Note: This post is the fourth in our six-part “Back to School” series. Join us for more from this series next Tuesday!
I’m not saying that I’m brilliant, but I hang around a lot of brilliant people – brilliant people with brilliant kids receiving brilliant awards in their brilliant activities and associations. So you can imagine the awkward moment when one of my brilliant friends asks how my son is doing in school, and I have to respond with something like, “well, he’s making great improvements. He scored in the 60th percentile on his last standardized test, which is way up from the 10th percentile from a couple of years ago. We’re not sure how he managed to score 10% as I think you get around 15% just for spelling your name correctly.”
“Sounds like he’s doing well,” they generally respond through that shocked What do I say next? smile. That is, before changing the subject to something less uncomfortable like their great-aunt’s recent loss of bladder control.
These are the conversations that can take place in a community full of fabulous schools when you’re raising a child with certain educational challenges. And if I’m having these conversations as a mom, I can only imagine what my poor kid is going through.
We’re so proud of our son, and he’s really smart in many areas, but school is pretty difficult for him. He is making progress, but we’ve had to learn all about what it takes to set him up for successful learning – navigating our way through an IEP (individualized education plan), learning how to help him achieve his goals, and working closely with his classroom teacher as well as the teachers in the Learning Lab (a separate classroom for kids needing extra help where they disappointingly do not wear lab coats).
My husband and I try our hardest to do everything we’ve been told by experts, but I’ve got to tell you – it’s a lot of work, and it can be challenging. Homework time at our house often involves a lot of crying, pouting, and fuming – and that’s just from the parents. You throw my son’s actions into the mix and there’s nearly enough drama to be on Jerry Springer. Plus it can be very time-consuming, some days lasting right up until bedtime. And as parents you have to play a balancing act of knowing how much help is actually helpful without overdoing it. There’s just a lot to it.
But we do all of this in the hope that he’ll do well enough to graduate from high school, go to college, become independent, and be a productive member of society. That’s part of our job as parents, right? We’re led to believe that ensuring our children graduate with an acceptable GPA is our main responsibility … but is it really?
I don’t know about you, but the people I admire most are not necessarily those with the most honors, but those who are the most honorable and kind. They’re the ones shoveling the neighbors’ driveways in the bitter cold and sleet or foregoing a trip to Italy to go on one for Haiti relief. They know how to say “I’m sorry” and how to forgive a friend. They open the door for strangers and treat restaurant servers with respect. They are honest and loyal, they are passionate and brave. They give generously, love intentionally, and speak up for those in need. These are the type of people I hope my son grows up to be.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that we have to choose character OR the classroom. To be honest, I hope my son ends up with both. But no matter how well our kids do in school, it’s good to remember where the emphasis should lie; the measure of our success as parents is what kind of people our children grow up to be, not simply how they look on paper.