Great Expectations

09 August 2017
I always said that I didn't care what sort of grades my son got at school, I just wanted him to be happy.

This noble sentiment lasted exactly until Mr G got his first school report. 

He got top marks right across the board for his social skills, confirming what were already told at parent teacher interviews - "he's a great favourite with everyone, all the kids, even the visitors the classroom, he loves to have a chat and make friends". We already knew he has a caring streak to his personality (when he was two and a half, at a party, his father poured him a cup of soft drink - a rare treat - and he turned and handed it to his cousin because she didn't have one yet. What toddler does that?).

But his marks for academic performance left me reeling. This was not what I expected at all. We thought he was bright (doesn't every parent think their kid is bright?). His father has a degree, I'm completing one and realistically hoping to do a PhD before I'm fifty. Mr G is taken to museums and galleries and festivals and we travel and read to him and constantly talk about how the world works. 

And here he was with marks for maths and reading and science that made my teeth hurt. It must be my fault. Did I not have enough iodine when I was pregnant? Was it the three glasses of wine I had before the pregnancy was confirmed? No Mozart in the nursery? Did he eat lead paint chips in our ancient house in Newcastle? Was it the trauma of separation? Was I just a terrible mother? What went wrong?

G's dad isn't worried at all, but I took it pretty hard at first. This is not what I expected. I was a bookish and let's face it, unpopular child (with personality traits that would today be diagnosed and offered professional support, but back in the 1980s were considered fair game from bullying from students and teachers alike. If today's kids are coddled and protected from the harsh realities of the world, good, compared to the Darwinian cesspit that was the school playgrounds of yore. Then I was skipped ahead, which made things worse. I digress). 

Meanwhile, at ten years old, G's father was sat in his room during the summer holidays, reading. His mother, worried her son wasn't getting enough fresh air or contact with kids, suggested he go talk to the kids playing cricket in the street and ask to join their game. G's father replied "or maybe I could say to them they should come in here and read". 

I expected G would be somewhat the same. He has two parents who lavish him with love and care, so I hoped he'd find it a little easier to get along in the world, but I was expecting a nerd. He's not. He's not interested in trains or dinosaurs or any other fixation, and whilst he's not a tearaway nor sporty (I think his genes have precluded that) his decidedly average school marks have put paid to my daydreams where we were told he was outperforming everyone and invited to special programs for gifted and talented both Mr G's father and I were.

Marks for the first semester of the first year of school aren't exactly life defining. It was more about me, the sort of child I imagined I'd have, and my shock when he turned out to be not like that at all.

It's a bit of a head spin. You dream of this baby before it even exists, have it, nurture it so they become their own person, and then they are their own person going off into the world doing their own things and you're like come back! You're still my baby! But you know they're not.

And he is not the imaginary future child who lived in my head (who was dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy, was unsettlingly precocious, and spoke in an English accent with received pronunciation for no apparent reason). He is himself, and he's happy. No matter what my expectations, I really can't ask for more than that. 


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