I am fresh from a meeting with my daughter’s teachers to discuss her senior year. Overall, she’s doing pretty well. She has a good mix of classes and is keeping up relatively well with her coursework, save for a couple of missing assignments. Granted, her grades are not as stellar as they could be. She could probably be a straight-A student if she put her mind to it. My daughter is a very bright girl with an above average IQ. She could have been in the gifted program if behavioral issues hadn’t reared their ugly heads around 6th grade. I swear, when she turned 12, it seemed as if she had been abducted by aliens and replaced with some angry, disrespectful, acting out child. We had some very, very tough times, she and I. And, while I won’t go into the gory details about those years (I don’t really feel it’s my story to tell), I will admit there were times I doubted my ability to see it through: many sleepless nights wondering where I had gone wrong, many days going through the motions of trying to be a decent parent and feeling very much the opposite.
We talked some today about my daughter’s grades and her potential. No one sitting at the table had any doubt of her ability and the fact that her current grades don’t really reflect that ability. She’s passing everything with at least a C average, and most are Bs or above. She has all of her credits and is on track to graduate this year, so it’s not terribly awful. Truth be told, I could live with bad grades and maybe needing extra time to complete coursework. I don’t see those as a reflection of my parenting or of who my daughter is as a person. It’s the other stuff we talked about that means more than the grade she’s getting in Geometry. Things like what a joy she is to have in class, how helpful she is to other students, how engaged she is in class, and how active she is in class discussions. My daughter may not be a straight-A student but she is a great person. She cares about others and is not afraid to speak up and be heard. She’s not perfect, but, then again, neither am I. As a “good enough parent” I’m happy to have a “good enough kid”—one who tries but isn’t always successful, genuinely cares about others even though she may have disagreeable moments (or days), and is capable of learning from her mistakes—even though she may not always be willing to. She’s not always my favorite person but, even during our darkest times, I wouldn’t have traded her for another.
As I was leaving the meeting, one of the teachers commented on how I must have done something right to have such a great kid. My response was it was all her choice (I don’t take compliments well). I left the school with tears in my eyes because I was so proud of how far my daughter has come. I actually had to wipe away a tear or two as I wrote this. It wasn’t all me, though. The reality is that it was all of us pulling together to make those changes happen: me, my daughter, her teachers and all the other people who showed up throughout our struggles. I will be forever grateful to her middle school teachers who never lost faith in her. They were able to look past the troubles she caused and see the awesome child beneath. I’m also grateful to her high school teachers who went above and beyond to help her when she lacked focus, sometimes bending their own rules to let her turn things in past the due date when she was really struggling. I am grateful to my daughter for being who she is and sticking it out, even when it wasn’t easy. We made it through and now, here we are in the middle of her senior year. We have a bond that has been forged in fire, one that will hopefully get us through the sometimes-rocky transition into adulthood. I have faith we will.
Denise Rowden is a parent of two teens: an 18-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son. She has worked in Special Education, Alternative Education and adolescent group homes. She has a BS in Psychology from the University of Southern Maine and is currently working on her Life Coach certification from the International Coach Federation.