We’ve had a few weeks of achievements in my house; the eight-year-old passed her third Fung Fu exam and completed her first guitar exam, while the 12-year old proved herself in French and netball. My husband, in turn, got his MA degree in psychotherapy.
And me? Well, I managed to binge watch the first three series of ‘Luther’ on BBC iPlayer in just a few days.
After decades of feeling that I must prove my worth by being successful, ambitious and smart, I am embracing mediocrity, and a life most ordinary. Or, to borrow an expression from my pre-teen daughter, “I can’t be bothered”.
I was never a ‘tiger mum’ in the first place, so the eight-year old’s success in Kung Fu and guitar owes much to her dad, who’s spent hours and hours of time practising with our daughter. I, on the other hand, have no such ambition. I’m not too fussed whether or not my children excel in music, academia, sports etc. As long as they’re reasonably happy, don’t watch too much Netflix, and don’t grow up to pursue a life of crime – or marry a banker – I’m satisfied.
The only activity I demand they excel at is swimming, which is pretty easy as they’re both accomplished swimmers and vastly more confident in the water than I am. Swimming, I tell them when they huff and puff about having to spend Friday evening at swim school, is a necessary life-skill. Being able to play the violin or serve a tennis ball, less so.
I’m not being completely honest here; I do have ambitions for my children, I do care about their achievements, and I’d probably still welcome a banker son-in-law if I had to. But I also know all too well that academic achievement is not always the key to happiness. Of course, just because I didn’t find personal and professional fulfilment in debating political theories and attending academic conferences, doesn’t mean others won’t. Each to their own. The point is, whatever makes you happy, go for it. But don’t pursue an education or career because it’s expected of you, is ‘family tradition’, or will make your parents proud. If you have a passion, by all means, pursue it. And if you don’t have a passion, that’s ok too.
Being ordinary and lacking in ambition is nothing to be sniffed at; just look at how much damage people’s personal ambitions have done in the world. There’s something to be said for embracing a life of average and ordinary; it takes the pressure off and, I am sure, is much better for your health and wellbeing. Less stress, fewer worries, less fuss. That’s how I like it.
If you’re Swedish you’re probably familiar with Ferdinand, the bull who didn’t want to fight. He was part of the Disney TV-special that virtually every Swedish household would watch on Christmas Eve when I was growing up. Ferdinand certainly had his priorities right.