I’ve had this post sitting around for a while. Since I’ve written it, I’ve went back and forth about posting it. It’s so much easier to call out douchebags and jump on a soapbox than it is to open myself up and show vulnerability. I wrote this for me, to sort out my feelings and to serve as a reminder for myself. I’m sharing it with you, because, well, maybe this reminder will come at a good time for you too.
In my “mom world” report cards are coming out soon. For some families this is a good time of the year. They see how well their child is doing, pat themselves and their child on the back, and everyone feels good. That’s not the case in every household. Effort doesn’t always translate into good grades, just like for some, good grades come without effort.
We live in a world that looks at the bottom line and rewards results. Hell, that’s my personal way of looking at things too. What’s the bottom line? That’s why this concept is so challenging for me. While I can appreciate bottom line mentality, I also know that is flawed. Flawed because we aren’t measuring on other strengths.
Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not suggesting rewarding a lack of effort. I’m not saying kids should never crack a book and be told they are doing a great job. What I am saying is we can’t fit all kids into the “you need to get good grades” mold.
We’ve all heard the quote, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” This is something I constantly have to remind myself. I understand how important reading and writing are. Schools teach it, kids get graded on it, but everyone doesn’t have an easy time with it. For some, simply reading the instructions on a worksheet is an accomplishment. There are many shades of grey that we need to examine before we can see the whole picture.
I have a son who struggles in school. Every grade he gets is through hard work. That child is learning determination. That child is developing strength of character, and while watching him, I’m also learning what character is all about.
It’s hard to watch him struggle. It’s hard to watch him have to fight so hard and still fail. Another 60% on a math test. Another failed spelling test. While it’s hard for me, I’ve come to realize that this child will be ready for the world. He is going to be able to appreciate his accomplishments, knowing he worked hard to achieve them. This is what I’m proud of – his hard work and determination.
I can’t take credit for his fierce determination. It’s something that’s in him, something he was born with. Something that has been nurtured, yes, but you can’t teach that kind of determination.
I can take some credit for his hard work though. Why? I help him every step of the way. I’m his cheerleader. When he cries that he doesn’t understand, I give him a hug, a tissue, a pep talk and let him know I’m there to help him until he does understand. I help him with the work, and I help him not to get discouraged by the work.
I feel his disappointment when another test comes home that didn’t even get that B. I share his happiness with him over his 50% on his spelling test because that 50% is the best he could do, and it took hours of work and extreme effort to get that grade. It was earned the hard way. Like many parents, I cry for him when he’s not around. I worry about him and wish things could be easier for him.
A while ago my friend Jen at Real Life Parenting shared an amazing post that essentially said, “don’t tell my child they can do anything they want. Sometimes they can’t.” I LOVE that post and agree 100%. She says “ I will encourage my kids to give their best effort in everything they do. I will support them in their endeavors and hobbies. I will celebrate their victories. I will tell them I am proud of their achievements. I will build a sense of self-worth and pride in a job well done. I will let them make mistakes and fail. I will hug and comfort them when they’re disappointed. I will allow them to learn the tough lessons. I will help them set realistic goals. I will help them become successful.”
This holds true, not only in extracurricular activities, but also in the classroom. At this point, my son can’t get straight A’s in school, no matter how much he tries. It would be unrealistic for me to expect that of him. He can put forth a heroic effort though. His success should be celebrated. What you might see as a mediocre grade was a mountain for him to climb, and he did it. All the while, there are parents who are celebrating straight A’s they had nothing to do with.
My son has many talents. He is genuinely kind. He is truly empathetic. He can draw beautiful pictures. He has determination and courage. He has a great palate and is adventurous with trying new foods. He enjoys cooking. He is considerate, and thoughtful, and polite. These aren’t things he is graded on. These are things that fall into the “grey” area, but they still contribute to the amazing person he is.
Grades do matter, but effort sometimes has to be rewarded. Achievement isn’t the same for every person. Some people have to work extraordinarily hard to accomplish something really small, but the small accomplishments deserve to be celebrated. Sometimes, if you knew the whole story, that small accomplishment wouldn’t seem so small after all.