When You Don't Have The Perfect Child

I was quite disappointed to hear that my two youngest kids were required to go to summer school this year.  My daughter is going into the fourth grade and my son is going into K-5.  Yes he had to go to summer school for K-5.  My daughter has always struggled with the idea of school so it was no surprise to me that she was required to attend for math, but my son has always been a brilliant child.  However, he struggled with writing his name in cursive, hence, he was asked to do the extra classes. 

Needless to say, I was very disappointed but not in them.  I was disappointed in myself.  Until I realized that I could not put this on myself.  Yet, I just could not help but to feel this sense of ultimate responsibility.  They are failing because of me I thought.  I did not do enough.  I did not push them enough.  It is all my fault.  As mothers we secretly compare our children to those of others.  We may not say our feelings out loud but we think them to ourselves.  “ Why isn’t my child as smart as Janae?”  or “I wish my son was as athletic as Jason.”  In our heads we set unreachable marks for our children and when they are not met we sulk secretly.  Or maybe it's just me. 

I want my children to be the best at everything and they are not.  Does it make me love them any less. Of course, not.  Nothing at all could do that, but it does make me criticize myself and my parenting, my husband’s parenting, their teachers, their school, my job, my life.  I can now see why mothers make the decision to leave work and stay at home all day.  Because of that inner guilt that we all feel as mothers. This was confirmed by Shonda Rhime’s commencement address to the 2014 graduates of Dartmouth College.

Shonda is the writer and creator of the shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal.  If you watch any of these shows you would understand the level of fame and success this lady is currently experiencing in her professional life.  However, as she so eloquently put it... 

“Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life.  If I am killing it on a Scandal script for work, I am probably missing bath and story time at home. If I am at home sewing my kids' Halloween costumes, I'm probably blowing off a rewrite I was supposed to turn in. If I am accepting a prestigious award, I am missing my baby's first swim lesson. If I am at my daughter's debut in her school musical, I am missing Sandra Oh's last scene ever being filmed at Grey's Anatomy. If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the tradeoff. That is the Faustian bargain one makes with the devil that comes with being a powerful working woman who is also a powerful mother. You never feel a hundred percent OK; you never get your sea legs; you are always a little nauseous. Something is always lost. Something is always missing.”

Wow! I thought it is not just me, other mother’s feel the same way. 

I went to drop my son off one morning and had a conversation with his teacher about his poor handwriting.  Of course, I went on and on about what I can do to fix the problem, then she said to me. “You know you can’t have it all.  You have a wonderful, well behaved son that has a sweet and loving personality.  Thank God for that.  That’s better that having a straight A student.” Hmmmm….Never really looked at it that way.

A few weeks later, I went to my daughter’s award ceremony in the pouring rain.  As children were getting nine and ten certificates, I waited for them to call her name.  She received certificates for Art and Outstanding Christian Character.  As I cheered her on I remember the words my son’s teacher said to me and in that moment I was proud of the children that I am raising wonderful honest and upstanding individuals. 

Shonda went on in her speech to say...


So true. 

Until I blog again,



Nicky Saddleton said...

very well written, and very honest. It is so hard to know what is an appropriate amount of worry and achievement vs just loving them....it never ends...but it is good to know you are not alone in your angst about what they will be good at.

Natasha Nixon said...

Oh my...feel like you're telling my story for me. My oldest isn't perfect academically either. She received outstanding awards in music, reading, spelling, bible and art while others cleaned up in the core subjects like Language, science, maths, etc. Nonetheless she's strong minded, loving, driven and has a big heart. I'll take that any day!

I prayed for her many nights to do better academically but recently came to this realization that she is who she is and she'll be just all right!! Thanks for sharing :) you're definitely not alone!

Marcia Bassett said...

Fantastic piece. .. love your candid words....

Giavana Jones said...

This made me tear up. As a new mom, I'm already feeling this tug of war with life. Should I spend more time helping our fiesty 11-month old, am I to blame why she's not walking yet? why she's not "talking" yet? why why why...I know the answer to all the questions are no. I know I'm a fabulous mom with a wonderful husband and father, but....its such a relief to hear and know that I won't be 100% in every area. Now to accept it.

On another note (getting on soapbox), I cringed at the idea that a 5-year old has to do summer school because his cursive handwriting is sloppy. that's absolutely insane that any school/curriculum would demand that level of fine motor skill for a 5 year old. All that I've been taught (School Psychologist) is that mastery of cursive should be expected of a 7 or 8 although I know that A Beka introduces and pushes it way before that. I'm appalled at some of the "curriculum" demands put forth by some of these schools that we hear parents bringing to us. please don't burn out your precious boy by stressing him if he hasn't mastered cursive. I understand that handwriting requires a grade on the report card but if its going to impact his overall performance that significantly, maybe consider changing schools. good luck!

MWMs said...

Here! Here! Giavana! The thought of such a wee child being expected to perfect cursive writing - which back in my day was not taught until grade 5! - is beyond ridiculous.

This post opens up an interesting dialogue for all of us.


ernesta rodriques said...

Thank you all. @ Nicky so true. I do feel that its the parents responsibility to figure out what their kids are good at.

@Natasha I came to the same conclusion about my daughter. She wants to be a pastry chef or a nail technician. :)

@Giavana my son did not walk until he was 15 months. Thank for your encouraging words.

I am glad so many were touched by this piece.


Leslyn Bethel said...

Wow I actually have the same thoughts. And even though I try hard not to compare my 6 year old daughter and 4 year old son...its hard. While my daughter stood and walked at 7 months, my son did not walk until 13 months. I was like Ughhh!! But both of them have their moments and their own individuality.
At least your kids are well-behaved - my crew will blow your mind. Just encourage them to do their best.