Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On Failing and Jealousy

Lately I find myself feeling kind of jealous of other parents.

Okay, that's kind of a lie. In truth, I go through phases of feeling superior to other parents (patting myself on the back for the awesome kids I've raised) and being completely jealous of the normal, happy families and kids that seem to be everywhere (when my kids are going through yet another thing).

Sometimes, I want to go up to parents whose kids are doing something normal like riding bikes and say, "Um, hello. Do you realize how completely freaking lucky you are to have a kid who can ride a bike?" My kid couldn't and wouldn't learn how to ride a bike until he was 9 1/2.

I know it probably isn't rational but I am jealous of people with normal kids who seem to have normal problems and often don't appreciate how good they have it.

My kids are great in a lot of ways. They are extremely polite, they get along with each other better than any siblings I've ever met, they are bright and engaging, and they are well behaved at school. And I know that there are people who are probably jealous of ME for having kids with those qualities.

But I feel like they have the "buts".

It is parent/teacher conference time for most and my friends are posting on Facebook about their conferences.

It feels like everyone is saying, "We had such a great meeting with Timmy's teacher!"

Or, "We're so proud of Brittany. She got all A's on her report card. Her teacher says she is the best in her class!"

And I want to throw eggs at my laptop. Oh, poo. It must be nice to be you.

What I get to hear every year is, "He is so wonderful and polite. And funny! And bright and creative. BUT now lets talk about his speech problems and his spelling problems and..."

Or I get to hear, "She is so sweet and well-behaved, BUT she doesn't participate in class and she is overly sensitive and she has melt downs and she is so disorganized it affects her grades and..."

Basically it always comes down to, "Your kids are so great! But..."

I know I am an extremely intense person when it comes to something I believe in. And I believe in teaching my children values and respect. And that is not easy. So I feel like I am constantly correcting and admonishing and teaching and not spending enough time celebrating and laughing.

So, for example, I can't just ignore that my daughter lied to me again and take her shopping. But I am jealous of parents who can!

My husband thinks I am completely nuts. (Probably rightfully so.)

He tells me that every kid has their problems. But most parents choose not to see most of them because they don't want to see them. They hear what they want to hear. And besides, they would be posting, "Our little Johnny is so awesome!" even if he was failing every subject and spending most of his time in detention.

He's probably right but there is a part of me that wishes I could be like that too.

I don't want to be critical of my kids. (My biggest fear in life is turning into my father!) But I am the only one here to teach them the millions of important lessons of life and I can't just shake one off because I don't feel like dealing with it.

But, man. I just wanted one freaking parent/teacher conference without a giant BUT.

And I finally got it.

Woo hoo!

My son's teacher has been teaching fourth grade boys at our school for 45 years. At first she annoyed me a little bit because she isn't quite as tech savvy as most (AND SHE USES ALL CAPS TOO MUCH) but I have come to really love her. She's hysterical. And she loves my kid which of course makes me love her back.

But I walked into this parent/teacher conference not knowing what to expect. Of course I knew his grades but I didn't know how they matched up to the rest of his class. And I'm so used to getting BUTS thrown at me that I brace myself for them days ahead.

So after she told me how great he is doing and gave me his great report card we spent the rest of the time just talking and exchanging stories.

To brag for a minute (Don't hate me!) she said that my son's sense of humor is absolutely legendary among all the teachers and staff. Even the headmaster has shared stories of things my son has said that crack him up. "The teacher next door practically has a crush on him!" she told me. Too funny.

But she ended up telling me how the other parents are always making excuses for their kids. And doing the work for their kids. And blaming everybody and anybody for their kids' failures.

Then she told me that she can tell we are wonderful parents because of the way our son knows himself. She used phrases like self sufficient, comfortable with who he is, responsible for himself, and independent.

And, boy, did I need to hear that.

Letting my kids fail is something that I know I need to do. And I do it. I do. I secretly blame myself and am in agony over every one of their failures. And I certainly don't just let them not care that they failed. But it is the hardest thing I do as a parent.

It makes it seem like my kids are mediocre at everything they do. Because other kids are succeeding because of their parents or they are half assing it and their parents are praising them so much it seems like they are better than my kids.

I hate it!


My daughter and I were sitting together when I felt the need to read the following part of the article out loud to her.

"We’re so afraid our kids won’t measure up that we drive them crazy with overbooked schedules and expectations, and then create a sense of entitlement by assigning blame elsewhere when their performance is lackluster. Sideline parents who challenge coaches, teachers and umpires on behalf of their children are a relatively new development that can’t be considered positive. When I wrote recently about the failure of colleges to teach core curricula that engender critical thinking skills, dozens of professors wrote to complain of students who aren’t willing to work hard yet still expect good grades. Even in college, they said, parents pester professors for better marks for their little darlings."

Then I asked her, "Who do I blame when you fail?"

And she replied, "Us."

"Yup. See?" I told her. "You might hate it but I'm just being a good mom. Aren't you lucky?"

It is kind of sad that I needed that kind of reinforcement but I did. Frankly, things have been kind of hard around here lately. And I needed that little pat on the back and reinforcement of what I'm struggling to do.

Of course what my daughter doesn't know is that I may be telling them to take responsibility for their failures, but secretly I'm blaming myself and judging myself more harshly than she could ever imagine.

And I'm still jealous of normal parents of normal kids.

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