I had my very first mammogram today. No medical reason precipitated this requisition form but my doctor thought it might be a good idea to have a ‘baseline’ prior to my 50th birthday. My 50th birthday???!!! I don’t recall giving her permission to even talk about 50th birthdays out loud (Oh, by the way – that’s 5 years from now!). Having been to a wonderful 50th wedding anniversary party this past weekend, I have naturally since been thinking about a lot about my family, my job, my circle of friends and this whole spectrum of life. You know, typical pre-menstrual introspection. As always, my thoughts turned to my kids and my ability to raise good, decent citizens (this troublesome topic precipitated by my inability to get them to dress properly for this 50th anniversary party, of course). I picture myself as the perfect backbone parent but the truth is, I teeter totter between the brick wall and the jelly fish parent (may be safe to say that my equilibrium point is backbone parenting but who on earth is every at a perfect state of equilibrium in their life?). All this self-assessment AND a mammogram? I decided to treat myself to a café latte at my favourite village coffee shop to think.
I was listening to a radio program yesterday about education and learning – and yes, of course, there is a difference. I can’t seem to find the archived podcast, but part of the discussion surrounded the fact that some 30% of today’s leading North American companies are run by CEOs that had been diagnosed with some serious learning disability as a youngster. It reminded me of a Maclean’s article I read quite a while ago -something “Why your “A” student will be working for my “C” student someday”.
An interesting read, it essentially highlights the differences in emotional intelligence between “A” students and “C” students. My background in HR makes this topic of interest to me but my role as a parent (of some non-honour rollers) steps it up to fascination. Regrettably, this article tends to stereotype a little: The typical “A” student performs better academically, without a doubt, and has also learned to perform within an established ‘system’. The “C” students, however, seem unable to achieve this success, nor do they seem to care. A number of interesting case studies and surveys follow illustrating how the majority (certainly not all) of academically superior students go on to lead productive but unspectacular lives, while many (certainly not all) their inferior academic comrades go on to be very successful entrepreneurs or incredible change agents.
A friend of mine believes that everyone is a good student… it’s just that sometimes they don’t have the bug to learn until well after the formal years of education are over. Those we typically call the underachievers may be the ones who possess the most drive, ability to relate to people and creativity – though they may not materialize during the formal educational school years. Thankfully some schools are picking up on the importance of these traits and are introducing character development along with the three R’s.
So while we always purport that parents and educators are a team in their children’s education, I think this is where the being an integral part of your kids’ education truly comes into play (alongside collaborating on that wonderful school project, of course!). I laughed this weekend when I heard my aunt quip about our inherent Latvian trait (and, indeed, probably an inherent trait of many immigrants and first generation of immigrants) to strive to be over-achievers, “You got a 96%? Where did you lose the 4 marks?!”. Honestly, I could write a book about that one!
A key question I took from this article: “Did you rob your kid of self-esteem during the really tough developmental process called high school? If it’s a pass, you’ll be surprised at how things work out.”
If what this article and this radio show hold true, I don’t think I can idly stand by and hope the system allows my kids to get to a post secondary learning institution. How do you teach self-esteem? How do you build their self-esteem without falling into the parenting trap of creating over-confident kids always looking for the next carrot before they lift a pencil (oops, sorry, I mean flip a laptop.)? My job now appears to be to help my kids weather the academic storm but hoping I’ve inspired them more to navigate the stormy seas of relationships: understanding themselves (abilities and emotions) and those around (their abilities and emotions). How to teach kids that mixing these and reading these relationships effectively will undoubtedly turn out to be more valuable in life than an A in high school math.
I have come up with another source of parenting inspiration:
Forgive me Father for I have sinned,
I have sinned against you in thought, word and deed.
I pray for forgiveness, I pray for mercy.
I pray my sons don’t grow up to be professional paintballers…