were some good kids voted in today. I hope they lead our school well. There were some not-so-good kids voted in. I hope this becomes a life-changing, attitude-changing experience for them. Almost all of them fell into the mainstream popular/sporty categories.
One day, in the not too distant future, the world will have to start thinking outside the box if our planet and humanity is to survive. This is when the complex kids will find their place. In the meantime, we will tell our son to keep on trying.