Several months ago I had the opportunity to hear Anna Quindlen speak at a luncheon, discussing her memoir, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. Anna Quindlen has no idea who I am, other than the woman who brought her seven year old daughter to a book luncheon (and whose seven year old daughter did really well), but I'm almost certain that given the chance, the two of us would have a wonderful time together. I know this because I read everything she writes and I laugh out loud, nod knowingly and smile in agreement, which I think is her appeal to so many, although I'm certain that above all others, it's me who really knows her best. I tried desperately to make eye contact while she spoke, but in the sea of 100 women (and one child), my friendly eyes were hard to find.
Because we have this connection, I knew exactly what she was going to say when asked, "what three things are you the most proud of?". Without hesitation she answered, "my three children". Me too Anna! Although, of course, I have only two, but I am proud enough for three. My children are funny and silly and kind. They say thank you to the taxi driver, almost always say please when ordering food and spend hours creating gifts for one another out of discarded boxes, toilet paper rolls and grocery bags. Pretty good stuff when talking about 8 year old girls, but Anna's children are older, adults.. Surely their list of accomplishments is far more extensive; I was ready and eager to hear all about her amazing children. And you know what she said? To paraphrase: my children are the people I like best in the world. I enjoy nothing more than having dinner with them.
That's great Anna but where did they go to college? What high profile jobs are they now doing? What kind of grades did they get in school? For God's sake, how old were they when they learned to read?
My children are sent home each Friday with a progress report; they are in the third grade. Parents discuss grades on the playground, many digging into those Friday backpacks, frantically searching for that weekly affirmation of good parenting. Sadly the children have caught on, the lure of waving the straight A report around the classroom is tempting. One of my daughters apologized Friday for a B in reading, "Mom, I'm so sorry, I keep getting this B and I don't know what to do." My heart breaks; keep doing whatever it is that you are doing because a B in reading is wonderful and should be celebrated, not pardoned.
My friend Carrie, who is one
of the most reasonable people I know and mom to one of my favorite
children, wishes for her daughter a good education that will get her
into a good college that will lead to a good job that will allow her to
take vacations at a beach when she grows up. And to accomplish all that,
her spunky and fabulous 7 year old daughter did not need to be able to
read when she entered kindergarten. Carrie knows that what is really important is raising someone who you like well enough to travel with in years to come.
Thankfully I enjoy having dinner with my children, as I expect I will in 10 years, when the conversation might be less about who picks their nose in class and more about who picks their nose when they think no one is looking. I'm as proud of that B in reading as I am in their ability to turn toilet paper rolls into fabulous art deco style lamps for their doll house, and nothing makes me glow like overhearing them ask someone, "do you want to come and play with us?". Grades matter, more than they used to I fear, but kindness matters more, and being a good friend, dinner guest and traveling companion are tops on my wish list. Maybe we should invite Anna Quindlen to join us, because you know, we just really understand each other. She, and her children, are welcome at my table anytime.