Pride, In The Name Of Love

June 29, 2011

Once upon a time, before I had children, I expected that when I did have children, they would be smart children, and that they would excel in everything that they did, and that this is what I would want for them – to be excellent – and this is what would make me happy, as a parent. I expected a lot of things, before I had children, about what it would be like when I did have children. Some of these things were reasonable. Some were not.

Now, of course, I do have children, and they are smart children, very smart children – too smart, maybe; be careful what you wish for – and they do excel, but it is not, as it turns out, their cleverness that makes me happy, and I no longer wish that they excel in the conventional sense of doing better than their peers in all those things that matter on college admission forms. I wish, instead, that they be excellent in the ancient Greek sense of arete, ἀρετή, which is, broadly speaking, to be excellent in the fulfillment of one’s human purpose, that is, to be the very best you that you can be. It’s sometimes translated as virtue, which captures something of the spirit of the word: arete is excellence in living humanly, humanely; using, to the very best of our abilities, the things that make us human: our reason, our spirit, our heart. Bill and Ted were onto something, in other words, when they said, be excellent to each other. The best kind of excellence is the kind that is rooted in our humanity. The best kind of excellence is the kind that makes us good people.

All of which is a very pedantic way of saying: I know, now, that I want my children to be good people. And when Emilia brought home her kindergarten report card the other day, and it was filled with words like empathy, consideration, respect, kindness, and is willing to consider other opinions and alternative points of view, my heart burst with pride.

She is excelling. And I am proud.

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    Procrastamom June 29, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    I hear you. My grade 9 daughter and grade 7 son are picking up their report cards today. I’m proud of the A’s, prouder still of the B’s that were once C-’s and proudest of all when someone tells me what polite, thoughtful, generous young adults they are becoming. Those are the times I know I’ve done my job right.

    Great job, Emelia! And great job, parents!

    ste June 29, 2011 at 3:32 pm


    There are times when I feel like my brain is shriveling with a 3 month old and a 2 1/2 year old. Then your writings teach me something new or gives me new vocabulary for what I’m feeling. Thank you.

    Marinka June 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    So right.

    Ciaran/Momfluential June 29, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    It’s so wonderful when our kids talents, abilities etc are recognized by someone *besides* us. This is one of my biggest beefs with the entirely computer generated report card my so got this year. I cannot find HIM there, no words about how sensitive and caring he is, nothing about how he makes friends easily or how math is such a game for him. When he was evaluated for private school and the school psych shared some of her impressions, I teared up. I wanted to scream, YES! You get him! That’s MY BOY! It’s an emotion I’ve struggled with over the years with all my kids. They don’t always meet my hopes/expectations in every category (who could, I’m a dreamer…) but what makes my heart swell the most is to see their abilities, character and efforts recognized and celebrated. Great post!

    Christine June 29, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    I am as proud of my son’s work this year as I am of the way he handled the transition to a new school and the wonderful friends he’s made. I wonder, though, if his work were less impressive how I would feel. Hopefully I will continue to have the best of both worlds and never be challenged in that way ;)

    Jessica June 29, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    I love everything about this post. I don’t even know her, and I’m proud of Emilia too. If everyone tried to excel in those ways, the world would be a much better place.
    I have to admit that while I am, of course, intensely proud of how smart my girls are, my heart is happiest when they’re being kind to each other.

    (I can’t help but point out though, that it’s “Bill” and Ted, not “Bob”.)

    Her Bad Mother June 29, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    @Jessica, GOD. DORK FAIL. *BILL* and Ted. Edited!

    Ceri June 29, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    I love this post! And not just because it echoes my own thoughts…. although that, too. You’ve articulated something that’s so risky about parenting – will I be able to let them be their own people? Will I allow them to be more than extensions of me? Whatever one may think of report cards it does give us a chance to see our kids through an outside lens AND check out our reaction to that perspective.

    I was raised by an extremely competitive father and I’ve become a very competitive adult. Sometimes it’s a great thing and sometime it’s a stupid waste of time. I was so relieved when I realized the thing that you’re saying – that I’d rather my kids be happy, well-rounded, good people than the best. Of course, through my Mummy Love Goggles they are the best but I just don’t care about whether they’re better than or worse than anyone else.

    Thanks for another great post!

    Her Bad Mother June 29, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    @Ceri, I was raised to be competitive. And as you say, sometimes it’s a great thing. Other times, it’s a waste of time. I’ve pursued things just because I was good – best – at them, and not because I love them. I’ve abandoned passions because I *wasn’t* best at them. I want my children to have more freedom around that stuff.

    And, yeah, I want them to be good ;)

    corasmom June 29, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    Yes! Exactly!

    And congratulations to Emilia on being her best self!

