My daughter started high school two weeks ago. And last night, we had our first argument.
In middle school, it wouldn't have taken that long. Every morning when I'd go in her room to wake her up, she'd open her eyes with a scowl on her face, sometimes telling me to stop talking or to leave her alone. She'd complain about having nothing to wear. Her homework wouldn't be done. Her teachers were awful, she'd say. I'd remind her five times to brush her teeth. And then still sometimes she would forget.
But for the last two weeks, I had seen a different girl. A more mature girl. Setting her alarm and waking up on her own. Wearing cute outfits she picked out - and often bought - by herself. Spending time on her hair and brushing her teeth, without being asked. Doing her homework, also without prompting. Making her own lunch.
Yes, we were off to a great start.
"I hate my math teacher," she said.
That had been her way the last few years. If she didn't like a teacher, I knew what was to come. Fighting over homework, doing poorly in class. I didn't want this to be the way. It was high school, after all. And something had to change. This counts now.
"If you are having trouble with math we can help. We can get you a tutor," I offered, my voice stern but calm. I told her if there was a problem, that we wanted to know now, instead of finding out too late that she wasn't doing well. I told her that just getting by wasn't going to work anymore.
She became defensive. She got angry. It was the way he teaches. And she doesn't like math anyway. And then...
"It's because I'm stupid."
She used that "s" word over and over, talking about how others were in calculus while she was in geometry and that she'd never be the valedictorian or get straight As. That we needed to lower our expectations. And each time she spoke, my heart broke. She wasn't stupid, I told her. Over and over. She wasn't. Why would she think such a thing? But more importantly, how could I convince her she wasn't?
She's not. I know she's not. She's bright, creative and funny and has always been a little too grown for her own good. Her kindergarten teacher said it best when she labeled her a "free spirit" - a little blonde hair, blue eyed beauty who seemed to flutter like a butterfly from thing to thing, never stopping too long.
To me, she is extraordinary, possessing the fearlessness I never had.
Yet, in this one thing - this hugely important thing called school - she lacks confidence. And I can't let that be. I can't let that be what she thinks. As a family, we can't let that be. It's our job to find that mirror into her soul so that she can see what we see.
Because we all see it. The girl that's the valedictorian. Or the straight A student. Or whatever she really wants to be. Anything at all. And she needs to see it.
The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity,
but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there - John Buchan