The Real Prize Giving

The tears have been near the surface for me again today. It’s always a bad time of year for me but just recently parenting life has taken on a new bitter-sweetness.

I’ve been watching other people’s children on facebook, kicking goals, making ground, celebrating life. Prizegivings, certificates, milestones.  Their parents radiate pride as they share footage and photos and so they should. I click away, liking, loving and wowing all the posts. I am all for recognition and reward; praise is the foundation of solid self esteem. And what they’ve been doing is so impressive! The highlight reels I see of other people’s children are in the particular vernacular of the winner:  best, excellence, outstanding, achievement. Their joys and successes follow the same arc as one other, soaring to the top of their worlds, what ever those worlds may be.

With each of those social media posts, I think of the other parents. Parents like me, whose children march to the beat of a different drum. Their own rhythm, slightly out of step with the norm but no less laudable. I think of all the myriad of other parents whose kids are not at the tip of the standard bell curve. I wonder why we don’t tend to post as much about our children, about their successes and achievements. Do we worry about the opinions of the traditional ‘winners’? Do we feel embarassed? I hope not. It got me thinking about what I really value in what my kid’s have done this year.  None of it has been recognised by either of their schools; we wagged both Prizegivings this year. No one stood in assembly to acknowledge them.  It’s a shame, because they both deserve it.

If I were the leaders in their schools, I would have noticed these things about my kids.  I would have recognised their brilliance, perhaps. But I’m just their mum, so I will shout it to the blogosphere instead.  Let’s start with Bee.

She has grown to the staggering height of 6’1 this year. That’s a long way up for a 12 year old. And a lot of exhausting growing for her body to do. A few times, the school nurse has called me and expressed her concern about Bee’s rate of growth. We spoke to an endocrinologist, she’s fine. She’s just a tall girl. Willowy and beautiful and still with that gangly pre-teen kind of way of loping about, completely unaware of the head-turning going on around her.

Early in the year, Bee lost her Nanna, followed swiftly by the loss of her beloved pony.  These twin sadnesses were felt keenly and can still knock the wind out of her sails. Emotion runs high for her as the hormones storm through. She is changing and learning the harsh realities of life and death as her eyes open up to the adult world.

For the first time since starting school, she built a new kind of friendship group. Her assorted friends gathered together based on mutual respect and kindness; turning away from the ‘cool’ girls who would turn on them and try to make them feel bad.  How proud I am that she has learned how to identify kindred souls and nurture friendships with them. This is a massive life skill and she aced it. In addition, she has begun thinking about the bigger issues in our global community, often beginning conversations around our dinner table about topics like poverty, gender equality, international politics and ethics.

And yet, through all of this massive amount of change, Bee has retained the sweet childlike loveliness that really typifies her nature. She is still the animal loving, cheery, kindhearted, tea-making, tomato loving darling she has always been. She still squeals with excitement about things and says inappropriate things at inopportune times (ha!  wonder where she gets that from!)  And I feel positive about braving the hormonal storms with her in the year ahead. She’s amazing and I am so proud of her.  At my prize giving, I would award her with a ‘Quiet Wisdom’ Award.  She’s faced the hard stuff this year and made it through with insight and sensitivity.  I rate this chick. I hope that when she’s older she will choose to be my friend, I’d really like a friend like her.

Zed has had a tough year too. It’s the fifth year running that he has been ostracised by a big portion of the boys in his year. He’s been tormented about his looks, told he should go kill himself, been heckled for being sensitive and different. In the bigger context, he’s been dealing with a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and has been so tired that most mornings I have had to physically dress him. This bone sapping fatigue meant he had a massive struggle at school on the days he made it there. Even when he was able to spend energy, he has had to pay for it dearly. Sometimes, he would crawl into the bushes at lunchtime to sleep and get away from the teasing. When he was discovered, the mean kids just turned even that into a new thing to give him grief about.

He’s been physically bullied too. Zed achieved his karate black belt this year, and although I am proud of that, I am prouder that he didn’t use it to hit back at his tormentors. He could have and neither his Dad or I would have blamed him. But he took the pain they inflicted and restrained himself, crying only after he got home; all of the emotion and difficulty of each day released in a tidal wave of grief and confusion.

He’s a brilliant kid.  Funny, soft-hearted, quirky in the most entertaining way. He can be aggravating too, but if you explain it, he is quick to stop. He’s not the kind of boy that is considered cool by those with social cred at his school, and so he and his heart have been battered and bruised. He has borne all of these things with dignity and determination. At my Prizegiving, I would award him with “Most Stoic in the Face of Significant Difficulties”. Because, in spite of it all, Zed was a dedicated team member at basketball, an enthusiastic student of karate, a ceaseless seeker of friendship. He dug deep during his first ever exams and tried his best. I am proud of my boy.  At ten, he still can just manage to curl his long limbed frame up into my lap and lay his head on my shoulder. He is compassionate and caring, hilarious and interesting. He deserves so many accolades this year; he’s a dude.

Both of our kids are starting at new schools in the new year. I don’t know if their new schools will see them for who they are but I hope with all my vulnerable mother heart that they do. Thing is, I am having a prize giving, but the prize is my children. I’m giving them into the care of their new schools, desperately hoping they will be valued as they should.

Perhaps your kids are like mine. Precious, unique and outside of the norm.  I hope that you and they take a moment to appreciate what makes them amazing during this season of awards. And for all those parents out there without certificates to share on social media, please know that I see you and your beautiful children, shining on regardless.

“Success is not achieved by winning all the time.
Real success comes when we rise after we fall.”

Muhammed Ali