Last night, I taught the boys how to be passive aggressive when a waiter accidentally spills wine on your shirt. “Oh no, don’t worry about it. I didn’t want that wine anyway. Plus, this shirt is dark so I’m sure no one will notice the stains.” Here endeth the lesson.
Luca suddenly remembered something very important. “Dad! DAD! I got all A’s on my report card!”
Oh man, what am I supposed to do here? I want the boys to do well and be successful and achieve things. But I also just want them to be happy. And I think the pursuit of perfection kind of ruins stuff. Do I praise him? Tell him good job? But if I do that, what will happen when he doesn’t get straight As’? Will he be forever chasing this ambition high, only to go from advertising job to advertising job to working at The Onion, but is never satisfied? But what happens if I don’t praise him? Will he decide trying isn’t that big a deal and he stops getting good grades and then ends up living in our basement?
I blinked out of my trance and said a very complicated, “Neat!”
Luca had already moved on, detailing how he intended to spend the gift card Diana got him for his good grades. Diana works off a much less complicated inner monologue.
There was a little controversy because Eli didn’t get straight A’s and had received a slightly smaller gift card amount. To be clear, these aren’t A’s or B’s. This being Evanston, they report grades with a series of incomprehensible hieroglyphics. Eli had received a few hieroglyphics that indicated a less than top mark.
I launched into a speech I tried to remember from my father. “Look pal. I don’t care if you get good grades or bad grades. I just want you to get grades. I mean..I want you to try your…um…best. And be nice. And try. That sounds good.” That replacement wine could not arrive fast enough.
When we got home, Luca sat me down and asked me to read his whole report card. It painted him as a sweet, helpful kid who tries really hard. Despite his anxiety early this year, he reads and writes and maths right where he should be. Trying to right my earlier wrong, I told him I loved him and I was very proud of him.
I read Eli’s as well. It painted him as a smart kid who sometimes takes the easy way out and has a hard time concentrating. But at the end of his note, Eli’s teacher said Eli was one of the kindest students he’d ever had and had an amazing ability to collaborate with anyone in class, no matter who they were.
When I pointed this out to Diana, she upped his gift card too. But then told the boys they should use them to buy presents for each other.
Which earned her an F minus from the boys.