Hail and well met, loyal readers! I want to open today’s article by thanking each and every one of you for your continued support of our little blog. Thanks to you, State of Affairs received 500 views yesterday (okay, 499) and for a blog that’s been around less than a year, well, that’s a big deal. So Jim and I extend our sincerest thanks to all of you who’ve read, commented or passed on the link. Tell your friends, spread the word, and you will be rewarded. Seriously.
Without further ado, part one of your reward: my unequivocally brilliant commentary on today’s topic: child prodigies, those little bastards.
I’m a pretty smart guy now, and I was an even smarter kid. I was reading at a high school level by the time I was in kindergarten and I fast-tracked all the way through school because I found academics easy. I was a good writer, a pretty good artist, and I even took to the guitar relatively quickly. The only things I sucked at were sports. All sports. I was terrible. Video footage of me running called to mind a lame duck with something cumbersome lodged in its ass. My forays into downhill skiing led to the general deforestation of a good portion of Snow Valley in Barrie. The track-and-field exercises we were subjected to every year left me laid up at the chiropractor for months afterward. And I couldn’t hit a globe-sized softball with a four-foot wide bat if it were coming at me in bullet-time. In short, I was your standard brainy kid – outpacing my peers in the classroom, falling laughably behind at everything else.
I was smart, though, and I held onto that with every ounce of strength in my frail little white-boy body. Until my tiny dominion was usurped by the prevalence of child prodigies, those little bastards. (I can’t overestimate that enough.)
Once upon a time, these supercharged brainiac/idiot-savants were an oddity, something to be stared at and prodded like carnival sideshow freaks. The little Asian kid who can play every part of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #3 on the violin with no errors whatsoever,
or the Rainman kid who computes figures faster than most computers,
or the ten year-old girl who weighs as much as an amputated limb but sings like Aretha Franklin –
these kids would gain minor celebrity status for a while in the news and then swiftly be forgotten. Occasionally, some will rise to prominence when someone adapts their life story into a movie or something, like that Bobby Fischer kid who became a Grandmaster chess player at age fifteen. You know what I was doing at fifteen? Probably the same thing as you: smoking pot, skipping class, learning that a guitar would shore up my terrible social skills, and generally pissing off my parents.
Rarely, if ever, did I do anything particularly noteworthy; certainly not at a level that would garner me international celebrity. So when these amazing kids with all this talent would appear in the news periodically, I dealt with a brief flash of jealousy, quickly replaced by guilt at not doing something more with my life, quickly replaced by apathy (read: I convinced myself I didn’t care these little bastards outpaced me in every conceivable way).
Not so anymore. Thanks to the internet, every time I look up a YouTube video to learn this or that guitar lick, I have to shuffle through page after page of prepubescent Steve Vai clones who can all play Pachelbel’s Canon in D at twice the speed of light.
Now, I don’t consider myself a particularly awesome guitar player (I’m okay) but watching some kid whose balls haven’t even dropped yet rip apart a fretboard like that – well, golly, it makes me feel like some old slouch.
It doesn’t stop there. Everywhere you turn nowadays, there are prodigious children and their overzealous parents splattered across the media like so much paint on Jackson Pollock’s canvas. Chess players, violin players, singers, math whizzes, video game freaks, even artists. Take this kid for example. Hails from some nowhere town near Norfolk, really bad haircut, and paints so well that, if he were Canadian, they’d have to start calling it the Group of Eight.
It’s unreal. I mean, innate talent is one thing, but this kid is producing work like this at age six? If I didn’t know any better I’d think there was something a little more sinister going on. All you can see in the picture is little Kieron and his drawing…you sort of have to wonder if there’s some burly dude with a belt or whip or something standing just out of frame.
I’m not saying it’s impossible to be this talented – I’ve known some truly gifted people in my day – but there is definitely a culture of insane parents who drive their kids to excel in ways the ancient Egyptians would have approved.
Take that terribly exploitative movie that came out a few years ago, about those arty prodigy kids whose parents built these enormous pedestals and then precariously perched their children on top. That’s not healthy, folks. Your kids are talented enough, and they’re going to deal with a lifetime of battling their own egos, without you inflating them artificially.
It gets worse in sports. Like I said, I was never one for sports at all, but a lot of my friends were, and while most of their parents were cool people, other parents I would see at games most definitely were not. Living vicariously through your children is pathetic, hurtful and dangerous. And it makes you look like a tremendous douchebag, which you are. It is not necessary to murder a coach over a bad call, and it’s even less necessary to incite your kids to gladiatory violence in the interest of winning a game. If you want to play hockey, Mister Dad, do it on your own time. Let your kids do what they’re going to do.
Being good at something doesn’t necessitate doing it for the rest of your life. I used to date a girl who was an absolute math genius – and she hated math. She wanted to do something totally different with her life. Last I heard she was in law school. Good for her. Just because she excelled in mathematics didn’t mean she had to go work for NASA.
Why am I bringing any of this up? Well, for starters, it’s bordering on a long weekend here in Canada and my brain has already started to turn off, because I’m going to be quite busy in the next few days doing fun, mindless things. Otherwise known as, I couldn’t think of anything else to write about and I lack the energy to tackle a topic that requires a lot of research today. Second, as much as I might hate those little bastards who get up in the morning and spend their day making guys like me look like lazy couch potatoes who lack direction and ambition, I also believe strongly in a child’s right to choose his or her own destiny. Maybe little Kieron will go on to be the next Monet, maybe not. But plastering him all over the internet and catapulting him into super-stardom before he’s even old enough to cross the street by himself is just…well, I feel like it’s just wrong. Kids should be kids, not performing monkeys.
And that’s my final word. To my Canadian friends, enjoy the beautiful weather doing patently Canadian things (camping in Algonquin Park, eating pancakes with maple syrup, and consuming inhuman amounts of beer). To my international readers…well, sucks to not be Canadian today, eh? Har har.
If you’re around this weekend I’ll try to throw up some interesting little tidbits here and there, but don’t expect another major post until Tuesday when I get back to the Compound. Until then, fare thee well and all that jazz.
Alex James: over and out.