It’s not my achievement after all. And all those know-it-all parenting advice books insist that you’re not supposed to actually, literally, say that to the kid herself because, gag, you set unreasonable expectations for achievement and really, you’re supposed to rewarding behavior not results and smart is a result not a behavior.
But she’s smart.
Report cards came home yesterday, and by “came home” I mean that they were posted on the education portal website under the category of assessment as a downloadable PDF. No fudging grades in 2016.
For the second year in a row: straight As.
[Mic drop. Walks out of the classroom.]
Grade three achievement is not likely to show up on a college application, but they don’t hand out great marks to every kid. I don’t think so, anyhow. I only have one so my sample size is pretty small.
But no: she’s a clever, determined, and thoughtful little kid — when she wants to be, and seemingly she wants to be at school. And I do tell her that almost every day.
It would have been obvious to nearly any parent: something was bugging her.
“You look so sad.” I nudged her to chat while she sat slumped in her seat and staring vacantly out the truck window. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” She pouted way too quickly, the inflection in her voice so obviously a cover up for the drama wrecking havoc through her little heart that I couldn’t help but pry a little deeper.
“Are you sure?” I prodded. “How was your day?” I had just picked her up from her summer camp, an all-day-care program offered by the same folks that ran her after-school daycare. Participation in this filled her days and meant that she got to spend the summer going to parks and field trips and swimming pools while we worked, all in the company of many of the same kids with whom she spent the rest of the year in more focused curricular activities. Many of the same kids, yes, but some extra staff meant that they took on some new kids as well.
“It was bad.” She said finally. “I had a bad day.” And I could almost hear the tear welling up behind the words.
new friends, old friends, bad friends, and blue friends
And then she proceeded to tell me the tale of her dramatic friendships torn asunder by the complexities only understandable by the minds of children: new friends, old friends, bad friends, and blue friends. It seemed that in an effort to be friends there was a disconnect between method and result. Tears did indeed follow, and by the time we arrived home, parked in the garage, and clambered into the house she had found her room, slammed her door, and accused me of both (a) failing to listen and (b) having so many friends that I couldn’t possibly understand.
I let her pout for a few minutes alone, and while I pondered I also thumbed through the remote on the television. An idea had struck me and in my temporary genius I searched YouTube for the term “how to make friends for kids” and scrolled through the results, landing on a curious selection that seemed to be either (a) a spot on parody of a 1950s film reel or (b) actually a 1950s film reel.
“Come watch this.” I called to her room, wagering on its quality before I could preview it.
“and Ginger wonders what it’s all about!”
As much as we try to be modern and sometimes frown down on the advice of the past in fear that can be irrelevant or crosses lines of attitude and opinion that are no longer socially acceptable, I think there is often still value to be found in the cracks of where antiquity and serendipity collide. The video we happened to watch pointed out some basic yet classic rules of “being a friend” –smiling, saying nice things, and just talking to people (to be specific)– all in that saccharine feel-good, suburban glow of a black-and-white-toned 1950s reel-to-reel film, rescued and posted online. We looked past that, and as fundamental and obvious as the rules it offered may seem, as parent to a kid in the modern world its easy to forget that old fashioned advice is not necessarily so bad or so plain… especially for a seven year old. A few days later I found her “making friends” checklist stuffed under her pillow.
Making friends doesn’t go out of style, it seems, and our great-grandparents generation may have still have a few things to teach us, even if it means hunting through the Internet to find it. Parents still need to find that balance between modern norms and antique insights, but whether it is the advice itself, or just the notion that some good ideas never go out of style, digging up gems from the past can occasionally pay off.
Unfortunately this kind of thing falls into the too-wide category of “cool stuff not provided by highly restricted education dollars”, so the parent council paid for (from fundraising dollars) a dance troupe to come to the school for a week and lead an all-student dance camp culminating in a Friday afternoon performance.
If you ever think that parents don’t respect or support the arts, keep in mind that about 500 parents showed up … taking time off work on a Friday afternoon … packing a too-small gymnasium … to watch the most suburban cliche of a hip-hop dance show ever witnessed on the face of the planet.
The kids loved it tho… and that’s what counts, right?
Karin discovered that there just happens to be a bookstore that deals exclusively in French books hiding over near the Campus Saint-Jean near Bonnie Doon. We took the detour there on Saturday afternoon and she spent a good hour poking through the selection of children’s books and picking out a small arm-load to take home with us. We’ve found that the actual French immersion classwork has been good, but the resource library at Claire’s school is a little bit lacking. She comes home with books that may seem fun, but are chock full of complex grammar or made-up vocabulary that we don’t understand, and goes right over her head. The trick is to find something both that we can read and that is geared at clear language — not clever stories or marketing toys. I also nabbed a collection of (translated) Roald Dahl to try reading aloud; Amazingly enough, I actually think I may be able to.
Our recent hurdle is one of competing interests and escalating difficulty. Claire has been taking piano for four years now and, truth be told, is pretty darn good at it. But she has a lot of things going on. We push her. We’re demanding parents. French immersion at school, extra curricular sports, and piano lessons to boot. And the piano is getting tough. I used to be able to fake it, but now I’m just standing there bewildered trying to remember what she learned last year. This, obviously, blossoms into some interesting practice sessions in our house, more and more of which end in tears. We’re practicing our parenting skills, but our feet are to the fire it seems. Some day she’ll thank us, right?
The annual pilgrimage to the Girl’s elementary school to mingle with the other parents whilst our kids were paraded clumsily onto the stage to serenade us with holiday-esque songs… yeah, that was tonight.
We rushed through dinner, dressed up just enough to not feel like slackers, and stole off to the school to secure both (a) good parking and (b) reasonable seating. Even so, arriving thirty minutes early had us seven rows back. I suppose we’re still not the most eager of parents, eh?
Unlike previous years when our over-capacity school stuffed a thousand parents and six hundred kids into a gymnasium built for a third of that (fire codes be damned, I guess) or rented out a local mega-church and watched with bemused chuckles (or so I imagine) as five hundred cars jockeyed to simultaneously escape the parking lot after a two and half hour concert — unlike those past years, they crunched it down. Just two grades were featured tonight: grades two and three. About one hundred and twenty five kids and their parents.
So. Much. Better.
Yet, still some managed to find opportunity to fulfill the usual array of social obliviousness: letting young kids run wild during the performance, recording the entirety of the event on a cell phone held up to obscure the vision of others, leaving part way through and disturbing others, or simply wandering around for no apparent reason.
We even heard grumblings about the less-than-epic production value: hey… it’s a elementary school concert. What are you expecting?
But the kids had fun, and that’s all that counts. And we filed dutifully out of the school after the hour-long event, made chatter with the other random parents, and endured an encore performance from the backseat as we drove home.