If they are asked what their favorite subject is, they all say lunch.
If they are asked how they like school, they say it’s dumb.
If they are asked if they want to go to college, they will laugh in the face of the person questioning them.
If someone asks them how their grades are (please don’t do this, it’s rude), they say, “Not good.”
They just squeak by. As in, my two sons barely passed their classes last year, and when I got word they were moving onto the next grade, I was on my knees clutching that piece of paper and felt like I could finally take a clean breath.
This is no exaggeration.
I’m close with the high school principal. By that I mean she called me last spring around 10:30 at night to tell me exactly what my son needed to do in order to pass onto the next grade.
When it comes to sports, they used to play them all — and let me just say it was hard to watch. If they get any playing time, it looks as if they are running from the ball and their team instead of going towards it.
They’ve given them all up because they don’t like them.
They aren’t musical. They have no interest in dance. Or art. And no, they don’t give a flying fuck about joining any groups like student council.
I’ve tried getting them to apply themselves more. I’ve told them how enriching it might be for them to go out of their comfort zone and really try hard at something. I talked until my eyes were bloodshot and I saw double. I used to think if I didn’t push them into something and they had regrets about not taking more chances, or not doing more school-related things, it would mean I’d failed them as a mother.
And then a few years ago I realized how little I care if my kids make the honor roll or are good at sports. This doesn’t define them, it doesn’t make them less than, it doesn’t make them mindless asshole who don’t care about anything. It makes them who they are.
I have nothing to add to the mom groups who talk about how they aren’t sure how they are going to manage the traveling basketball team, and all-star hockey team.
I’ll never post on my social media about the fact my child has made the honor roll (this isn’t something I’d do anyway, but you know what I’m saying here — I doubt I’ll even have the choice.)
Yet, there is not one ounce of me that cares.
My kids are so wonderful and I am the lucky one who gets to have them in my life.
The things that many people use to measure kids’ success — how good they are in sports, what their GPA is, if they are on the debate team, if they know by age 14 what they want to be when they grow up — my kids lack.
But the things that will take them far; the fact they are kind and say things like, “Mom, I feel bad leaving you downstairs by yourself,” so they plop down and watch the cheesy Lifetime movie with me that I know they have no interest in, is what matters.
When my daughter is making homemade pizza because she’s an excellent cook, and she texts her brothers to see what kind they want, that matters to me.
My son had two jobs last summer, bought his own car and still kept up with the things his dad used to do before he moved out, like mowing the lawn and washing my car.
My youngest will do anything his siblings ask of him, anything. If they need help hooking something up, he stops what he’s doing to give them a hand. If my daughter is too embarrassed to order food because the person taking her order goes to school with her, he’ll do it.
I’m not saying that your kids can’t excel in sports and be kind. And just because they are good at school doesn’t mean they aren’t generous.
But I want my kids to know how important they are, what good, smart people they are, regardless of how they perform in school or on the field.
I’m well aware of the fact they are judged by their grades and because they don’t participate in extra activities. I’m judged too. There’s a heavy stigma floating around communities that’s undeniable.
I’ve had moms turn their noses up at me. I’ve had people ask me why I don’t “make them do more.”
My answer is this: They don’t want to. They have all been very clear about that. And I want happy kids.
Just because there are kids who don’t make the cut when it comes to grades and all the other opportunities there are for children, doesn’t mean they aren’t going to succeed in life.
And it sure as hell doesn’t mean they don’t have any other gifts to share.