As I mentioned in Part 1, I’ve learned over the past few years that it really upsets me when a teacher tells me that Emily is more than qualified for specific awards and honors, yet for whatever reason she hasn’t been given recognition.
And so the saga continues…
We saw it happen again in Kindergarten. This time it was a special monthly award and a little stuffed panda that got to come home for the weekend with his notebook. Every Friday Emily would climb into the car and excitedly tell me who was chosen to take the panda home. At first she was always so happy for whomever the lucky kid was, but after a while she started to become confused. She’d say things like, “Freddy got to take the panda home today, Mommy. But I don’t understand why, because he’s on blue (a not-good color) every day and I’ve never even been off of green (the best color)!” I tried to explain that her teacher knows she does well and that everyone might not get a change to bring the panda home, and that seemed to help. She finally did get her turn with the panda, but it wasn’t until Easter weekend, almost 7 months into the school year. She also won the Spirit Cup late in the school year, although she wasn’t really sure what she earned it for.
First Grade didn’t prove any different, but this time Emily was really starting to see the same pattern Jay and I saw. She started getting depressed, saying she felt like her best was just never good enough. Other kids were being awarded, even though they were in trouble all the time or were reading easier books than she was. During the last parent-teacher conference of the school year her teacher told me that she was one of the highest-level readers in First Grade – although because of a funky scoring system she wasn’t eligible for any reading awards or the quarterly pizza party. Grrrrr. Then her teacher pointed to a poster in the classroom that listed all of the character traits the school focuses on each year and said, “Emily demonstrates every single one of these qualities. If I could I would give her an award for all of them.” And apparently, I’d had enough. It was just too much, and Momma Bear arrived. I started angry crying (not the same as sad crying) and asked why she hadn’t been recognized for any of them if she was such a great candidate for all of them. I told her that this had been happening every year she’d been in school and I was tired of it. That it broke my heart to see Emily feeling like a failure when she clearly excelled academically and was of strong character. That it was becoming more and more difficult to explain that not everyone would get a turn… that some kids needed to know they were doing a great job… that her Daddy and I were proud of her whether she got an award or not. Her teacher apologized and confirmed my suspicions – the students who were receiving the awards were the ones who needed the positive reinforcement for their successes, while it was assumed that Emily knew her teacher was proud because she received small treats more often. She agreed that Emily should be recognized, and Emily won a special Reading Award at the end of the year ceremony that was created just for her, along with the last Character Trait award, honesty. But I still can’t help wondering if that only happened because I made a fuss. I’m glad she received the awards she deserved, but I wanted her to earn them without my help.
But now we reach that happy ending I promised, because yesterday Emily was recognized for demonstrating the Character Trait of enthusiasm. Before Easter. Without my getting involved. And this Momma Bear’s heart was ready to bust with pride.
I know I can’t fight my daughters’ battles. I don’t want to. But I do think that humility is a hard trait to come by naturally, and I know that there is no way Emily would have ever spoken up. And although I hate thinking that she was only recognized last year because I became “that mom,” I have no doubt that it was the right thing to do, and I have no regrets.
Who knows, I might have to do the same for Julieboo one day.