Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Making the Grade

The other day, I was surfing the net and found a blog post from a mom who was frustrated with her son. There's not much news there, right? What mother doesn't get frustrated with their children? However, this post took me back to a place that I would rather not past. See, this mother and father are upset because they think their teenage son, a senior in high school, is not taking his future seriously. Instead of studying for an upcoming exam, he was more focused on playing video games. They believed their son lacked ambition. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't...the point is that this kid was getting good grades...without studying.

I was that son...okay, I was a daughter, but get my point. I was constantly being reminded that I needed to apply myself and how my grades were more important than having fun with my friends. Now, like the son in the blog post, I made decent grades. I wasn't a straight-A student, but I probably could've been. I worked part-time all through high school and school came easy. I made B's without making an effort. Blowing off homework to have fun with my friends on the weekend was part of my life. My homework always made it in the teachers' hands (and no, I didn't copy off someone else). I can still hear my mom and grandma saying, "If you'd just apply yourself..."

Apply myself to what? The one dream I had was dashed on the rocks before I ever made it to high school. I had no idea what the hell I wanted to be when I grew up. Some days, I still wonder if I'll ever get it all figured out. Anyway, how do you apply yourself to something when you have no clue where you're headed? And what is funny is that no one asked me what I wanted to be. But I wasn't being pushed to go to college. I wasn't being steered in any direction. I don't think anyone ever thought I'd be more than someone's wife and mother.

I've made it to college and I'm working on my degree. I work hard for my grades, but let me share something with you. I've applied myself to the science and math classes because I was working toward my BS. I've failed miserably. I've studied until I cannot see anything except fx(g) or metamorphic vs. sedimentary rocks. What do those things have to do with an English degree? Nothing. Where will I use these things? I won't. However, they are part of the "core requirements" for a BS, so I'm forced to take them. Two semesters I took and retook math and geology in the hopes of getting better grades than the previous semester. Because of my BS, I needed those classes. I grew frustrated and I kept hearing the words, "If only you'd apply're just being lazy." My depression was at an all-time high. I've finally remedied the situation and am working on a BA instead. Still need the math, but I've got the science requirement covered.

I sat in my math class that second semester with Mr. Charismatic Smile from the previous semester and almost lost it when he walked in. He had this huge smile on his face and he sat down with me. Tears filled my eyes when I told him that I felt stupid. (I hate it when people tell me I'm stupid/not smart/unintelligent/lazy/etc.) He squeezed my hand and said, "No, you're not. You're in the same boat as me. This just doesn't make sense to us. But you are NOT stupid. I'm not stupid. We're just not able to comprehend this stuff." In fact not too long ago, he shared this and I cried:

So, here's a little bit of advice: Don't tell your kids that their grades define them, they don't. It doesn't matter if  your kid gets an A or a C on a test. Hell, it doesn't matter if they fail it. You need to ask your kid where they see their life going, who they want to be, where they want to go. Maybe your kid doesn't want to go to college right now. Yes, it would be easier, but in all seriousness, your kid getting a job at a gas station or factory isn't the end of the world. They may just find out who they are. And going to college? It may not be in the cards for your child, at least, not now. But the decision needs to be THEIRS. They're not stupid or lazy because they don't follow the goals YOU laid out for THEM. And teaching your children to stress over getting a B instead of an A, well, that just turns them into people who think they have to please you. Teach them to set goals for themselves and live up to THEIR expectations. And just a little FYI: relaxing in front of a video game or a computer screen or even with a book isn't going to kill your kid. You might be surprised at how much they actually learn...about how to manage stress. Take it from someone is just now learning how to deal with biology, algebra, and English, teaching a child to deal with stress is just as important.

 I've changed my major three times since I started college. I'm finally content on my choice, but that college debt is all mine. I've made mistakes and I own each of them, but you know what? At the end of the day, I took my own path, not the one carved out for me, and I'm so much happier now.

Sure you want Junior to be successful, but what is success really? My definition is this: Success is being happy with your life. It's not about a big house, a fancy car, or a big paycheck. It's about paying your bills, having a roof over your head and food on your table. Success is being able to look at yourself in the mirror and liking the person you see there. Happiness=success and no one can convince me otherwise.

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