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Personal: Are we so sensitive?

June 11, 2011

I think my children are amazing. I am very proud of them and their accomplishments. I will be totally honest, I have purchased the trophy even though the team was in last place and I have gotten the ballerina statue just for being in the program. I don’t necessarily believe this is a good thing–not everyone can be winners or deserves an award. I believe this only produces mediocre members of society and we are beginning to see the long-term effects of that belief.

My children, though they have gotten “applauded just for sneezing,” do know what it is to work hard and to fail. Both have stuck with losing teams and they have learned from the experience. Both know poor performance at school work will cause them to miss the chance at the awards they want.

They are still spoiled. I admit that.

T1 just finished elementary school. She did amazing–honor roll for the year; earned the Gold President’s Educational Excellence Award (for those of my age, this is the successor of the Presidential Academic Fitness Award); she achieved two perfects, two passing advanced, and 1 pass on her standardized tests; and she won 1st place in the science fair. She is consistent–having performed this way since 3rd grade when letter grades and standardized tests are first given. I very rarely have to prod her; we are aware of her weaknesses (spelling and writing) and we always ask her “Did you do you best? If so, always be proud of that.”

T2 is a nut. This child tests off the charts. Boredom is and will continue to be her enemy. If I had to go by her daily work, I’d swear it was another child’s report card and test results. She did not even place at the science fair. While part of me truly disagreed with this decision, I did not advocate and demand an explanation–this was a good lesson for her to learn and I pointed out that in 3rd grade T1 did not place either. “Not everyone can be winners all the time. Did you learn something? Did you have fun? Then that is what is important right now. Next year, you will try again.”

T2 almost had straight As for the entire year–somehow spelling the last quarter snuck up on her and she got a B. She earned FOUR perfects on her four standardized tests. I’m not stunned she got perfects–I knew she could, all four–I’m stunned she actually GOT four perfects, that she lived up to her potential. And made me eat my words. Again, if I had to go by her review work and pretests… well, it could have been anyone’s call.

I knew T1 was going to be mad at the news of her sister’s scores. Competitive much? I waited until the last day of school to let them know because I did not want T1’s “graduation” overshadowed. I really did not know how to handle this. T2 deserves praise for the hard work I’m sure it took her to slow down and double-check all of her answers, to take the test seriously, just as T1 deserves praise for the hard work she has to put in to preparing for these tests. I certainly don’t want to tell either girl “5th grade tests are harder” because what will I do if T2 continues to perform at this level? I was actually told things would always be harder for my older sibling just because she went through it first (and these weren’t academic issues–I was told this about my first break-up even).

Instead I have calmly told both children that “it would be like comparing apples to oranges. There is no comparison, only with yourself. Dad and I do not compare you or expect you to do the same things–you are your own persons. Yes, we say you are more like Dad (both excel in math like him) but ultimately you are such a blend of things that you are your own persons with your own strengths and skills.” And even though they have with one exception had the same teachers, none have treated them the same. We have been so blessed by these teachers.

So I posted on FB. Other friends would post “great report cards, great tests, yeah school is over.” None were as specific as me. Should I have not been specific? T2’s achievement, while not unheard of, is rare. It is stunning. I did not downplay it to spare her sister, but should I have downplayed it to the general public? Will my friends have a hard time with it? We all want out children to be geniuses and successful and when our child does not achieve what another has, we do take it personally. I may not have come out of a time when everyone on the losing team got a trophy but I am raising my children in this time and it is so hard to resist–I cannot imagine taking my child to the team party and her be the only one not getting a trophy (I have subtly gotten teams to switch to participation medals, with the promise that if we win we’d order trophies later … and many parents have thanked me!).

I’m not comparing my child to anyone else’s. But I do remember when T1 was in 3rd, another parent was as invested in those perfect scores as her child. T1 hadn’t gotten any word except that she had passed. I was worried. And I am forever grateful to that teacher for waiting until the last day to hand out results. It taught me a lesson.

But it is so confusing. I showed T1 her results this year. She missed a perfect on one test by just ONE question. Again, I don’t want to downplay T2’s achievement, I just want T1 to understand how arbitrary these tests are.

I don’t know if this is how my friends feel. Do they feel I was bragging, pointing out the less then perfect performance of their children? Do they know I do not compare mine to anyone but themselves? Many “liked” my status, got a few “Congrats! What smart girls!”

I was worried about having to referee my own children but I don’t want to suddenly have friends irked at me for being proud of what the girls accomplished. I always “like” when others post about their children. I hope we can all be happy for each other, not comparing and being joyful for the blessings we do have.

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