Sunday, March 13, 2011

Competitive parenting’s latest weapon: Just what competitive parents need in the race to have the best child in the world.

There’ll be no more excuses for under-performing children now their parents can get them tested for sporting prowess.

So, kids, just give up those dreams of being an astronaut and start running! Pic: AP
So, kids, just give up those dreams of being an astronaut and start running! Pic: AP

A US company is selling DNA home testing kits – just swab the little darling and post it off, and they’ll let you know whether you’re nurturing the next Usain Bolt.

Just what competitive parents need in the race to have the best child in the world. Now they can hang around the school gate boasting that not only did little precious learn to align a Rubik’s Cube at two months, he also has the genes of a champion.

Never mind that the science is wobbly at best – with experts arguing that eight in 10 humans have the relevant gene (ACTN3), and that athletic success is slightly more complex than an inbuilt genetic predisposition.

What matters is that for a mere $200-odd, parents have a piece of paper that justifies their overly optimistic expectations.

I used to coach kid’s soccer for an exclusive private school. And the parents were living the stereotype – always thinking their tubby little two-left-footer should be up the front. They’d be on the sidelines, screeching at other kids to pass to their wunderkind.

Imagine if they’d had this kid tested and found out his DNA showed he was set to be the next Flores. There’d be no stopping them.

Or imagine some poor young boy who only dreams of rocketships being told his future is long-distance running. Out come the trainers, on goes the expectant parental smile.

Atlas Sports Genetics describe the test as safe for “the youngest of athletes”, and helpfully suggest it would make a wonderful birthday present for little Johnny.

The Journal of the American Medical Association warns the tests will lead to a “winning is everything” culture for kids, while Australian Medical Association SA President Dr Andrew Lavender said:

It smacks of Hitler’s idea of the ideal race. The product preys on insecurity and ignorance. Most genes interact with each other so it is impossible to exclude specific results.

When mum or dad takes the swab of their kid’s cheeks, what are they dreaming of? Are they imagining the pure joy of their child, forced up before dawn for extra laps of the local pool?

I doubt it. They’re imagining what they’ll be able to tell their friends. Their colleagues. They’re imagining being in the VIP stands as their kid wins Olympic gold, or sitting just behind Bec and Lleyton at the tennis, while their respective progeny battle it out.

And what, then, when the kid hits the oily skids of early adolescence, when he has lost all interest in the outside world and dreams only of slaying cyber-dragons?

Will the parents’ disappointment be all the more bitter for having dreamed of physical perfection?

And this poor kid, battling with the usual pains of growing up, to know they were genetically blessed, but must be mentally flawed to have failed so badly.

Competitive parenting is a blood sport, and this mail-order test is the latest weapon.

The Punch

Post a Comment
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Popular Posts