Yesterday, I watched one of my children participate in a graduation ceremony for the seventh time in eleven years. If all goes as planned, there will be two more graduation ceremonies. And I only have 3 kids. There have been three high school graduations, two college ceremonies, one graduate school ceremony (Ph.D) and one medical school graduation (M.D.) so far, with our son anticipating college graduation in two years and medical school four years after that.
Am I proud? Oh, yes. My husband and I have been so very blessed with three extraordinary children who have been polite, well-behaved and a joy to be around. Do we claim credit? No. We didn’t take the classes, study for the tests, write the papers or complete the assignments for these degrees. (My kids should all be glad I didn’t do their work for them, considering my limitations in math and science!)
What we tried to do was raise our kids with an appreciation of the value of education, which we stressed over entertainment, popularity or material possessions. We wanted them to have fun and to enjoy their childhoods — but the ultimate goal was always for them to grow into productive and self-supporting adults. I suppose we were stricter than some parents. Maybe too strict, at times, though none of them is currently writing a “Mommy Dearest” tell-all, as far as I know. We’re still friends. We love being together, even though two of them will be living on opposite coasts by the beginning of next month in pursuit of further career training (and I can’t tell you how hard it is to let them go that far away!). I’m glad they both intend to return to Arkansas eventually.
I’ve read that there are four types of parenting. High expectations, low praise. Low expectations, high praise. Low expectations, low praise. High expectations, high praise. We tried to follow the latter model. We expected a lot from our kids. We didn’t demand all As, but we expected them to live up to their potential, and the As followed that expectation. We didn’t pay them for grades, nor did we bribe them to be good students — but we made it clear that it was their lives, their futures that would be affected by their performance in high school, not ours. We would not financially support them as healthy adults, nor would we expect them to support us. If they wanted to be successful and make a decent living, it was up to them to do what was necessary to achieve those goals. They have paid for their own educations through academic scholarships and, in the case of medical school, through student loans. They have attended public schools and colleges throughout their educations, making their goals achievable and affordable.
Our children were fortunate to have some excellent teachers along the way (I talked about that in a previous post). The state of Arkansas ran a fantastic summer program called Academic Enrichment for the Gifted in Summer (AEGIS) that both our girls participated in every summer after sixth grade. Two to three week residential programs, AEGIS introduced them to concepts in math, science, history, arts and computers — as well as being a lot of fun for them and letting them make friends from around the state, some of whom are still friends to this day. It was inspiring for them to meet peers who also valued good grades and academic achievement (they didn’t always get that validation from their own schoolmates). Getting into an AEGIS program was very competitive, so they were encouraged to keep their grades high and their resumes full, because they loved the programs so much that they were considered them rewards for a successful school year. Our son was able to attend only one AEGIS program before the state discontinued AEGIS in 2001 for economic reasons. In my opinion, this decision was a huge mistake — and a great loss for our state.
I don’t take credit for my children’s achievements — sometimes I think they’ve done well despite the mistakes I’ve made as a mom (and there have been plenty). But I hope the love and pride I feel for them, and the gratitude I have for being privileged to know them, will always sustain them as they continue to make their way through life.