    Kristen June 30, 2011 at 12:18 am


    Yes. Completely agree. My son just came home with his kindergarten report card and it wasn’t the academic success that made my heart burst . . . it was the straight line of O’s for Outstanding that were in the “citizenship” column. Yay for kind kids. I’m no tiger mom, either. :)

    Pinky Tan June 30, 2011 at 2:29 am

    I agree with a lot of what you said. Its alright to be smart as long as we use what we know to make ourselves as ‘better persons’, not only in being good in our line of work. In the end, our relationship with one another and how we treat each other is what most people will see and not our achievements.

    xinamae June 30, 2011 at 3:19 am

    I am a mother too and I really feel what you feel for your children. Sometimes we hope that they will be smart children but it is better to teach them how to be good in every ways. I salute you for being such a good mom.

    red pen mama June 30, 2011 at 8:53 am

    I love your blog because you translate Greek and quote Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

    And that’s what I want for my kids, too: That they be the best that they are.

    kelly @kellynaturally June 30, 2011 at 10:10 am

    While I can’t believe that there are report cards given in kindergarten… I hear what you are saying, mama.

    I want for my own children a sense of peace and self-awareness that I’m still searching for myself. Children have this, and I fear we teach them to lose it in pursuit of grades and external accolades. When knowing and loving and being who they are inside – who they have to live with for the rest of their lives – is the highest pursuit towards which they can aspire.

    kelly @kellynaturally June 30, 2011 at 10:11 am

    @kelly @kellynaturally, and when I say “we teach”, I mean we as the global we. We adults. We people who are wrapped up in the future instead of being present in the present.

    julianoswald June 30, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Wow! Congratulations to kind kids just like my son. although he may not be that great in academic but he is a good kid and a good son to me. I want him to be the best person as he can be. I really love him. I love my son. Cheers to all kids!

    Kimommy June 30, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    People are always predicting/suggesting what my son, who is only 7 months old, will/should be. My father declared, when I told him I was having a boy, “Oh good! He can be a lawyer!” (ridiculous, I know). Others have placed him at various positions in the NFL. It is always nice when my child is seen as special, strong, bright. But, like you, it is very clear to me what I want for my son- the only things I will actively push him toward- to be happy and good.

    Janice (5 Minutes for Mom) July 1, 2011 at 1:50 am

    Beautiful and SO true! Oh how grow up into our real dreams.

    Niri July 1, 2011 at 1:55 am

    I know exactly how you feel. After having it rammed down our throats from family as kids about what success and excellence meant I was glad that my mom reminded us constantly to just be happy. While my kids were growing some family kept saying “be a doctor” etc and I kept saying I don’t care if my kid was a street sweeper as long they were happy and kind to other people – and I really mean it. Of course that did not go down too well.

    Abeabejundio July 3, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    I can feel your happiness and you should be proud of her achievements. As mothers, we should not expect too much or impose what we want them to be. I would rather let them choose their own path and I will just be there to guide them all the way. You are a great parent. July 4, 2011 at 5:19 am

    Wonderful post! It’s good to hear that kids today are still reflections of traits like this. Wish you and your child more power! And congratulation to Emilia for her commendable attitude.

    sabine July 7, 2011 at 6:42 am

    My father declared, when I told him I was having a boy, “Oh good! He can be a lawyer!” (ridiculous, I know). Others have placed him at various positions in the NFL. It is always nice when my child is seen as special

    inteligator July 11, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Say thanks a ton for the purpose of putting up Pride, In The Name Of Love – Her Bad Mother. Fairly fascinating and also really interesting in order to read about this. I actually under no circumstances imagined I would probably come across a person whom (just like myself) contributes articles about this specific sort of information. I personally enjoyed checking it all.Appreciate it.

    Minka Fieldstone July 14, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Haven’t checked in here in a while for various life/chaos reasons. Haven’t gotten to do my usual reading. But so glad I didn’t miss this one. It echoes so many of my own thoughts about my kids, especially my daughter, whose intelligence often seems to be more of a detriment than a blessing. To use a tired phrase, she really does get in her own way much of the time. She focuses too often on her shortcomings, and is way too hard on herself. She is also overly sensitive, which means she is often hurt, but she is also often extremely empathetic, compassionate, caring… All I wish for her is happiness. All I wish is that she learns to be less anxious, to like herself better, to not try quite so hard at so many things and stop and enjoy things more. It is odd to find myself telling her to ease up on her studies, to not stress so much about grades. Definitely not something I could have foreseen when i thought about what it would be like to be a parent.

    I also never thought I’d be counseling an anxious kid with too many profound and legitimate “big questions” before she’d even reached puberty. And here I thought if I was just a good enough mom, if I righted all the wrongs of my own parents, if I took my own childhood and all its lessons and put them to good use, everything would be fine. I never took into account the nature my child would be born with, and in some ways, how little I have to do with who she ultimately becomes.

    My biggest goal now is to see my child happy, and to know that by bringing her into the world, I’ve contributed a good human being who adds to the lives of those she meets.

    Really important post that you wrote. More parents should learn to understand what it truly means to have a child excel.

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