Making the Grade

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Emily got a “C” on a Spanish quiz this week. Irrationally, my thoughts immediately turned to her future. Not whether she would ever master the language, or even whether she would enjoy travel to Spanish-speaking destinations as much as if she were fluent. My first thought was how it would affect her college admissions. Emily is a junior. Understand that she has not received a “C” for the semester, or the year. She has not even gotten a “C” on a unit test. It was just a quiz. We are all wound so tightly about where our kids are going to college, and I am no exception. I immediately went there.

I feel like I owe Emily an apology. Not because I said what I was thinking (something along the lines of “You’re never going to Williams with a C in Spanish!”  or “There go your dreams!”), although she might have read some iteration of that message on my screwed-up face.  I owe her an apology because I thought those stupid thoughts, and for a moment was swept away by the mass hysteria that plagues our demographic—this narrow slice of society whose kids are smart, affluent, and afforded every opportunity. Why do we do this to them?

Our kids are intelligent, healthy, and talented. We are so lucky to have them, and to live in a time and place where we can offer them their dreams. How do we balance our hopes for their future against the real risk of making them feel like there is no such thing as good enough?  I saw the answer in my friend’s toddler the other day. She was fighting to get the peanut butter jar back from her mother, exasperated, saying “I’ll DO it, Mommy!” Well said.

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  1. Wow! I’m sure glad I don’t live in your “narrow slice of society” My kids are smart enough, but we’re nowhere near “affluent”. With all the challenging courses they take, if I had a panic attack every time they struggled or floundered, I’d be a mess. If we want our kids to take ownership for their actions, to have faith in themselves, we can’t micro-inspect every move that they make, in my opinion.

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