Parents always see the potential
BY JOHN W. FOUNTAIN firstname.lastname@example.org April 24, 2013 7:28PM
Updated: May 28, 2013 7:52PM
My son’s primary school art teacher was about to catch our wrath. OK, so maybe not our full wrath.
But his mother and I intended to get to the bottom of why, after scoring A’s on most of his second-grade art assignments a few years ago, he ended up each previous quarter with a big fat B — in art, of all things.
“Does he have to be the second coming of Michelangelo to get an A?” I fussed. “Who does she think she is, Picasso? Sheesh.”
Maybe I was overreacting. I have known parents to be concerned over a B in P.E., as if it were an ACT score. That’s what good parents do.
I have long known that parents matter most.
That while a good teacher, or a good coach or mentor is worth their salt, the persistent guidance of loving parents, working for the good of their children — even at the risk of seeming pesky and dogged — trumps them all.
Truth is, some coaches and teachers won’t see your kid through the prism of possibility. Only through their limited, sometimes jaded vision that fails to see into a kid’s heart and their full potential. Or teachers sometimes favor the more obvious stars.
The tipping point for us came when our son, one day, remarked despondently, “I guess I’m not good enough to be an artist.”
Huh? Hold up. Wait a minute.
We marched to the school for answers, perplexed and a little perturbed but simply looking for what we could do to help him do what he needed to earn an A.
We push excellence, working hard in whatever the undertaking, doing your best, earning good grades. We preach education. Plus, we — and their grandparents — reward our kids for good grades ($5 an A; $10 an A for straight A’s).
We walked in. The teacher was probably sweet at heart but seemed a bit curmudgeonly crusted that day. We expressed our concern. I don’t remember her explanation, though I do recall that her attitude seemed to be that we were making too big a deal.
I tried to explain that earning an A in art was one of his goals. “He’s our Rhodes Scholar,” I said.
The teacher responded smugly, “One can hope.”
Wha-a-at? No, she didn’t.
I could have told her that his mother was a British Marshall scholar and graduated college summa cum laude with a list of other scholarly accolades. That his dad was a national correspondent for the New York Times and a staff reporter for the Washington Post, among others.
That success for our son is the expectation, the norm. And that we see in him the potential to make his dreams come true, among them: to play basketball for Harvard.
And why not?
And even if we were illiterate, should that lessen our hope and our right to equal opportunity for our children?
My son and daughter have many dreams, including someday making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.
And my job — our job, all of us, as parents — is to steer our children past the naysayers, past the dream killers and unbelievers who can show up unexpectedly in the unlikeliest of places and faces. Past the people who categorize or diminish them.
Our job is to ensure that they have the opportunity to fairly compete. To teach, help, love and coach them up, even if no one else believes.
It would be great if everyone saw the potential of every kid. But they don’t. They won’t.
But in the end, what matters more is that their parents do.