Friday, February 1, 2013

Because You Can.

In the last episode of Malcolm in the Middle, there is a conversation between Malcolm and his parents. For those of you that don't know, this show is about Malcolm and his very average, middle class family. The series is focused on Malcolm showing a high IQ and being put in the gifted class in the first season and the show ends with him graduating as the valedictorian. Apparently, his higher than normal intelligence has led to two things: a partial scholarship to Harvard, which would entail him having to work as a janitor for the school to cover the rest of the costs of tuition. Meanwhile, he has also been offered a job right out of high school that pays 6 figures, to which his mother refuses to let him do. This upsets Malcolm, which results in an argument between him and his parents which I will never forget. He is upset because he feels as though they cost him his dream job and she proceeds to explain that it's not his fate to take the easy way out in life, that he was destined for bigger things. That he is to work his way through college and law school, making little money and struggling through and eventually one day become the President, a president who knows what it's like to come from humble beginnings and who takes care of the middle class of people like themselves.
He replies to her, "So, you not only expect for me to be successful, but you actually expect for me to be the President of the United States. No, not JUST the President, but the best President that the country's ever had? I can't believe this!" And she looks at him and says, "Look into my eyes and tell me you can't do it." And he just looks but has no reply, because he knows she is right, he can do it.
I was reminded of this episode last night as we were talking to Jordan about his report card. No, I don't think that Jordan will be President nor do we expect him to be. However, Jordan is a very smart, intelligent kid. Things have always come incredibly easy for him. He was in GT in lower grades, but convinced his mom to let him out when they moved in the 4th grade because, well, I think he was just being lazy (that's our opinion, anyway). And his dad and I hate that she let him do that, because he could have been in there and done really well. But now, his grades are good by most standards, mostly A's and a couple B's. It's hard because their mom tells them "A's and B's are fine..." And they are fine, trust me. Those aren't bad grades. But it's always upset us because the thing is, Jordan can get all A's if he just put in more effort on the subjects that didn't come as naturally to him. The grades he gets, he gets because school is easy for him. He doesn't have to try very hard to be on the honor roll. I know all of this because, Jordan is me at this age.
It's hard to look back and not completely blame my parents for being so frustrated with me as a kid. I was lazy and a procrastinator. I usually got A's and B's too, maybe even a C in math. But I never tried. When I think about all of the things I could have been had I tried a little harder in school, I just wish I had the drive of those people who were always in the top ten! See, the people who usually end up being valedictorian aren't the ones who are the smartest, they are the ones who were smart and worked harder than all of the other kids. As an adult, my brain strives for knowledge. I find myself learning about all kinds of different things, and I excel at jobs, alot of times because I know now to actually apply myself and challenge myself to see what I can do, as opposed to just being average because it's easy. But it's hard to explain that concept to a 10 year old.
His dad made a deal with him for when he starts middle school. He isn't being given money for each A he gets anymore, he is getting money if he gets ALL A's. When I asked him why he thought his dad made that deal with him, he jokingly said, "Because he is mean?" I said, "Because you CAN." He doesn't think he can. Maybe he doesn't want to, I don't know. But it's hard as a parent to know how hard to push a kid and when to just let him not do well. For us, we feel like we want them to excel at things they are involved in that they enjoy. And even if they aren't the best at it, we at least want them to try their hardest. For example, their mom put them both in soccer this year. Jordan is not super great at soccer and I don't think he likes it all that much, so we hate taking him to games because he just doesn't give much effort. So, Jason told him that he was going to wear him out practicing, that if he was going to keep letting his mom sign him up for soccer, than he was at least going to give it 100% and try his hardest. We will see how that works out.
I used to hate being a kid who was smart because I used to hate that more things were expected out of me than other people. I used to love saying, "It's not fair!" alot. Well, it isn't fair, for sure. It's not fair that people who can do better should do better and that people who can't do better aren't expected to do better. But I think it's just that we are learning with kids, expectations are just different. We expect things of Jordan that we don't expect with Sophia and visa versa. I am not going to go into those things because it wouldn't be appropriate, but alot of it has to do with things they have aptitudes for. School, sports, reading, instruments, etc. We all expect them to act a certain way, as far as manners and behavior. But while one might be expected to get an A in a subject, the other isn't. Is that how it is or was in your family?

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