September 7, 2011

When did I move to Lake Wobegan?

    Garrison Keillor in 1985 created the fictional town of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota.  On his radio program  A Prairie Home Companion he will tell you that in his fictional hometown "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average".  Last time I checked I still lived in Florida.

      There is actually something called the Lake Wobegon effect (nope you can't make these things up) and I believe there are a lot more people struggling with this syndrome that are willing to admit or even aware of it. Doesn't it seem everyone today has kids that are just incredibly outstanding?  They're either skipping grades, the star player on the team, incredibly artistically talented or curing cancer. Or for the younger set they were potty trained at 6 weeks and speaking fluent French at 15 months.   Seriously just listen to a group of women chatting at Starbucks. 

      I have never been a big fan of the Christmas Newsletter.  Let's call it what it really is... "Look at how absolutely incredible our family is; don't you wish you were this good" press release.  Now I am not expecting anyone to announce that Johnny broke the school record for detention or Amber's been kicked out of Church choir for making out with half of the boys.  HOWEVER what happened to reality?    When did being average become so inferior???  “We had a wonderful year as a family” I guess is too boring for newsletters.

   I continue to make the same mistake: I run into a Mom I haven't seen in a while and ask how little so and so doing.  Last time we saw Timmy he in 4th grade, a bit of a handful not really a sports phenomenon.  Well NOW after 4 years and $1,000's spent on personal trainers he is going to be the next Pele!!!  Or little Irene who couldn't carry a tune if you put it in a bag, now studies privately with Ms. Star and is going to be the next Jackie Evancho, she's just a couple of years behind.  (Reality note: my daughter's on an Opera Scholarship and she wishes she was Jackie Evancho)  Here's the thing: If I only heard this once I might be impressed but when comments like this become the norm you just have to wonder.  And also why is it these parents rarely ask after my kids!
        Years ago our elementary school actually had to cancel award ceremonies.  You see the parents had turned it into a competition.  NO kidding.  In third grade Em had received the Most Improved award one quarter; I'll admit I was surprised as she was an A/B student.  The looks of pity that I received from several Moms; the "Oh we're so glad she's doing better" look.  When I asked the teacher how she earned the award she replied that Em had worked so hard on her handwriting she wanted to acknowledge it.  Hang on it gets better...
    Around Em's 5th grade it became "the thing" to present your child with a gift as they proceeded across the stage accepting their award.  Moms and Dads were flocking to the stage with balloons and flowers as they child received their A Honor Roll award.  This then became a competition amongst the parent.  By the end of the year the students were receiving stuffies,  huge bouquets and other non-sense.  Never mind that this cut into the time of the child who was walking behind them. More than once I couldn't get Em's picture b/c Danielle's Mom was giving her daughter a carnival sized bear.  That was the last year of award ceremonies.

     Another aspect of the Lake Wobegon syndrome is the "my child didn't do anything wrong" world view. Have you ever called a mom to discuss bad behavior only to have the conversation turn into how un-above average your child is?  One day Meg comes home in tears from her best friend's house down the street.  Elizabeth, who was much bigger than Meg, wouldn't let her use the bathroom and proceeded to keep her locked in the bedroom until the inevitable happened.  Of course I knew Elizabeth's Mom would not want her acting that way so I call.  Instead of "I'm sorry I'll talk to her, I'll have her apologize" Elizabeth's Mom went on to express her sympathy for Meg.  "Elizabeth you see knows how to wait and hold it as long as necessary.  When we go on road trips and she announces her restroom need we tell her when the next scheduled stop is and she's just fine."  She's so sorry Meg doesn't have that ability (Lake Wobegon effect)
     When did being average become so inferior? ??  Guess what the only way someone can truly be above average is to actually have a group that is average and with rare exception that’s where most of us fall.  I am here to tell you my kids rock.  They each have a gift unique onto to their own.  Am I proud of them... you betcha.  When you ask how they're doing you get it straight.  Why elaborate their achievement~ doesn’t that downplay what they've actually achieved.  By the way when my kids cure cancer you'll know it.


  1. Reading this post alone makes me proud of my kids! We should be happy with our kids no matter how gifted they are!

    Great post!

  2. What a great post! :)
    Just stopping by to say welcome to the tribe and to follow you via GFC! ;) Hope you can visit my little blog..


  3. What a great post! I'm a school psychologist, and I see it all the time. If EVERYONE were above average, then the bell curve would be meaningless. Most people are average - and that's okay!!

    I found you through Triberr, and I'm following you through Twitter. I didn't see a GFC button. :)


  4. I agree! What the heck is wrong with just being you? This "keeping up with Joneses" mentality is exhausting and futile. Not to mention expensive!
    Having children with autism, I run into the other end of the pendulum - the "my child is worse off then your child and I do SO much more than you and aren't I great for doing it" end.
    I think that Elizabeth needs a serious attitude adjustment. Locking someone out of a washroom is cruel.

  5. This generation of parents seems to be becoming mostly dwellers of Lake Wobegon - I don't like any of them. This is why the burn out rate for teachers is less all the time, can you blame them? Great post! Also would love to hear your daughter's voice.

  6. Things have gotten so askew when it comes to raising kids! This is a wonderful post. My family always got mad at me because I would tell my kids, "If you get in trouble at school, you're in trouble when you get home". My sister, on the other hand is the mom that says her kids can do no wrong! I am proud of my kids, not for any major accomplishments, but just because they are nice, kind hardworking people! That's what's important!

  7. Well there is a population outside of Lake Wobegon ~~ I knew I would find you all!!

  8. Yecchhh, sounds like your daughter's 'best friend' is a bully and that she inherited the trait. I had not heard of the Lake Wobegon effect (though i do love that program). I think these overachieving parents are creating a generation of kids who have no idea what it means to *earn* anything. I see it all the time and it makes me crazy... Climbing down off my soap box now.

  9. Totally agree and love your post. I live in an area of the country were kids are so stresses out about being perfect {brought on by "those" parents} that there is a huge drinking epidemic. I know teachers that have quit teaching because when kids misbehave their parents come in and side with the kid not matter what they did wrong. Not my kind he/she would never do that....It is crazy but that is what we have a generation little butt heads that have no grasp on reality and do not want to work for a living they want everything now. I have a 19 month old and I am raising her the old fashioned way. Anyway love your site new follower would love it if you could come by and check it out.

  10. Tri Girl you have my royal permission to stand on your soap box anytime you need to

    Ciao Momma I'm with you. My thoughts exactly. My sister did the same thing when I told her my niece did something. She asked her as if I would be lying.. really?? Thanks for the follow headed to your neighborhood now :0)

  11. Lady Bren, I am your newest follower:) A Prairie Home Companion Summer Love Tour just passed through my city. Love your blog! I'd love a follow back at

  12. Thanks for the follow Aspiring will be checking out your blog :0)


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