What I could have said about my son’s grades but didn’t

Can I tell you a story?

My son’s first trimester grades came out a few weeks ago. I had not seen the email announcing that grades had been posted, but the minute I walked in the door, I could sense that they had.

It started before I put my bag down or took my coat off. (Sidebar: We have a simple rule in my house – you are not allowed to yell at me about some grave injustice in the world, scream about something one of your siblings had done to you, or ask me what is for dinner before I hang up my coat and put my things away.)

“My grades are horrible!” my son said. “I am never going to get into college!” WHAT? I could not get a word in. By the time I walked into the kitchen (a mere 10 feet from my front door), I had learned all about this dire situation. and that he was supremely embarrassed by his grades.

I could have screamed the following: “ARE YOU CRAZY?” “GIVE ME A EFF’ing BREAK?” “REALLY, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” and perhaps a few other things that are not appropriate to write down for the public to see.

Other things I could have done:

  • I could have grilled him on what the grades were and interrogated him on how he could have done better. (Later that night, I did take a peak, a) they were not HORRIBLE, and b) he went up a ½ a grade in most of his classes from the prior semester – information that I am tucking away to use at a later date.)
  • I could have told him that his dad and I could not care less about his final grades in a class because we know how hard he is working.
  • I could have told him that many colleges may recalculate his GPA, some even discredit or reduce the weight they give to freshman year grades, or that what colleges want to see is improvement, so he needs to keep working hard and next year show a progression in grades.
  • I could have offered suggestions on how he could go talk to his teachers (or, yet worse, say that I would send the teachers an email myself) to see if there was anything he could do to change his grades for the better.

However, I did not say any of this.

I did not respond this way because I knew words would not be heard. He was not ready to listen to any rationalizations (as true as they may be) I would throw at him.

Instead, I simply said, “Wow, it must be so hard to feel the pressure to be perfect all the time.”

I immediately saw his body language change.

His anger dissipated as the tears rolled down his face. I hugged him, poured myself a glass (ok, it was somewhat large) of wine, and we sat at the kitchen counter and talked. Well, I listened, and he talked.

Exhausted, we moved to the couch, where this time, he indulged me, allowing me to pick a movie. (I really wanted to pick a romantic comedy, like Love Actually or When Harry Met Sally, but it wasn’t me that needed cheering up – or was it?) Sometimes a movie night (and a nice glass of cabernet – oh, and a big bowl of popcorn covered in butter and salt) is all you need!

So, thank you, Netflix, for adding “The Blind Side” to your movie selection.

My son went to bed feeling more settled. But more so, I did as well.

Of course, he was still unsettled about his grades, but at least I hope he realizes that he WILL go to college (one that is the right fit for him), or if he decides that college is not the right path for him after high school, we will figure that out as well, together.

Our kids are under more pressure than ever.

Let’s not feed into it. Instead, we need to validate their concerns and tell them we understand, and if we don’t understand, tell them that we are willing to try. But most of all, let’s simply pull up a stool, pour ourselves a glass of wine, and simply listen.

Grab the Official Guide to Talking About College with Your Teenager

This guide is full of tips and the approach I believe we ALL need when it comes to talking about college as a family. Trust me, when I say I know because I’ve been right where you are, it comes straight from my experiences!