Yesterday, my daughter was preparing me dinner in her pretend kitchen, asking me if I wanted any “lemon-lade” with my plastic banana and steak. Today she is almost finished her junior year in high school.
My head is reeling from the whiplash of time, and the vertigo I feel is only going to intensify in the next year.
It’s emotional enough to watch your baby grown into a young woman. Throw in the stress of getting good grades in high school and getting into a good college, and it’s enough to throw an easily stressed mom like me into panic mode.
Perspective is a funny thing.
When Gwen began sixth grade, I worried about her getting good grades because now she was in middle school. Now it was important, and it counted.
When her brother began sixth grade, I expected him to try his best and get good grades, but I didn’t worry about it like I did with Gwen.
Yes, it’s important for him to do well in school, and learn and grow and prosper. But those middle school grades don’t follow him.
High School Stress
High school. That’s where those grades count. They go on transcripts that go to colleges that accept or deny and determine the future of my babies forever and ever…
Clearly I am not handling the pressure well. In fact, Gwen handles it better than I do. She is fully aware of the importance of her performance in high school, and she is fully aware that she needs good grades and test scores to get into college. Yet to my knowledge, she doesn’t create “what if” scenarios in her head, and I’m fairly certain she doesn’t envision herself coming home to live with Mom and Dad for the majority of her twenties.
I’ve got those worst scenarios covered in my own head, thanks.
Excellent and top ranked = extremely competitive.
Our county has an excellent public school system, and Gwen’s high school is ranked in the top two percent of American public schools by U.S. News and World Reports.
Gwen could have a weighted GPA over 4.0 and still not rank in the top quarter of her class. Honors and Advanced Placement classes are commonplace, and talk of college begins early in freshman year if not before.
I try not to fret over every grade she brings home. I try not to put undue pressure on her to do well; she is already doing hours of homework a night. But I worry about how she’ll measure up compared to the rest of her class, or to the other applicants when it comes time to apply to college.
As I often do when I am ruminating over something out of my control, I’m working on changing my reaction to the situation. I can’t change the competitive environment. I can’t take Gwen’s classes for her, although I can give her study tips and other tools she needs to be a successful student on her own.
I can monitor her homework progress and limit her electronic distractions. I can read her papers when she asks and give her feedback and constructive criticism. I can let her sleep as late as she wants on the rare Saturday that we have nothing planned.
I can remind her that she is smart, but she is also so much more than her GPA. I can remind her that although it seems like the focus right now, she’ll barely remember it in ten years. I can remind her that if she does her best, she will be fine.
Because she will. Regardless of what the panicked voice in my head is whispering, she will be fine. Right?
About Dana Hemelt: In her head, Dana is the next great novelist, stand up comic, fashionista, and interior decorator trapped in the body and life of a suburban mom. She writes about her attempts at being amazing at Kiss My List.
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