By Ali Kaplan
My kid wants to rule the world.
I don’t mean that in a slang sort of way, like, “skateboarding rules!” I mean, rule. Not a city. Nor a state. Not even the country. His grandiose plans and imaginary games and notebook scribbles currently involve World Domination. That is, when he isn’t reenacting songs from Hamilton. Or trying to come up with a business idea he could bring to Shark Tank. Who IS this kid?
One day, he’s obsessed with Bernie Sanders. The next, it’s Stephen Hawking. The common theme: being exceptional at whatever you do.
There’s no parent manual on appropriate responses when your 11-year-old asks what he can do that would be great. He’s wholly unsatisfied by the default, “Mommy and Daddy think you’re great no matter what you do, kiddo!” We talk a lot, in this age of Insta-fame, about what it means to be “famous” and how fame is not the same as greatness, and shouldn’t be the goal. It’s the content of what you do that matters, not who notices.
Of course I’m pleased that my child is interested in things besides video games (generally when he’s been told he can’t play any more video games). I think about how I used to peck away on a typewriter dreaming of becoming a published author one day, and how my child can publish with a click and make his voice heard in a snap, tweet, or status update. And then I worry about the added pressure all of that technology, information and opportunity presents, and how social media makes it seem so easy to stand out, when really, it isn’t. I want to protect him and prepare him and keep his expectations in check so that he isn’t devastated by a post that goes unliked.
What’s the right balance? How do I help him channel all his energy and curiosity without setting him up for disappointment?
What will make him feel great?
That’s the stuff we plan to talk about here. And having you join the conversation, well, that would most definitely be great.