“You know, you suck at comforting people.”

For today’s fun, we’re going to talk about all those fun conversations you get to have as a parent when your kid is going through something crappy.

“You know, you suck at comforting people.”

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This. From my tween daughter, who is probably right. She was having a lot of drama and complaining about something that was going to be awful, and my response was this:

“Yeah..it will probably be horrible. Or it won’t. I guess you’ll find out tomorrow.”

This was met with the typical melodramatics. “What? Are you kidding me? You can’t just say it will be okay?”

Unfortunately, no. I cannot. I cannot just say it will be okay, or you will do fine, or it won’t be terrible and you will love it and everything will be sunshine and rainbows and unicorn poop because I cannot guarantee those things now, or for the rest of your life.

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Also, my kid didn’t let me finish. Because the full response was this, which I believe to be hard, yet supportive in the most truthful way.

“Yeah..it will probably be horrible. Or it won’t. I guess you’ll find out tomorrow. And if it isn’t as bad as you think, that is a good thing. And if it sucks, well, then you’ll get through it and it will be over and maybe you’ll be a little stronger in the end.” 

I could have just lied to her. I could have said that it would be fine and it would be okay and she would do great and all that, but really, the truth of the matter was that running timed sprints to a loud buzzer in middle school gym class while getting hollered at by a teacher who fancies himself a glorified drill sergeant was probably going to be somewhat disagreeable, if not downright miserable, for my non-athletic physical education hating sixth grader.

So I told the truth. Because gym class, like many things in life, including friendship woes, financial problems, mean bosses, and other such calamities, can and will suck.

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I promise I am not trying to raise a generation of cynics. Nor am I wanting my kiddos to grow up with a glass half-empty outlook on life. I want to raise them to be realistic. I want to raise them to be objective. Most important, I want to raise them to be strong, and resilient. I would rather have them going into a difficult situation with the awareness that yeah, it may be hard, but they will be able to handle it, get through it, learn from it, and grow from it.

Case in point. A recent death in our family, the first of someone close to us for my youngest, left her feeling that she did not want to attend the funeral because she would feel sad, and the people around her would be sad, and that would make her sorrow that much worse

I did not tell her that this wasn’t true. I did not tell her it would not be hard, and that it would be fine. I told her she was right. It would make her sad. Our family would be sad, and yes, that would make it more difficult. But it was important to go, because we would be supporting our loved ones, and because later, when it was over, she would be glad she got to say goodbye and help celebrate that person’s life. So she went. And it was not easy. It was probably as tough as she thought it would be. There were tears. There was grief. But she got through it with lots of hugs, and in the end, was glad she went because she was surrounded by family and because it was the right thing to do.

So yeah. I might suck at comforting people. Really. And this may or may or not be the right parenting approach. I truly have no idea. Only time, teenage rebellion, and the possible need for middle-aged therapy will tell.

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So I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.

Oh, and the results of that terrible, horrible gym class day? This:

“It was worse than bad. And the teacher was diabolical. But everyone hated it, so I just did it, and got it over with and I was really glad when it was done. But at least I didn’t quit. Or cry. So that’s a good thing.”

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A for freaking effort…

For today’s fun, we’ll talk about grades. And report cards. And other such school related magic.

A few days ago, I said this:

” Yeah…we’re not really worried about grades at this point.”

And with that statement, in this day of accolades, achievements, test scores, perfectionism, and helicopter parenting, I broke every cardinal rule of modern day child rearing. I think I broke the assistant principal, too, because she looked at me a little like this:

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In her defense, my kids attend a really, truly amazing school full of educationally committed parents who line up at the office door if their kids so much as get a B on a math test or fail to make the fabulous wall of achievement in the hallway. So I can’t really blame her for the complete and utter shock at what really came across as the underachieving parental philosophy of the year. I’m fairly certain she thought I was sealing my child’s fate as a future high school drop out and alley dweller.

Her response to me was: ” Shouldn’t you be?”

My response. “Nope.”

To clarify, I had said that we were not worried about grades “at this point.” As in we weren’t worried right now, in this moment, at this particular present time.

My oldest kid entered middle school this year, and sixth grade did not hit us like a freight train. It hit us like a freight train carrying rockets carrying nuclear missiles. Schedule changes. New routines. Multiple tests, homework, and projects to study for all at once. Too many binders. Work checks. Algebra. Seven different teachers with seven different ways of doing things and the expectation that all of these sweet, wonderful, children will just magically adjust and achieve stuff with a test, project, and homework load that would make most adults cry a river of frustrated tears.

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Yep. So there’s that. And this:

My kid has the typical attention span issues that many kids face. She also has a healthy dose of learning issues, accompanied by the usual school related anxiety and lack of organizational skills that comes with this bit of fun. Throw in a great big helping of  tween hormones and all of the social nonsense of middle school, and you’ve got a recipe for a hot mess.

So no, I wasn’t worried about grades. I was worried about her assignments coming home. I was worried about her turning things in. I was worried about her studying and studying, only to have her fail a test because she got nervous. I was worried about her having to redo math assignments, because she wrote an answer wrong, or solved an equation right to left instead of left to right. I worried about mean teachers and I worried about meaner kids. I worried about her self-esteem. I worried about her giving up.

So here we are, near the end of this first year, and while most of my giant pile of worry has been cast aside, I still refuse to worry about the damn grades.

Because last night, my kid spent four and a half hours doing  homework. Homework that she remembered to bring home, on her own, without my help. Homework that she knew would take her twice as long as the children she refers to as “those responsible kids”, and probably eat up most, if not all of her free time.  For math, she told me she had to do page 975. It was actually 579. I watched as she wrote the answer 12 as a 21, erased and wrote again. I watched as she sat there diligently, writing, erasing, and rewriting, until it was all done correctly, because she had promised this teacher she would “do better.” Several weeks ago she took it upon herself to do all her math on graph paper because it was “easier to keep track of the numbers.” Then it was on to the next assignment, which took even longer, because answering questions on a test review isn’t easy when the format of the book confuses your eyes. And then typing on the computer, because it is easier to see your spelling and grammar errors and impossible to reverse a letter when you’ve got good old MS word helping you out. And then the studying. For a Social Studies quiz that may or may not go well, depending on the level of anxiety, the absence or presence of a word bank, and the random distractions going on in the classroom. Over four hours of this. So, as she said, she “could bring her grades up.”

So grades are the least of my worries.  Because in this year alone I have watched my child demonstrate more perseverance and execute more problem solving skills than most adults my age. I’ve watched her take a situation that completely overwhelmed her, and find ways to make it not so overwhelming. I’ve watched her try, and fail, and try and fail, and keep trying. I’ve watched her cry about her report card and say she “isn’t smart” because she wasn’t seeing those A’s and then work harder, even though we have told her over and over again that her best effort is more than good enough. I’ve watched her come home beaming from a nice compliment from a teacher or a successful day. I’ve watched her handle her challenges with bravery, humor, and the occasional sarcasm. I’ve watched her pick herself up from failure, and celebrate success. So while I don’t denigrate the importance of grades, I can’t place them high on the list at this moment, because what my kid (and so many other kids dealing with whatever stuff they are dealing with in this modern age)  has accomplished in a single year can’t be measured by a letter on a piece of paper.

So yeah, I’m not really worried about grades at this point. Because my kid is an effing rockstar. So is yours. So are the “responsible kids.” So are the kids on the wall, and the kids with straight A’s, and the kids working their butts off to pass a class. They get an an  A for freaking effort.

So is the wise teacher who wrote this. Perhaps I will send it to our assistant principal.

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