This month is a month of achievements in our house.
Little CEO performed in an extracurricular singing program. Boy Wonder is testing for his black belt in 3 weeks.
And they both are doing excellent work in school.
There are lots of reasons to celebrate around here. In fact, if we celebrated each one equally, we’d be partying like rock stars every week.
But I started wondering: what message does that send to my kids?
The fact is that my kids are naturally good students. I don’t mean this to be braggy. While they both put forth good effort, there aren’t a lot of hurdles to them being successful. There is an ease about it all.
In the case of Little CEO’s recent performance, however, things weren’t so easy. She has suffered from pretty severe stage fright from a very early age. At her first dance recital at age 3, she stood in the background, dressed beautifully in a Christmas tutu, sobbing and holding her teddy bear, while the other girls danced happily in front of her.
Just this past Thanksgiving, dread filled her heart at the thought of having to perform the Virginia Reel with her classmates for a parent Thanksgiving program. She has fear of people laughing at her. She was caught in the grip of this fear – something that was difficult for me to understand, since I’ve been a performer nearly my whole life.
This performance that she recently gave required her to stand on stage in front of 50 people and sing a solo. I wasn’t quite sure why she wanted to do this particular activity, given her fear, but we supported her choice, hoping that maybe by staring her fear right in the face, she could conquer it.
And she did. She was scared, but in an excited way. She picked out a new dress, and I did her hair, and we all came to watch her. She was the picture of poise. And when she curtsied at the end of her solo, I could see in her face that she knew: she had done it.
What is the bigger achievement: her impeccable schoolwork that she can complete with only half of her attention, or overcoming this palpable, horrible fear? Should her good grades be met with as much celebration as her performance?
And there’s Boy Wonder’s upcoming black belt testing. Two and a half years in the making, every week of the year, 2-4 times per week. He has sparred kids twice his size, been bruised and battered, but always gets back up and keeps fighting. Memorizing information. Going when he really didn’t feel like it. Being told to do things over and over until they’re perfect. He is not the best martial artist, but his work ethic and commitment have blown my mind. He’s wanted to quit several times, but has kept his eyes on the goal.
What is the bigger achievement: his schoolwork, or persisting through challenging circumstances over two years?
I’ve concluded that for our family, it works to have varying levels of achievement – and the celebrations that accompany them should correspond. The more commitment or challenge it takes to achieve something, the bigger that achievement is – and the celebrating that follows.
Do we still celebrate our kids’ good grades? Sure. We tell them they’ve done a great job, and how proud we are of them for always putting forth a solid effort. But we don’t create the same fanfare over it that we did for Little CEO’s performance, or what we will for Boy Wonder’s upcoming black belt testing.
I hope we’re teaching them a solid lesson that all achievements are not created equal, and that the achievements of which they should be most proud are the ones where they’ve worked the hardest, or persisted the longest, or conquered a fear.
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