Thursday, November 18, 2010

The problem with potential

I have a super power. I know, everyone likes to think about what super power they wish they had (I like to do that too), but I actually have one. I could go into all of the reasons of why I know this, but suspend your disbelief and pretend like you believe me.

I can see potential.

Not some vague sense or hope or glimmer. I see the future. Or, what the future could be.

That's the problem with will. Also? Hard work. Let me explain.

Suppose I came to you today and I told you that you could be President of the United States. Let's say that was something you very much wanted. And suppose I could lay out for you everything that it would take to make that happen, or at least the major steps. "All you have to do," I'd say, "is X and Y and Z, and you can be President."

Most people probably wouldn't do it. And why is that? Oh...there are lots of reasons...fear of change, fear of failure, insecurities, self-doubt, doubt of others' belief in us...and sometimes its just too much work to live up to our potential. Sometimes its too hard and too scary. Most of the time, actually.

Which is why I have the crappiest super power ever. (In doing some research, I found this list of lame super powers. In comparison, I don't feel THAT bad about mine...). Because most people, in the end, value security over their goals and I'm left seeing all of that wasted potential of what could have been.

I'm writing about all of this today because of my oldest son. Maybe its a weakness in my super power, or maybe its a feature, but I can't see the future of my kids. I think its probably the one reprieve I get...I don't have to be tortured over the decisions of my children. Plus, all parents see, in some vague way, the potential of their kids. Some parents push their children to be the best they can be, some parents are completely hands off and let their kids find their own way. Most people probably fall somewhere in between. I always had the philosophy that I would parent by example...I challenge myself to live the way that I hope my children will live. Fearless, passionate, determined, honest, compassionate, and thankful...those are the characteristics I've tried to model for my kids.

But today, I am humbled by my son. I am humbled by his potential, the person he is, and the person I now realize he has the potential to be. Because of him, I'm seeing for the first time in a long time, the potential that we ALL have and what it takes to achieve it.

Today, my son performed an African dance.

I could point out to you which 3rd grader he is, but in the end, it doesn't matter. As part of an Artist in Residence program at his school, teachers of African dance and music worked with these kids one day a week for six weeks, teaching them about rhythm and dance and "the break" in percussion when the drums signal the dancer to transition from one style to the next. My son is quiet, a gamer and an intellectual, more pragmatic than a dreamer. He's not much for showing off.

In his 1st grade play performance, he stunned me by beatboxing to a rap song the kids performed at the end of the play. In the 2nd grade talent show, he decided to perform stand up comedy. He killed. Not that I didn't have faith in him, but I was shocked. But this year was different...this year was on stage. This was dancing.

This was going to be a challenge.

Except it wasn't. Because what my 8 year old son taught me today is what I've been trying to teach him. That you can accomplish great things, you can realize your potential, if you decide that's what you're going to do. He never doubted he could beatbox at 6 years old, he wasn't scared to tell jokes to a packed house of his peers and their parents when he was 7. Today, at 8 years old, he was fearless, passionate, determined, honest, compassionate and front of a crowded auditorium. He never even considered another option. And so, with a joy a wish I could bottle, he performed an African dance.

In the end, the people who realize their potential are the people who see no other option...and my super power ends up meaning very little to people who are willing to settle for less.

For the record, if I ever got to choose, I think I'd rather have the super power of teleportation. Kinda like Samantha in Bewitched.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats, Koreen! I can relate to your feelings. Felt the same way when my 5-year-old daughter gave her first dance performance on stage. Most of the time we don't realize the kind of potential that people may have, even people around us.