The Secret Behind Your Kids’ Grades

I apologize in advance if you leave this blog thinking I have neurosis. Perhaps I do! I was successful in several corporate environments, where I think they should require and test for neurosis to predict success.

At any rate, late last summer when we got the school calendar for my twin first-graders, I entered every event and milestone in iCal and created alarms. There is no calendar entry I more anxiously await than the quarterly “report card” entry. I set two alarms for that one. Their teacher also sends a reminder the week before. I tell the ladies, “Hey! Report cards are coming next week!” “T minus two for report cards!” The girls just hang their heads and sighhhh with such dread, not even closely matching my obvious “I just won the lottery” excitement.

Why such dread? These girls get really good grades, and our individual chats on how well they did, and plans for keeping up the good work, feel quite effective.

However, the greater question I had for myself is not why the girls dread getting their report cards. It’s why I’m so pre-occupied with them. I decided it was a question worth processing.

Well, it didn’t take much processing. It’s because THEIR report cards are MY report cards. It’s my performance review. Their little first grade reading, writing, math, science, computers, music, Spanish, social studies, gym, homework and other grades are my grades. I have replaced achieved goals in the workplace: completed projects, cultural turnarounds, restructurings, whatever, with… with…

Sigh. My seven-year-olds’ grades.

This is a real problem! My daughters are Future Neurotic Extraordinaires in training!

I left the workplace to spend more time with my children: volunteer in their school, get to know them better, be there for problems and have the mental energy to not only listen, but to guide. To not bicker with my husband about who emptied the dishwasher last, or who has to stay home with a sick kid. To not view replacing the butter in the butter dish as a monumental task.

I did not leave the workplace to make my children my new professional project, my “developing team members” key result area.  But left unchecked, that is what’s happening. I guess you can take the professional out of the workplace, but you can’t take the professional out of the person.

I’ve also gotten to know better my long-lost friend, “Bottomless Pit of External Validation” with the vanishing of big projects, performance reviews, developing people, getting paid, all these intangible “markers” with which to judge myself and the value I’m contributing.  There is reward to that, even when I didn’t receive the recognition I desired.

The next phase of this “leave the workplace” journey is to get out of creating neurotic mini-mes and put my energy into serving on boards and volunteering and setting some big goals. Tasky to-do lists aren’t cutting it.

But I have feeling that won’t be enough. I need that report card!

Or, maybe I should just “unfriend” Bottomless Pit of External Validation.


4 thoughts on “The Secret Behind Your Kids’ Grades

  1. I appreciate both the fact that you care so much about your daughters and that you are sensitive enough to concern yourself with whether you have just replaced one neurotic-ism with another by leaving the corporate world to care for them. I don’t think you have, but I suppose I’m biased. Anyway, I think most mental health pros would probably agree that un-friending your BPEV would be a good idea, though as you say, it may be unrealistic to think that’s possible. Lord knows I know I’m supposed to do the same, but I don’t think I could. Maybe you have to seek creative ways to “scratch that itch” without abandoning everything else you hold dear(?).

  2. Love the truth here Christine! And, for the record, I’m finding that neurosis is the other side of the coin of living passionately. Seems you can’t have one without a bit of the other…… I have endeavored to give my kids something different than I had. Grades were a big deal in my house and my value as a person was defined by them–quarterly. As a result, I don’t think I ever wanted them for myself until graduate school. I simply wanted my parent’s approval. I now ask questions of Harrison and Olivia like, “What grade were you hoping for?” or “Do you feel that accurately represents what you learned?” and “How does your report card make you feel?” It seems to be working in some small way. It allows me to engage with them in bigger picture of what these measurements mean and help them if there’s a disparity between what they wanted and what they got. These really are their grades–not mine……and I would never want them to feel that my stance toward them changes (good or bad) based on “the card.” I believe there’s an inherent desire to learn, grow and achieve. I don’t need to pervert that with conditional love.

    This leads to another part that I love about this post. You have nailed it with the BPEV. We seem destined to jump in that pit at every turn. I have known a few in my lifetime that appear to live “self-validated” and it is enviable. I have to believe our awareness of the pit moves us incrementally away from it–even if it’s baby steps. Love that you would share this and I partner with you in the process!

    • Thanks, Warren, I like that! Interesting your opposite approach, conversational in nature. My goal is to not say a word in advance, see if THEY show ME the report card they got. I might break out in hives, but I’ll try. On BPEV, I wonder if one is truly self-validated, are you trying as hard? Are you doing big things?? I don’t know…a balance?? Keep asking the questions!

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