Monday, January 23, 2017

A Mother's Rant on Awards

OK – getting this rant down in ink.    
 Back in good old preschool, as a newly adopted Mom of two rambunctious boys with definite health concerns, learning disabilities and more -  we entered our first realm of Pre-School.  My kiddos loved preschool – it was a learning time, but it seriously stressed them out too – (as did ALL of their schooling!). I loved to see them learn new things and be excited about the papers they brought home – they blossomed as they did enjoy singing and PE activites, the other stuff was hard for them.  The teacher was new, green and energetic – we loved her and were so happy for the opportunity close to home.  Some kids thrive in school, get freaked out if they get B’s instead of A’s and are destined for honor roll and every other award at awards banquets etc.

My kids aren’t these kids.  All 4 adopted kiddos I love deeply – but they aren’t National Honor Roll kids. 

It started for me when at the end of my eldest son’s 1st preschool year – an award was given out with great grandeur called the “Apple of My Eye” award by the teacher.  Clearly as a parent you’d beam if your child received this award – I mean, to have a child singled out in such a way indicates they are superior to every other child only screams “successful child coming through” and “Teachers Pet” all the way!  While maybe jealousy played a part of my feelings – wonder and shock also entered as I realized the school system was already stereotyping children into the “preferred” category by adults through awards. At age 4 the kids don’t understand the significance of these moments.  Like getting better insurance rates for good credit, these kids are the Golden Children riding through the system from Pre-School to High School shining in awards. Their future is pre-determined with expectations.

This continued with best reading awards, best attendance, and so on – clear to High School with Awards ceremonies with meals and watching the SAME people go up countless times receiving every award possible.  Citizenship Awards (which at least looks at the character of the person for kindness and other attributes not measured by the IQ level is sometimes the only award I hold my breath on).  Once in a while a child of mine might get some award, which I’d do my part to be there to watch – despite the pain/proud mixture I’d feel.

As I’ve pondered all this, coming from a Canadian education system that didn’t quite have this level of “preferred students” held up on pedestals, a part of me is unhappy with this system in the USA that I continue to observe.  Yes, I’m very proud of my kids when they do well – and can get sucked into the “proud parent” moments with awards and publication.  I mean – it feeds an ego of parenting we all hold and who wouldn’t feel proud of their child for achieving something they get recognized for? We are naturally wired this way. We’d be guilted into feeling like bad parents if we didn’t feel this way.

When I recently saw another post of a teacher having a special lunch with kids that got the “Best behavior” status….it brought forth some thoughts on what we are doing – I know positive reinforcement and all that is important, I in no way want to discount that -  but I’m worried too about the message this sends to those kids who can’t attain this status. 

So here is my
Buts list….

But what about the child that just can’t sit still and get recognition for good behavior?
But what about the child that is bullied by others because they can’t read or do math like the others so they act out and then get labeled the one that isn’t kind to others when the bullies are the “stars” of the class and get away with it.
But what about the child that has the lower IQ, is ADD or Autistic or has a Learning Disability that these awards just aren’t in the cards for their life unless they have a brain transplant!
But what about the child who is smart, but has NO parental support and a dysfunctional home with abuse on the home front that doesn’t get to achieve their full potential.
But what about the child whose single parent is doing all they can, but can’t keep up with all the emails, posts and expectations the school puts of parents to be that great parent support when they can barely get their work done to pay bills, do laundry and cook let alone sit down with their child at night to help them – feeling exhausted and pulled at in every direction with all their kids -  yet it costs their child.
But what about the child who simply is mediocre – will do their best and remain “average” all their life.

Why do we do this to our children today?  These kiddos know who is smart, who isn’t, who is kind, who does drugs, who has allergies, who has one parent or two or none……

We label and expect these kids to live up to standards that aren’t achievable by all, only recognizing the few that attain statuses created by adults.  I’d like to see the children create the awards….and see what they can come up with.  Maybe it would look very different.  We don’t want our children to judge others, but the current system does just that and teaches that.  It is no different then picking up a teen magazine with “perfect” girls in in.  Do you know that 3 minutes after looking at a teen magazine girls have strong feelings of depression?  Even though they know photoshop has created these images, it still moves them to feel depressed.

I don’t have all the answers – but I know that many children won’t reach award status in their lives, but Jesus loves us all the same.  In a world needing a little more Jesus action– we need to find more acceptance of the different types out there…..including those battling drugs, cancer, poverty… find ways to say we all don’t have to be the same. To say if mediocre is your best today – we’ll accept that, we are OK with that.

Just please don’t make my children feel any less for what they are….created and loved by God.  Each one unique, each one struggling against all odds, each one deeply loved by a Mama Bear who hurts when they are hurt, who is their greatest advocate, who can be proud of their C’s. I simply want them to know they matter, they are loved, they are important and their presence on this earth makes a difference no matter if they get an award or not!

There….I’ve got that off my chest. 

PS:  I’m married to a National Honor Roll man, Citizenship Award man, Suma Cum Laude honor man, Salutatorian man…..and I’m proud of him too.  These awards don’t define him though – his life by example does!

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