Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mommy Lesson

We all have to mess up our children somehow...otherwise what will they tell their shrinks in 15-20 years?

Yesterday I was the proudest Kindergarten mama in the school. My daughter was reading on a Level "K." Each child in her grade level must be reading on a Level "C" in order to pass Kindergarten. I don't know much about the reading levels, but I know K is very far past C in the alphabet.

I told everyone, I even published it here on the blog.

And, in my own sickness, my heart faded a few moments ago when Gracie was eating her dinner and told me that the little boy (who constantly torments her) is going around telling everyone he is reading at level "L."

I am not a genius, but L is past K in the alphabet.

That horrible part of me that wants my child to be the best started raging inside my head.

Gracie continued "J says he is the best reader in the class, the teacher said so."

I tune out my inner competitive mommy.

"Gracie, everyone reads and does different things at different levels. And, someone will always be better than you are at something."

Gracie doesn't seem that upset that "J" is a better reader, just that he is telling her and everyone else. So, why is it bothering me?!!

Probably for the same reason it bothered me when I was in school. If I didn't get "A" on everything I turned in, it would really mess with me. I tied myself up in knots before a test or a quiz or a project.

I didn't feel the need to be the best, at least not in high school. In grade school I was always in the top percentage of students, but in high school there were so many, many kids who were smarter than me, I knew I couldn't keep up, and I didn't try to. But, I still obsessed about my grades.

I am sure there is some sort of reason to be pinpointed around this issue. Maybe because I got positive attention from teachers, or maybe because I needed to prove that I was worthy, maybe I was just screwed up. Who knows? And who cares? My school days are over, and I can't turn Gracie into a little me. I think she worries too much now--I can't imagine adding another neuroses to her long list!

So why does MY child have to be the smartest?

Competition is just a part of human nature, but I shouldn't have gotten sick to my stomach upon hearing that not just one child, but several were ahead of her in reading.

I have taken a few minutes to try and think this out, and the only thing I can come up with is that I have always worked very hard at excelling. I did it in school, in college, in my career (when I had one). And now I do it as a mother.

These days I don't get sticker at the top of my work paper, there aren't any report cards with words of praise, and there is no GPA to compare or a promotion to be celebrated. So, I have sent my child out there as my term project, and she has come home with an A- and I feel "small" inside.

I have never been the "best" at anything. Oh, I have some talents, and I do things pretty well, but I don't have any ribbons or trophies that tout "first place" or "best" at anything. Not that I did a lot of things that would give out such awards, but I was never REALLY good at anything.

And then I became a mommy. It was like I was always meant to do this job! And the older Gracie got, and the more I submersed myself in it, I realized I was pretty good at it. I didn't do it to compete with anyone. Not that there wasn't anyone to compete with. I was the first of my friends to have kids and Gracie and I lived a hermit of a lifestyle.

And while I never thought of Gracie as some sort of reflection of my mothering skills in the beginning--I see now that she has become my desperate plea for acceptance as a "good mother," and maybe even a "superior mother."

Yep, I gotta change that.

So, Gracie isn't the best in her class. It doesn't make me love her any less. It just brings out the part of me that loves me less. And, while that too needs to be fixed, making sure that the first statement is always what Gracie feels is the most important. We love our children, and we want to save them from our mistakes. This is a HUGE one that I want to save her from. Life is too short and too full to worry over grades and acceptance academically. I wasted far too many years with that obsession, and now it has come back to haunt me again.

Another mother lesson recognized...another lesson to be learned. (This one might take a while, (sigh))

1 comment:

Candice said...

Barbara, this is one reason I am so thankful that I've taught all these years. I see that all kids are different, and I'm not even going to worry in this category! Some of my BEST students over the years (and especially this year) are my B-C makers. Don't stress. Elliott says that he NEVER wants to make an issue out of grades because I was a NERD that made straight A's all the way through college and put way too much stress on myself to be an over-achiever. I don't want my child to be like I was!