Report Cards and Regrets

Photo courtesy (i.e., not my kids' actual report cards, though not far from them)


The mid-semester progress report cards came out last Friday.

I was sitting in the waiting room for Joshua’s oral surgery when I decided to check on my email.  I should never check email when I’m anxious — the surgery was running well over an hour behind schedule — because it could bear bad news. And I won’t handle them very well.

“Dear Parents, you may now go to the parent portal website to check your child’s grades,” announced the email from the school principal.  Now that I have an iPhone, I can surf the ‘net anywhere, so I did.


Neither of my kids’ grades are stellar, but Josh’s math grade was particularly alarming.  It was in a territory never explored by me nor my husband David.

When we were Josh’s age, we were both spending our weekends competing in local math contests.  And winning.  David was a valedictorian for his high school and went on to become a math major at UC San Diego.  I was a computer science major.  As immigrants, we were both late English learners, so math was our lifeline throughout junior high and high school.  In fact, we both LOVED math! Math should be genetically encoded to be our children’s favorite topic.

And they’re both getting their lowest grades in this subject.

Pardon me, but I can’t help asking myself this question: what did I do wrong?

I look back at my past 14 years as a parent, and I start to doubt myself.  Here are some of the things I find myself asking:

  1. Should I have waited another year before starting my kids in kindergarten?  As young parents, we were so eager to send them out of the house.  I hear that these days, most Tiger Parents wait until their kids — particularly boys — are at least 6 before starting them in kindergarten.  Maybe I should have waited until Josh was 6.  Or 14.
  2. Should I have had him repeat kindergarten?  This would have been relatively easy and inconspicuous to do, since Josh attended the kindergarten which was at the same place as his preschool.  At first grade he switched schools. Another boy who also attended that same preschool and kindergarten went on to our neighborhood public kindergarten the following year.  No one had to know that he repeated kindergarten.  What an advantage that would have given Josh.  So what if he would have been introduced on the high school athletic field by the announcer, “Forward, Joshua Cheng, senior, age 23″?
  3. Should I have worked more with him on all subjects at an early stage or gotten a tutor, at least?  I hate to admit it, but it’s true — I didn’t work with him very hard at home.  I was always self-motivated, so I never even imagined that our own kids would need extra help.  Yes, I was busy with my own career and running the household, but I should have stopped and taken notice when his grades began slipping…in preschool.
  4. Maybe I should have been a helicopter parent, after all.  I fought that notion like crazy.  I didn’t want to hover over my kids, because I believed one should take ownership of their own lives.  But maybe, for some kids, they need more guidance.  I should have ignored his plea to get out of his personal space during homework.  I should have installed that hidden camera to verify that he actually was doing his work while I took off on errands when, in fact, he was probably on E-trade.
  5. Should I have sent him to a different (and easier) middle school than the one he goes to now?  He wanted to stay with his group of good friends so didn’t want to switch schools, but maybe I should have insisted.

So many regrets.  But then I know a God who can still redeem any situation and eventually bring Him glory while making us grow.  High school is right around the corner.  Good thing middle school grades are not on college transcripts.  I think we can still redeem this situation…

Ya think?