Tuesday, October 14, 2014

In Pursuit of the Prodigy

The following appears in the October edition of Chicago Parent.

Oh I tried.

Producing a child prodigy was something that would negate my many mothering flaws. Early on, I went about the business of making it happen. For every profanity overheard at the grocery store, for every missed picture day, for every instance I forgot snack mom duties, I would at least be able to point at my child genius and say, “I couldn’t have sucked that much…now play some Beethoven, dear.”

At first, I pursued music. Private lessons all the way. Piano, violin, and cello - my own stringed trio. Yet after seven years of battling the kids over practice time, I have come to the realization that nobody is locking in a spot at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. They continue to bang away at it, though. And I continue to buy ear plugs.

Up next was chess. I found the #2 high school chess player in the entire state of Illinois. He arrived weekly to share his secrets of moving around the horsie…or whatever it is they do in chess. The lad was a child prodigy himself, heading off this fall to study chemical engineering on a full academic scholarship. Yet after several years of lessons, my kids might offer a decent game of chess, but Bobby Fischer they certainly are not.

Perhaps I had been going about it the wrong way. Maybe my kids were destined to be athletic phenomenons instead! A future Tiger Woods even. I spent my entire Botox savings account on sports camps this summer. The end result?

Not one of the boys can do a decent lay-up, serve overhand, or pitch 90 miles per hour. My hockey player has problems stopping on the ice, and my swimmer doesn’t understand the mechanics of a backstroke. My worry lines deepened.

This might have been due to the lack of Botox.

My husband, in typical fashion, offered his take on things as I lamented all the wasted time and money trying to find a certain area of excellence or endeavor that would define each kid’s life.

“Marianne, how cool is it that our boys will be decent enough to play softball with their buddies, hit the local pub to bang out some Billy Joel on the piano, and finally turn and play the owner at a game of chess?”

I was confused.

“You know what our kids’ niche will be?” he questioned dramatically.

“Drinking beer?”

“Nope. GETTING GIRLS. They will be Renaissance men. The whole package. And best of all, we won’t have wasted all those years on travel teams and national chess meets.”

Ironically, Joe did get me wondering.


Future wives.


Maybe I had gone about it all wrong! Maybe by not specializing on one certain area the whole way through, I had diluted talents and interests! But there will be grandchildren! As I googled “Grandchildren” and “Prodigies,” my husband mumbled that I also need to plan on all our future daughters-in-law moving out of state.

But I will find them.

I always do.


  1. Love it....from a charter member of the "jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none" club!!!

    1. I don't know about that! I think you are a master in several areas!

  2. You slay me. EVERY time.

    "My worry lines deepened."

    Girl got skilz.


  3. This is funny because I know it's true. I love you and your ways.

  4. They will be pretty good at lots of things....that's a mom and dad doing a damn fine job.

  5. They have great parents. In the end, that's all they really need.

  6. This is one of your best essay, Mar. Wish I thought of it first.
    Keep writing!!!!!!!!!!
    Love, your pal,
    MOV (still alive)