School Grades and Letting Go of Parental Expectations

Our children, who are average...but sweet!

Our children, who are average…but sweet!

“I’m sorry to inform you that your child is not yet reading in first grade.  We are going to put him in the remedial reading group until he makes progress.”

We received these devastating words at Josh’s first parent/teacher conference.  We were still under the false notion that we are tiger parents and that our offspring was going to be a genius.  We never expected this assessment from his teacher.  A part of me wanted to go back to the private kindergarten we sent him and ask for a refund.  We paid all that money, and Josh can’t read? Are you kidding me?

Not only was Josh behind in reading, he was also behind in math and science, the two subjects that David and I both loved and excelled in.  Homework took forever each night, and there were lots of tears that year — both Josh’s and mine.  Eventually, Josh did learn to read and began to move along in math, but he always dawdled in the average-grade territory throughout his elementary school career which, to his Asian parents, was frustrating and discouraging.

Not wanting to make the same mistake with our younger child, we sent her to the kindergarten at the neighborhood public school, thinking that they specifically prepared kindergarteners for their first grade curriculum.  Meg ended up with the same first grade teacher whom Josh had two years prior.

And again, we heard the same words at our first conference:

“Meg is not reading either, so we will also put her in the remedial reading program.”

Okay, so maybe it’s not the kindergarten — public or private — that’s the problem.  Could it be with our kids?  Or worse, is the problem with…their mom?

I looked back at both of their preschool days with regret at how I did NOT do flash card exercises with them like I should have.  I let them play all day long, Josh with his cars and trucks, and Meg with her dress up costumes.  Why?  Because I didn’t want my kids to pressure themselves at school as I did!  Well, if I wanted to help them avoid stress, I’m afraid I was way too successful at it.

As the years went on and our kids continued to be “just average,” I began to let go of the grip of my expectations for their academic success.  I decided to just enjoy their respective achievements in music and art, as my future for them went from Ivy League school to a state university to a local junior college in my mind’s eye.  As long as they’re contributing citizens and not serial killers someday, became my new mantra.  We began celebrating all of their achievements, big and small.

In time, our kids slowly began to turn the corner.  They began to show progress in their learning!  Homework didn’t always extend into the wee hours of the night.  And, best of all, their grades began to slowly improve, along with their self-confidence.

Josh was the principle trumpet player in the middle school band, and he is spending his freshman year in the marching band and jazz band.  He is repeating algebra which he nearly failed in 8th grade (Grrr — don’t get me started on this one!), but he is completely acing the class now.  He is even having fun in Latin!  I think high school education suits him more.

And Meg, for the first time ever, got all-A’s on her report card this semester.  We don’t know if it is going to be a regular occurrence for her from now on, but her taste of success just might continue to motivate her.

All this happened when we stopped hovering and fretting and let them just be.  Who knows if this pattern will hold, but I do know that if it does, it will come from them and not me.

I heard that high intelligence kids do well as youngsters and peak early, whereas true geniuses have a slow rise and eventually surpass the regular smart folks.  Could it be that our kids are the latter, and that’s why they had a slow start…

Nah, I’m not gonna go there.