My boy Luke was really coming into his own in seventh grade. I, unfortunately, had started to become undone. I had gone back to school to get my Masters in Education and was also working full time as the librarian at Glenwood. Plus raising my family. Twenty-four hours in a day was not cutting it. lol I was having my own health issues and was still unaware that they were stemming from my anxiety. I was tired, frazzled, and tense. In short, I was a burnt out mess.
I was listening to a podcast today with the author of Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist, and she was describing a similar time in her life and how the more crazy her life became, the more she desperately wanted to control every. single. element. This was me. I wanted everything, every moment of the day scripted and going the way I needed it to go so I could complete all the things on my long to-do list.
Turns out Luke didn’t really like being on my list. lol He was always more of a free-style it kind of guy. In seventh grade Luke was spreading his wings. He didn’t want to be told when he had to be home for dinner, or how long he was allowed to be on his phone, or how much homework he should be doing. He didn’t want to be told anything. Cue the mother. I, of course, had opinions about everything. A voice about everything. His hair, his clothes, his sleeping habits, his school work. UGH. The NAGGING I did about the school work. But Luke and school was one of those things I didn’t want to have to worry about. I wanted it all tied up in a pretty package and taken care of. I was desperately trying to control this, but turns out you can’t control the course of another human being’s life. Even your child’s.
PowerSchool had come into our lives when Luke started at Central Tree and I thought it was the best thing ever. Every day I could go on and see Luke’s grades. Every. Day. I am sighing now thinking about how insane this practice was. What happened is it then became a daily conversation about what homework or assignment he hadn’t completed or turned in or done his best on. School had become a bit more work for Luke and he was just putting in the perfect amount of effort to get it completed. Getting an A or doing better than his peers was not his number one concern anymore and as a result he became a B student. Oh, the HORROR! It seems funny, now. Then, not so much.
There I was, one Sunday morning, looking at PowerSchool. Grades had closed and his report card, per se, was up and Luke had mostly Bs. And I was devastated. Luke was a smart kid. Really smart, actually, and should have easily been able to get grades to reflect that. But here I was staring all these Bs in face and I cried. Yep, not my finest moment. But wait for it, it gets better. Luke loved to tell the story about the day he was sitting in the great room with his father, watching something on TV, when his mom walked in with her laptop, crying, literally losing her shit, and announced, “Well, my son is officially a B student.” Ugh. It pains me to admit this to all of you. I am hoping someone out there can relate to creating this level of drama around grades and looking back, I try to forgive myself knowing the strain I was under at the time. Regardless, let’s have a moment of silence for this stellar parenting move.
Luke thought the whole event was laughable. “I don’t care, Mom! WTF?!” But obviously I did. It took me a few days to recover from this run-in because doing well in school meant something to me – too much, I realize now. Turns out, one short year later, I would give anything to see those Bs again.
So here’s what I need you to know: As a society, we put so much emphasis on grades. I witness so much disappointment and elation for parents tied to the numbers and letters we teachers hand out to let you know how your child is doing learning their curriculum. We fight about school with our kids, and argue over homework and projects. We give them money and rewards when they do well to encourage those high grades. And to what end? I see the faces of my kiddos who absolutely give their all and end up with a 70% and feel like they are less than their classmates who received the 100% maybe with half the effort. I don’t have the answer, but I do know we need balance. I tell my students all the time that who they are at school is NOT the full measure of who they are as a human being. That they are valued for being a wonderful son or daughter, for helping their community in Scouts or at church, for the dancer or basketball player or whatever passion it is that they chase. I try not to preach, but please try and put this practice into your relationship with your children. If kiddos believe that the most important part of who they are is tied to how they do at school, and school is not their thing, well, it’s a long, long road to Senior Year. Here’s to celebrating the whole child. Xxx