mercredi, janvier 11, 2012

A mother's 'unseemly' pride?

I got a phone call yesterday that made me very happy.

At the same time, I felt vaguely shamed.

The caller, the headmaster of our local, new magnet school, told me that my son had been accepted at our local magnet school -- and how competitive it was to get in.

He told me other things that don't belong in this blog.

When I tried to tell his father, he made it evident that he didn't want to hear all the things that parents normally tell each other when a child has been successful.

I was left feeling a little guilty -- and a lot rebellious.

It's about him. And about me. And about the past.

My family's past, in which my brother's learning challenges and my father's anxiety were always storms on our horizon.

My brother grew up up in a family in which academic achievement was the standard, not the exception.

In my family of origin, I was the slacker.

Even my mother's mother used to talk about being held up to the standard set by the "Berger boys" (I believe that one of them became a judge).

As bright as my brother was, trapped in a system where learning disabilities weren't well diagnosed or treated, his challenges had to have negative consequences.

I don't know if he ever made peace with these expectations. That's one of the questions I would love to ask him now.

Perhaps he would have gotten healing for with the difficulties he had -- had he lived. He was already well on his way...

I want to believe it.

As I believe that, eventually, my daughter will own her talents and her voice.

When her father rebukes me for praising his son, I think it is, in part, because learning hasn't come easily to his daughter.

We have to look for other reasons to praise her -- while continuing to hold her accountable for making an effort.

But anyone who says that academic success doesn't make a child's life easier, other things being equal, is straight up lying.

Ask any parent who has a child with learning differences. Or one who has one child who does, and another who doesn't.

When my child talks about his historical "insight", I do a gentle parental smackdown. No need for the kid to become cocky.

No one knows what will happen in the future. Who knows? He may lose motivation, get distracted by girls, or meet tough subjects that will be problematic.

Already math shows some signs of being one of these subjects.

My praise is calibrated, balanced, muted. But like a fire, it glows -- it is a chance not to rest on his laurels, but to celebrate his journey towards being a man of character.

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