Credit Where It’s Due

J was named a “Super Student” at school. At her middle school, they name several kids as “Super Students” for each quarter. But they also don’t repeat this honor during the year. So it effectively becomes this sliding scale, right? The “Super Students” for 1st quarter are the super-fantastic, nerd-tastic elite super students. Then for 2nd quarter, those kids are really very super and impressive, and for 3rd quarter, the kids are, well, they’re super. And for 4th quarter, well, you know, they’re pretty super, I guess. Which is fine and everything, except it kind of reminds me of those gymnastics meets where they hand out ribbons for every single place, so you end up having girls standing up in front of the crowd, forced to smile and salute when they’ve just “won” 11th place out of 11 girls. Because, you know, by the end of the school year, there’s a pretty darn large group of kids who have achieved some level of super student status, and that means that you end up with another very large group of kids who are well aware that they are not even a little bit super. So, you know, it’s lovely for J, but also the whole thing gives me a teensy stomach ache.

I am also a little bit sad because back in the olden days when M was a VA student, they took a picture of the Super Students and slapped it on the website, which was a lovely link to email to grandparents. But whoever used to keep up with our school website has apparently been swamped with other tasks, because literally the top piece of news on the home page is information about what school supplies we’ll need to buy for the upcoming 2017-2018 school year. Oh, well.

Meanwhile M has been dismissing her own recent honors as dubious achievements.  After missing the soccer banquet, she finally acquired her Warrior Award certificate, and yes, she got first place. I was super-impressed and I said so. “First place two years in a row! That is awesome. You should be proud of yourself,” I said. She muttered something about it actually just being “evidence of my stagnation.” Ugh. That is depressing. She is generally so stoic and “it-is-what-it-is” about things that sometimes I wonder if she is as bitter as I continue to be about the school soccer tryouts, and when I heard that, I was like, yup, I think we’re all still a little bitter.


M came home yesterday with another unexpected honor: she was a co-winner of the Poetry Out Loud competition in her class. Which she was not entirely sure that she was thrilled about, because it means that she moves on to a school competition, and she’ll need to memorize another poem as back-up. Also, I was clapping my hands, saying, “Oooh, oooh, do you recite at an assembly? I want to come see!” and she was like, “Nooooo. . . . thank God it’s not an assembly, I’d never do that. And no, you absolutely can’t come and watch.”

I’m pretty sure that the rest of the family found the fact that she won this as funny as I did. Because she’s been subjecting us to recitations of her chosen poem for more than a week now. It is a short poem about a fork’s dysfunctional relationship with a knife. In all sorts of situations, M would suddenly say something like, “You know what?” and when she’d have our attention, she’d launch into it: “The fork lived with the knife. . . .” We would groan and listen, enough so that we all had it half-memorized, so that toward the end we’d say in unison, agreeing, “he was a dull knife.”

So, obviously, the competition was a pretty low bar, and there were kids in her class who never got around to actually memorizing their poems. And she’d clearly practiced. Still, I was super-surprised that she won. It was like a puzzle, and my first reaction when I heard was, “Wait, how did they pick the winners?” I’ll be honest: I figured it must have been a student vote/popularity contest. Nope. Apparently there was a panel of judges made up of English teachers. Huh. I just assumed that someone who would win would be reciting a poem with which they had a deep emotional connection, and M’s whole tone was sort of smart-ass and snarky. But then, in retrospect, a little snarky ironic humor might be just exactly appropriate for that poem. So, I guess she picked well.

When this came up over dinner that night, right away J asked, “Wait, how did they pick the winners?” because it didn’t entirely compute for her, either. We all laughed over it, and M conceded that she had lucked out, once again, part of a long tradition of M’s great good fortune. But thinking about it now, I’m beginning to feel like M needs to be reminded not to dismiss her accomplishments. I mean, she chose her poem well and practiced a ton. And even if she did not always receive the recognition that she wanted from her soccer coaches, anyone who’s watched her play soccer (and run track, even, now) can’t deny that she puts in a ton of effort and is always dedicated and competitive. I think that we’ve instinctively reacted to M’s natural confidence by trying to take her down a peg here and there. We should change tactics, I think, and do a better job of ignoring that for which she deserves no particular credit (gorgeous blonde hair and the privilege of two excellent parents and three meals a day) while celebrating and honoring the stuff that’s the result of real effort.

And, for that matter, I’m just going to say it: J actually is entirely SUPER.

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