Q: Last night I sat through my last awards ceremony. I would be ashamed if anyone knew what goes on in my mind during these ceremonies. I watch the exceptional students go up for applause. I sit with my child knowing he will not receive a thing and I wonder — why are these mandatory-attendance?
I congratulate these kids — sincerely and really I do. I won't bore you with the accolades of my son, but I am quite proud of him.
Yet, I leave these events feeling so low. I also feel ashamed for the jealousy I feel for these achievers. Why do I take this all so personally?
A: Attendance is mandatory because having just the two or three exceptional students present to applaud each other would come off as a little sad.
While I have no special access to your state of mind, I have read a lot of letters from unhappy people over the years — and if they have anything in common, it's in harboring expectations that reality doesn't (can't?) fulfill.
So, what expectations did you bring . . . to your kid's schooling? to family? to life? . . . that these awards ceremonies expose as unmet?
It's hard to be a parent; it's fraught with challenges, heartbreaks, and opportunities for self-doubt. So when your kid reaches a mountaintop or even a molehill top, it's a rare chance to say, "WooHOO! I did something RIGHT!"
And that's not wrong any more than it's wrong to enjoy hot chocolate on a winter day. It just can't be your only plan for enduring the cold.
Feeling like an ordinary parent to an ordinary child is your version of winter, apparently — and knowing intellectually that you and your kid are just fine in the accolade department isn't enough to warm you.
What would be enough, then, to allow you to respond proportionately to outside approval? That's a question to ask yourself — with a pro, if that helps.