School Conferences, Part Deux: The Catapults Edition

Apr 19 2012

“Trebuchet!” my pacifist Quaker husband hollered, his joy in ancient devices of war made manifest.

Abby, our 8th grader, is making a catapult for her science class. By which I mean, Greg is trying his very, very best to let Abby help him make a catapult for her science class. So far, Greg has conceded that Abby can decorate it. (We’re working on him; I swear.)

Frankly, though, if Greg’s enthusiasm alone could launch Abby’s rock, she’d get an A+++.

Cael is one of our 5-year-olds. Most important for this story is the fact that Cael is, in nearly every single way, from his looks to his logic to his bed-hogging, sleep-snuggling ways, Greg’s mini-me. If I didn’t know that I grew Cael in my own womb and was there when I pushed him out my hooha, I’d think Cael was a radical, DNA-cloning science project.

So Greg’s ecstasy over building a catapult? Equals Cael’s ecstasy over building a catapult. Honestly, I think by the time we’re done, the teacher is going to have to give the grade to Abby and Greg and Cael.

As Greg outlined for Abby (and – ahem – certain other grown-ups in the room who had no idea what he was talking about) the differences between trebuchets and mangonels, Cael jumped into the conversation to explain to Abby that what she really needs is a Class One Lever. Of course, he called is a “Cwath One Wuhver” so it took us a while to try to decipher his meaning. Amidst our confusion – what’s a Crass One Lover, anyway, and how much should a preschooler know about it? – Cael sprinted for his Encyclopedia of How Things Work and grabbed a sketch pad and a pencil so he could detail for his sister exactly where she should place the fulcrum.

Class One Lever (which is not at all the same as a Crass One Lover)

Because one thing is true for sure; it’s not depressing at all when you’re 13 to have your 5-year-old brother trying to explain your homework to you.


Yesterday, I posted about School Conferences and the fact that, well, they’re really hard for some of us with kids who don’t always (or ever) perform at the standard level. That we can feel pretty isolated and lonely in the face of the celebrations for kids who have more academic success.

Your comments on that subject are – Wow! So honest, so transparent, so kind and so true. THANK YOU for those, and please do add to the conversation if you’re itching to speak.

There are a couple of comments at the end of the string of that conferences post that I just added – they’re from people who wish to remain anonymous. One comment is from someone who feels (to put words in her mouth) judged by her commitment to advocate for her daughter who is academically gifted. And the other comment is from someone whose (now adult) kids struggled but who couldn’t then and can’t now talk about those struggles out loud for fear of judgement from her family and church community.

This, to me, is what’s at the heart of the presumed “Mommy Wars” – this reality of being judged and found wanting and our frustration and sadness over not being able to fully celebrate or mourn or struggle out loud.

I read the comment from the mama who’s trying to advocate well for her child who’s at the top of her class, and, to be perfectly honest, I felt conflicted. I read her message with an entire circus of “yes, but” monkeys cycling through my head because I don’t think it’s as hard to advocate for an child who is academically gifted as it is to advocate for a child with special needs. Which isn’t what she was saying at all, and was, in fact, the exact opposite of her anti-judging message, but I read it through the first time through a lens of my own woundedness. YIKES! THIS IS NOT WHO I WANT TO BE.

She went on to say, “Parents should all be on the same team with other parents. … We could teach our kids and each other that the only person’s success that matters is their own, comparing all they have accomplished to where they started, not comparing themselves to someone else.” 

And I think she’s right on the money.

As I look forward to shepherding my twins who are academically gifted through school, I have to consider a broader question. I’d like to pose my question to YOU because I am very selfish and I’m benefitting profoundly from your shared wisdom and I want to do that more.

Here it is:

How do you – as a parent or a teacher – fully champion both your children who are high academic achievers AND your kids who need buckets of academic assistance?

In other words,

How to we build a catapult, you guys, that knocks all different types of obstacles down?