Making the Grade


My older daughter’s head hung low as she gave me the bad news about her interim mark in math.

“I hate my teacher…I can’t believe she did this to me!”

I don’t think the math teacher gave her the lousy mark; she earned it all on her own.

Then, with puppy-dog eyes, she looked at me and asked, “Dad, are you mad?”

Boy, is this ever a trip down memory lane.

Many many years ago, a strapping young fella (me) had a similar conversation with his parents about a lousy mark in math.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the Math Tree.

Now, here I am, over thirty years later and it is me on the receiving end of the bad news from my own kid.

Here is a chance for me to either connect with my child or distance myself from her.

She knew going into her first year of high school that it was going to be tough slugging. She attends a semesterized school and while her first semester was relatively smooth sailing, we all knew that semester two was going to be a bitch. French, Science, Math and Art.

Not an easy load.

She also knew going into high school that if her marks were not strong that she would not be allowed to attend summer camp because she would need to improve her mark and bad academic performance does not deserve the privilege of attending camp.

So, her anger over her lousy mark in math makes me wonder if her anger and disappointment is in her own performance or because her summer plans might be in jeopardy.

Regardless, I need to handle this in a delicate way. I have been known to lecture and sermonize my daughter (she has said so herself). My response to this news needs to be clear, to the point, filled with some empathy and short.

Math is her arch-enemy. In fact, my entire family and “math” don’t get along so well. Often when my kids bring home school work and it happens to be math, my wife and I freeze up because we know that we can’t really effectively help our children with their assignments (other than basic stuff like adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing and maybe a litte harder stuff).

I totally sympathize with her. Getting a lousy mark in a subject you already know your going to get a lousy mark in, sucks. But, I also know that my daughter is prone to getting easily distracted (bloody Facebook and Blackberry…I hate you both!) and is often afraid to reach out for help which is available through many after-school alternatives offered by her school. In other words, she is lazy.

I know that I don’t need to lecture to her because I think I have raised a smart enough kid that knows the reasons why she got a lousy mark. Also, in all other subjects, she does quite well (high 70’s, 80’s and 90’s).

If she can work her ass off and get all the help that is available to her, including from her teacher, then I know she will pull her mark up. I don’t expect 100%, but I know she can at least get 70.

I am going to hug her, reassure her that I know she is capable of better and that she knows what she has to do.

So, she comes into the house, throws down her school bag, takes her shoes and coat off and sits with me on the couch.

“Sweety, you must be bummed out by your mark. I guess you know what you have to do. I know you can do it. I love you”.

A pause.

I think she was waiting for me to dump on her.

Then the conversation switched to other stuff and that was it.

At some point there will be a longer conversation with me and her mom, to discuss strategy with her on how to get her math mark up.

But for now, I left her to make herself an after school snack as I smiled knowing that I have a great kid.


About I'm Just A Dad

Stephen Gosewich is just a Dad (he is a former Enlightened Male but decided to change the name because when you search Enlightened Male, "other...wink, wink" are displayed. He spends his days during the week as a working stiff. At all other times, he just enjoys hanging out with his best friend and wife and their two very active and inspiring daughters.
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