Parent vs kids: Who has learned the most this year?
End of Schoolyear Reflections
Just a few more days and then this school year will be over. The end of a weird school year, with mouth caps, no social activities after school, no camp. But also, a year in which a lot went on as usual. Our daughter Tara finishes middle school and after 11.5 years she goes to another location, to High School. Exciting. Our son Sem completes the MYP program and starts Grade 11 after summer; two important years lay ahead of him.
The end of the year is always a good time to look back. What has this school year brought us? It hasn’t been a boring year for either of them. It has been an emotionally eventful year for Tara. Her favorite horse was injured last summer. After a summer of rest, she was allowed to slowly build up with him again. Against all odds, she even got to jump with him again one fine day. Regularly there was a tear of joy at a new milestone that was reached. But unfortunately, the injury came back and now also in another leg. It was with great sadness that they decided to put him to sleep. As a mother, you can merely stand by and do nothing. The last few days she went to him every day, to brush him, to take him for a walk. With tears in my eyes I saw how sweet she was to him and also how mature she went through this.
For Sem, this year was for a great deal about looking ahead. What comes next? He had to make choices for the subjects he wants to take in Grades 11 and 12. He has no idea yet what he might want to study, so that didn’t make it easy. When he started the process, he was very defensive towards us. He wanted to do this himself. Because if we got involved, he might do what we wanted. I was glad he said that. For me it was a sign of interest, that it is important enough to keep to himself and not to hand over to his parents. Fortunately, we found a way in which he kept us informed. In which we could ask him questions about his choices. We were allowed to think along with him, but in the end we let him make his own choices. So not only has he learned a lot, we have also earned points for our parental diploma. Ha ha.
Parenting is all about finding balance
So, this year, our children both went through completely different processes, both demanding our attention. It was important to both, that they were given the space to do it their way, knowing we were close by. And that, I think, is what our role as a parent is all about, especially as a parent of teenagers. Stay in touch without dominating.
It’s about balancing on a thin line of what is already theirs and what is still yours. Who makes which decision? Who bears which responsibility? And that is always a trade-off, because they get older and because they are their unique selves. It’s a process that keeps you awake at one time (“Did I do the right thing by giving him that freedom?”) and makes you incredibly proud the next.
Fortunately, responsibilities come in all shapes and sizes. And certain responsibilities are nice exercises for both us and the children. For example, we have always left the responsibility for their grades with them. We have never made bad grades an issue. At most if it is unnecessary, for example if they have not submitted something, we will say that we don’t like it. Other than that, we never put a lot of pressure on it. What we find important is pleasure in learning, that they challenge themselves and do not give up if something doesn’t work out the first time.
The upside of bad grades
I regularly hear from Sem and Tara that classmates are stressed about a bad grade because they are afraid that their parents will be angry. I always find that sad to hear. It, in my opinion, increases the distance between parent and child. While at that moment you may have to be very close to understand where it comes from. What does your child need at that moment? And to find out together what the next step should be.
The bad grade itself means nothing, is not that important (up to a certain age) in my opinion. What’s behind it is what matters and can reveal an important truth about what’s going on. Also about yourself. What makes you angry when your child comes home with that bad grade? What touches you at that moment? What does it remind you off? What are you afraid of? Where does that fear come from? And what would it be like for you and your child if you didn’t have that fear, if you didn’t have those expectations? When we as parents can be there in that way, seizing the difficult moments to look inside ourselves, we are setting the best example for our children. And we make this important time for ourselves and for our children lighter and more loving.