Parenting: When Do I Get My Grades?


I’m doing a terrible job as a mother. Just a terrible, horrible job. Making all the wrong choices and messing up my children far more than I intended.

Or I’m doing a brilliant job. It’s hard to tell.

The trouble with parenting is no score card. No grades. No assessments or evaluations or reviews. No hard data to tell us how well we’re doing. Nothing except our brains and our hearts which often give conflicting reports.

I used to think we’d get our results someday. Someday, when our kids turn out great or fine or weird or totally effed up, we’d know whether we did well or failed or sort of passed but only with a D+ so we can’t go on to Advanced Parenting thank God because the lessons are cumulative and we barely survived Beginning Parenting anyway.

But then I thought, when’s someday? When is the someday that assessments arrive in the mail? Because I am 39 and, if assessments were already sent to my parents, they are completely screwed, you know? Because I know what their report says. It reads, “Your daughter is great and fine and weird and totally effed up, usually every minute.” Which feels inconclusive. Inconclusive but normal, I think, like their report card should read, “Congratulations! You raised a human being.”

And so here we are, in the middle of the parenting game, without a good way to measure our success or our failure or our particular ratio of both. Except that is a measure of success, isn’t it? The fact that we are, for better or worse, in the middle of this parenting game. We’re here, suspended, running in the air by choice, feet flailing, arms askew, without the hope of certainty. And we’re here because it’s the right place to be.


 Yes and No Sign image credit digitalart at

Don’t miss a post. Subscribe here

15 responses to “Parenting: When Do I Get My Grades?”

  1. Aw, this was a certainly nice post. In thought I would like to put in writing like this additionally – taking time and actual effort to create a highly beneficial article?- but what can I say?- I procrastinate alot and by no means appear to obtain something accomplished.

    red bottom heels

  2. It’s mothering Sunday here in the UK this weekend, and I just wrote my card.. unfortunately I sent it before I read this post otherwise I would have given my mother a grade A+ on it! But as a mother of two seven year-olds myself now, with all the daily self-doubt and concerns that parenthood brings, I am increasingly aware of what a great job my parents did with four of us. My brothers, sister and I have all turned out pretty all right, in a normal sort of a way. So I thought it was about time I told her… So you may have to wait another 35 years for your report card, but it’ll be worth it to see your children grow and to be proud of them despite all the niggles along the way…

  3. Beth,
    I don’t think you’ll get a “report” card for a while. When you have children with mental health issues–that thinking of “you did a good job if they grow up to be good, responsible, independent adults” might be a ways off. But after 30+ years of parenting, I can tell you that when you think you blew it out of the water, they probably will NOT remember that. And where you thought you totally nailed it–they probably won’t remember THAT either. But you just get up each morning and ask God to help you to be patient and kind and good to the ones He’s given you to care for. I think God has a special memory eraser He’s used on my kids. I’ve apologized so many times, especially to my older ones, and have them respond “What??? I don’t remember that!”
    There is One who will be handing out grades. But not until it’s all finished. So chin up, big girl pants on, deep breath and start again. Prayers and Hugs to you :D.

  4. I think Parenting progress reports are a more accurate definition of it, since a report card indicates a finished project, and I dont think parenting really ever ends. It only changes. I had a recent progress report.. someone complimented my daughter’s manners. A+ mom! progress report, your kids are fighting in the car and you just turn up the radio. C- mom 🙁 lol

  5. Funny thing is – I never actually *got* a “report card.” I got a number of “Incompletes” and several “Withdrawn – No Credit” and I specifically remember one that said “No Record of Enrollment.” Most of the course work was “Pass/Fail”, which was a good thing because I *hated* being on the far left side of the bell curve. I had nightmares for years about showing up for a final having failed to ever attend a single lecture and being unable to even find the textbook.

    And then, one day almost 20 years ago, a certificate showed up in the mail. It had our names on it (I checked the spelling three times because I was sure it was a mistake) and emblazoned across the top were the words “Summa Cum Laude.” Way down in the corner, in fine print, it said “Proverbs 22:6.”

    I’ll cherish it always.

  6. Report cards came to me when raising my kids via comments and compliments from other adults who knew my children in other contexts. Every single one told me how wonderful my son was, what a polite, caring kid he was, what a nice kid he was to have around. Ummm, you talking about my son??? Really? The total slob? The mouthy, argumentative, sister-harassing, lazy and snotty boy who lives with me???? Hmmmm. Alrighty then. Must be I’m doing something right!
    Now that he is 31, I can see how he has turned out, and they are right, he is a great kid!! He keeps a tidy, clean house (say what?? he lived in piles of clothes and dishes here and never picked a damn thing up if he could get away with it!), he is responsible (a supervisor at work), easy going ( laughs a lot and takes very little seriously), and is quick to help out (just ask- which never worked when he lived with me).
    Sure I often said or did the wrong thing while raising them, but it’s a learning process on both sides. Would I change some things I did, oh yes, but most of it, would not be different. There was tons of love, fun, and responsibility along the way. And my goal was to raise smart, independent, self starters who took responsibility for their own lives. My parenting report card now that they are in their 30’s is an A, up from a B in their 20’s (LOL). I am proud of my kids. They are good people.
    I’m sure your report card will be excellent, but you may have to wait a bit for the results, remember it’s a process, not a goal line! One little grade at a time ……. look for the unexpected smiles and compliments others give you about your babies, there are your grades.

  7. Last night, when I kissed my 7-year-old son good-night, he said: “YOU are the best mom in the WHOLE universe.” I’ll take that as a A+, thank you very much. 😉

  8. seriously. I would love a report card. wait, maybe I wouldn’t. maybe a report for just the
    good days when I haven’t screwed up too badly…. eeeek. hmmmmmm………

  9. This is great! I think your grades come in the form of your child’s accomplishments, when you hear your words come out of their mouth (very easy to do if you see them trying to corral youngsters while babysitting), when they graduate from high school/college, or get a job. Also, when they have your grandbabies and they call to ask you for advice. It can take a long time to get to that point, but you’ll get report cards along the way.

  10. I will never forget what my midwife told me on the day my little one turned 1, which was the same day she send her 3rd off to college: “If you do everything right your kids will leave you.” That is one measurement, I guess! But it still makes me cry to think of them leaving. I guess that’s what teenager-hood is for!!

  11. Hey Old Marine – Please confirm what your report card really says. I think you deserve a huge congratulations, probably a little for surviving Beth but also for making her so damn fabulous. And is there really just a gold star b/c I feel like Beth should give you at least a dinner out or a weekend away. RIght!?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.