School is not real life – our children should remember this
Every morning, before I send my boys to their elementary school, I say the same things. I tell them I love them, remind them to turn in their files, and encourage them to be kind. Then I say something that I wish someone had told me when I was their age: “Do your best, but remember school is not real life!” As long as they are doing their best and being nice, there will be no consequences at home for the non-behavioral things that happen at school, and they know it. I did it on purpose.
I would have liked to understand when I was little that school is not real life.
Let me give you one of the millions of examples I could give you of how my anxiety disorder interfered with my childhood: When I was in fifth grade, I forgot to hand in a Bible assignment. (Yeah, the Bible. Southern Baptist Private School. That’s quite a thing.) Anyway, I forgot about it, and by the time I remember it, my teacher said it was too late. I couldn’t give it back, and had to take a zero. That would make my overall grade for the report card period an 84, which was a C (yes, really) in my school.
I had never had a C in my entire life. I was supposed to be the smart “good girl” who didn’t make mistakes like forgetting an assignment. At ten, I had already fully embarked on the role for which I felt most suited to play. As a chubby kid, the message I received from the entire planet outside my home was loud and clear: I couldn’t rely on my appearance to carry me out, so I had to be smart, kind and hardworking.
My parents had high expectations of me academically because I was always very successful, but they also praised me. It wasn’t their fault. I never wondered if they thought I was brilliant and good – and I lived for their approval.
The night before I knew the bulletins were going to come home, I lay in silence until I heard them fall asleep, then let myself fall apart.
I cried softly until the nerves took over, and I had to run to the bathroom to throw up. I entered school the next day with my knees shaking, spent the whole day nervous and sad, and when I got in my mom’s car after school with my report card in my hand, I fell Out of order. When she saw that I was so upset, she thought I was going to let her know that I had been mistreated or even abused.
When she realized that my hysterics were related to a note, she was so relieved that it didn’t hurt. I also didn’t really have a pass or any sort of insurance because she didn’t even know I needed them. She just told me to do better next time. And I did. I never had another C until 11e class.
My oldest son is my carbon copy.
He is intelligent and naturally kind. He’s also anxious and prone to putting himself the kind of pressure I used to put on myself when I was his age. When I see him start to be very upset with something related to school or his own personal performance, I am instantly transported to the early 90s when I started to suffer from what I now realize to be an anxiety disorder. permanent.
At the time, I didn’t know that all I had to do was talk to my parents and they would have helped me. I didn’t have the language to describe it even though I wanted to try. I didn’t know what an anxiety disorder looked like, and I certainly didn’t realize that it wasn’t normal to be so tied up all the time.
Sadly, I can’t go back and help little Katie figure out what she never understood back then. I can’t give her the wisdom to tell her parents how much she was in pain, I can’t give her back those sleepless nights, and I can’t even let her know that she really wouldn’t need this Bible class. anyway. I can’t undo the way anxiety stole so many childhood years that were meant to be carefree.
But I can help my kids not suffer the same fate, and that’s why I make sure they know school isn’t real life.
It’s not that I act like school isn’t important. If they are upset about something to do with school, I don’t dismiss their concerns by saying, “School is not real life. If it feels real to them, it is real. I don’t use my mantra as a weapon to minimize their experiences.
They also know that I expect them to behave, to follow instructions, to treat other students with kindness, and to do their best with every task. If I ever hear that one of them isn’t nice to anyone or completely refuses to try, I’ll be very, very disappointed, and they know it.
I’m just clarifying that once they give a mission the best possible effort that day, I’m not concerned with the outcome. If I see any of them constantly struggling with a concept, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. I am happy to give them the help they need to learn and succeed in school.
A failed mission will not follow them home.
I won’t be disappointed at the dinner table if they can’t map out a sentence correctly every time, or if geometry just isn’t their thing. I won’t accuse them of being unable to memorize the dates of the battles of the Revolutionary War, or of being a little shitty writing essays.
In the real world, not everyone is good at everything. My husband works in military finance and loves numbers. If I asked him to write this essay, he would look at a blank screen with absolutely zero inspiration, even though we are raising the same children with the same rules. Creative writing is not its jam.
If you were to ask me to balance an Air Force base’s budget or fill out travel papers for someone deploying across the world, I would probably cry. It’s not what I’m good at.
My kids will find the things they love, and once the government mandated portion of their schooling is over, they will pursue a lot of those things and do very little of the rest. I want them to know that right now, school is just their job, not their life. They are there to learn a little more about a lot of things in the hope that something will “stick” and they have ideas on what they would like to do later.
Above my front door I have a sign that says, “Take a deep breath. You are at the house now.
When my boys come home from school, this is the first message they see. It is also the one thing I hope I can give them as a wife and mother. Life outside these walls will always be full of stress, anxiety and frustration. Do the things that we have to do is never as pleasant as to do the things that we love to do.
But when they walk through our door, I still want them to feel right at home, this is where they can breathe. At home we see you, you are loved, and you don’t have to be good at everything. You just have to be your happiest and most genuine self, whatever it is. It’s the version of you that belongs here: leave your school worries at the door.