School has closed for Summer and our first full academic year in the US has drawn to a close. It’s that time of year again, when the parents of your kids’ friends come out of the woodwork, brandishing reports in hand, and wanting to do a comparison.
A little background first. I come from a community where through the entirety of my education (primary school, high school and even university), the parents would gather after reports were issued and compare their kids’ performance. There was no actual report card swapping, but there was definitely a lot of “oh yes, my child got an A for that subject. But she always gets high marks. She’s very clever.” Followed closely by parents admonishing their own children with “why didn’t you get an A for that subject?” or “if you just worked a little harder and didn’t spend so much time playing, you’d be getting As too”. Yes, ok, in my case they may well have been right. I have no regrets about playing, making up stories, or having fun. But I am more sensitive than your average bear to such academic comparisons of kids.
There is a quantum leap between being a proud parent and being a douche. Be proud of your kids’ academic achievements by all means. We regularly make a fuss of Godzilla and the TeenWolf for doing well in their academic careers. We celebrate good academic achievement and hard work with dinners out (at a restaurant of their choice), we ring grandparents and aunts/uncles and let them know. We do happy dances and tell the kids how proud we are of how hard they’ve worked and how well they’ve done. We emphasise that we’re proud of their effort as much as their achievement, and that if a B or a C is the best they’ve got for that subject, then we’re thrilled with that — you can’t ask for more than the best they’ve got.
Please, I beseech you, don’t post their reports on social media. It’s no different to walking around school on the day the report card comes out (thank goodness they’re mailed now) asking other parents how their kids did. Don’t make others feel inadequate, and don’t compare different children’s achievements — one person’s B (or C or D) is another’s A. If you want to know how somebody else’s kids did, ask them if they’re happy with the report and whether they feel it’s an accurate reflection of their kid. It’s pretty simple, but so many seem to forget that.
As my beautiful dear friend said (and I’m quoting shamelessly here) “as a mother, the thing I’m most proud of is not my kids report cards, uni degrees, or athletic achievements…it’s the size and strength of their hearts. The respect and empathy they show towards others, the love and tenderness they extend towards their partners and the sheer joy they exhibit in caring for their own children. These are what make me immensely proud.” Now I know what you’re saying, she has adult children and the benefit of a longer vision and you’re in the thick of schooling and academic achievement. But think about it for just one second. Is your kid’s A for subject X really what you’re most proud of them for? It’s not the kindness they showed towards a friend who wasn’t coping so well this year? It wasn’t the immense good sense they showed (to your eternal relief) in not getting into that car with that young driver because all their friends were? It’s not texting you in the middle of the day to tell you that their teacher just told them she was proud of them (and that you’re the first person they thought to tell that to)?
Sadly, none of those things are reflected in a report card — not even how hard they’ve worked.