My child is a round peg in a square hole. He is not the least bit interested in conformity. He is quirky and hilarious and incredibly bright and every single year he gets horrible grades on his report card.
Let me explain.
My son is going into grade four so by no means is this a long term kind of situation but his dad and I have been through 5 years of bad parent/teacher interviews, 5 years of bad report card and 5 years of wanting to stick our heads in the oven.
Year after year we go to his school, sit in the ridiculous tiny plastic chairs and hear things like “Cooper has real trouble focusing” or “Cooper disrupts the other kids because he needs to take breaks all the time” and so on and so forth.
The first few times we went and got negative feedback we thought to ourselves “it’s probably just a transition for him, it will get better.” But it never did. Each year I began to dread these meetings and every time I saw his school’s name flash on my phone there was an immediate pit of dread in my stomach – they were never calling to tell me something good.
A bit of backstory for you – I LOVED school. I loved learning and knowing all the answers. Doing well gave me a huge sense of accomplishment and I loved the feeling of getting A’s. It came easy to me and that made it fun.
My son on the other hand Gives. No. Fucks. He couldn’t care less about the grades on his report card. He answers the questions given in the quickest, most concise way possible because he simply doesn’t care about the marks.
This drives me, an overachiever to the core, batshit crazy. “But buddy, you’re so capable! These marks do not reflect your ability! Why don’t you try harder? You didn’t show any of your work so you didn’t get full marks.” To which he replies “But I got the answer right.” Touché mini me.
For the last 2 years his dad and I, along with our respective spouses have exhausted all resources to try to force my round peg neatly into his square. We have hired tutors, we’ve seen counselors, we’ve had him assessed, we’ve seen occupational therapists and we even medicated him to try to get him to act like all the other kids that fit the bill and follow the rules.
That was rock bottom for me. I cried and cried thinking I was a horrible mother for drugging up my son just to make him sit down and shut up. I hated it with every fibre of my being. I felt like a terrible failure of a parent. I had “that” difficult kid and I felt like a bag of shit. *
And the worst part of all of it was that I began to resent my son. I got angry that he couldn’t just follow the rules and do what he was supposed to. I was upset that he made me feel inadequate as a mom and it wasn’t “easy” like it was supposed to be. My own self worth was determined by the marks on a sheet of paper and someone else’s opinion of my son.
But not anymore.
Yesterday his report card came home and shockingly; it was the same as all the others. Poor marks, negative things written about his performance and you know what I finally figured out about it all? It doesn’t mean a goddamn thing.
My son is amazing. He’s clever and kind and empathetic. He loves reading and movies and swimming at the cottage. He asks me questions about multilevel universes and the meaning of life and the school board with its benchmarks and regulations can go fuck itself.
Now I am in no way saying that teachers suck or that they are the issue. Not at all. I was an education assistant for the Toronto District School Board for 11 years so I know exactly how hard they work. I know they are way underfunded, way understaffed and doing their very best to ensure every child gets the individual support that they need. Cooper has had some amazing teachers.
What I am saying is that I am done trying to change my child so that he fits in some cookie cutter mold of conformity. I’m so over feeling terrible reading unflattering comments about my son written by someone who has known him for 10 months. He is so much more than the grades on a sheet of paper.
And you know what else? He’s going to be fine. He’s probably going to be better than fine. The school model we have today is not built for everyone and it is most definitely not built for my son. I anticipate many more years of shitty report cards and not so great parent/teacher interviews; those things will most likely not change.
What will change is my attitude about them. Sometimes you need to stop trying to make your kids into what you think they should be and instead learn to appreciate who they are now.
If your child goes to school and it’s not what you hoped it would be, it’s ok. If your child gets not so great grades, that’s ok too. Your child does not need to get straight A’s to be awesome. If your kids are happy and healthy, if they have friends and activities they love, if they brush their goddamn teeth at night and get dressed without complaining, well then I think you’re doing just fine. Don’t put so much pressure on them or yourself to be exactly like everyone else. Where’s the fun in that anyway?
I’ve figured out that for my son, school is not his best fit and that’s totally cool because my round peg son fits snugly into the round hole we’ve carved out for him at home.
*I am absolutely not saying that medication is a negative thing. It is 100% the right choice for some kids and they do far better on it then off. It can be extremely helpful, life changing and nothing but positive. I’m saying that for us, it was not the right choice as it was being used for the wrong reasons. You do what’s best for you and yours.
Featured Photo: Linda Evangelista by Steven Meisel, Vogue Italia, 1990
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