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Ramit Sethi posed a great question about parenting today on his blog today that's got me thinking, "what am I teaching my kids today?"

The truth is, I have no f-ing clue.  I know what I want to be teaching them:

To be responsible, caring, awesome adults-to-be.  But there are no guarantees.  

I'll tell you something I learned at a Middle School Awards Ceremony today.  

Amazing can actually be average depending on the group you're in.

For the last two years, I've skipped these awards ceremonies because I thought it would be a waste of time to see everybody get a ribbon.  The last two years, I missed my child (can I still call my 6-foot-tall, size-13-shoe offspring a child?) receiving an award for Academic Excellence.  4-point-O.  Straight A's.  Impressive.  

This year, I let another mom guilt me into not "missing" the last awards assembly of middle school.  This is how it went...

In a class of 500, at least 250 of them stood up and came to the front to receive an award for achieving a GPA of 3.5 to 3.9.  This is a cumulative award for all three years of middle school.

These exemplary students got a mix of A's and B's.  Some mostly A's.  Including MY kid.  Turns out, one semester this year, he got a B+.  89.3%.  

One. B. Plus.

And that's the difference between a sea of middle schoolers circling the gym - twice - and a nice row of students that can fit into a single frame shot with the principal.

One B+.  In three years.

As the parent of a student entering high school, college is already on my mind.  What's the right class load?  The right mix of academics and sports?  The right philanthropic activities?

I'm looking at the swarm of academically excellent students thinking, "if everyone's doing it are you really excellent?"  

No wonder top-tier colleges are routinely rejecting 4.0 students.  There are just so many of them.

So...what am I teaching my kids?

  1. You’re average. And that’s okay. There are a lot of other average people out there puffing up their chests, trying to show you how important they are. But they’re average too. We parents mess you up sometimes with all the comparing, “My son is 6-feet tall and he’s only 14!” “My daughter plays club soccer.” Don’t fall for it. Everyone grows however tall they’re going to grow. They play what they are going to play. And then they quit and do something else. Don’t worry about it. There’s nothing wrong with average.

  2. Sometimes your best isn’t good enough. You won’t always get the part. You won’t always get picked first. You don’t always win. Go on with your day.
  3. Life isn’t fair. Amazing dads get cancer. Moms get divorced. Best friends leave for the party without you. In the words of Mark Nepo, crying ‘Unfair’ will always keep us stuck in what hurts. The truth is, we cannot control what happens to us. We can only control how we receive and respond to it. Let it hurt. Let it heal. Learn a lesson.
  4. Today matters. At some point in the semester, my kid probably thought “it’s okay if I miss this assignment, I’ve still got an ‘A’.” Or, “I don’t really need to study for this quiz, I’ve already got an A”. But when the final comes back and you accidentally wrote down 12 instead of 1.2…well, there’s a problem. Because now, it’s too late. Sometimes it’s like that in life. You don’t give it 100%, for whatever reason, and you don’t get the results you expected. Learn that now, when you’re a teenager. Please!
  5. You are worthy of love. You don’t need to try harder, be better or say the right thing. You are worthy of love because you exist. You were loved before you were born and you will be loved long after I am gone. Your worth is eternal, non-negotiable and incontrovertible.

At least, I hope that’s what I’m teaching them. For now anyway…

I’d love to hear what lessons you are teaching your kids right now. Say hello@janabresenden.com or reach me in the comments below:

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