I’m Not Qualified

He’s really smart. I’m not just saying that because I’m his mom. His teachers think he should be in the advanced class.

He DGAF. He has never been driven by a desire to please. He is his own entity, and he does what he wants. I still feel that traces of colic live on in him. I’ve been waiting for him to grow out of it for 7.5 years.

He’s not just smart in the reading comprehension way. He gets people. He may not care to please them, but he knows how to work them, he can read them on a level that most can’t.

Every. Single. Day. I worry we’re failing him.


He has the potential to do GREAT THINGS. We have the potential to really fuck him up.

This is not the kind of kid who raises himself. He’s not the ficus tree of children. He’s the orchid, the one that needs lots of devoted, specific care.

IDK, you guys. I don’t know shit about plants… orchids. Disregard. Let’s try again.

He is VERY CHALLENGING. He is the kind of child parents with more patience, less tendency to yell, more focus and followthrough should have been given. NOT that I would ever not want to have him. I get it. He was given to me – the impatient, yell-y, scatter brained mother- for a reason. 34 years in this universe has taught me not to question that.

BUT really, I’m not qualified for him.

When he was just days old, I vividly remember laying in a dark room at 3 in the morning with him BEGGING him – out loud- to please understand that I AM TRYING. He screamed and screamed and I cried and cried. I rocked him, bounced him, shushed him, nursed him, I made up lullabies entirely of the word “please.” Nothing worked.

I knew I wasn’t qualified for him from the beginning.

So every day of motherhood since has been me trying to be the mother he NEEDS, not the one I am. Every day, it’s like going to work at a job that someone gave me without even looking at my resume, and just faking it and hoping I don’t destroy something before I can figure shit out.

We had a parent-teacher conference today. We all agreed on two things. 1. He’s really super smart, you guys. 2. He doesn’t care.

Oh, we also all agreed that that is SUPER FRUSTRATING- to witness a kid who has so much potential just have no desire to try. We sat around, three teachers, Scott & me, and we tried to figure out how to get him to want to do well. And none of us had a really solid plan other than rewarding and taking away iPad time.

I’m not qualified enough to know how to make a kid give a fuck, but I do have an iPad.

I’m just showing up as his mother every day and hoping I figure it out before he realizes I’m not qualified for him.

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  1. I get it. My 7-year-old is challenging. I think he likes to disagree with me just to see how red my face will turn or how many times my head will twitch. He’s smart, but lacks self-control. He wants to be his own boss, but he is only 7. It gets very frustrating trying to mother a different way than what my instinct is, trying to figure it out so he becomes a good person. Parenting is hard, yo.

  2. Jessica Schifilliti on

    He is 7.5, still just a little kid. He’s gonna be fine. When it counts, which wont be at least 6 or 7 more years he will have the grades he needs because he’s smart and has two supportive parents. School is not the end all be all, especially for elementary students. They should just be learning how to socialize and think creatively. Less rote learning and more self confidence and expression!

  3. hi Jill~
    Great post!! I am pretty sure there are hundreds, no wait…thousands of moms out there that share your sentiment. I know my mom felt the same way about my brother and I’m sure my husbands parents felt the same way about him. Both are in their 30’s with great families and jobs. As a teacher I see students like Kendell all the time and when they come from supportive homes they all turn out great!! Just keep doing what you are doing and before you know it you will be saying to yourself ‘look at my kid…wow…I did good’!!

  4. Great post!! I am pretty sure there are hundreds, no wait…thousands of moms out there that share your sentiment. I know my mom felt the same way about my brother and I’m sure my husbands parents felt the same way about him. Both are in their 30’s with great families and jobs. As a teacher I see students like Kendell all the time and when they come from supportive homes they all turn out great!! Just keep doing what you are doing and before you know it you will be saying to yourself ‘look at my kid…wow…I did good’!!

  5. Jill, because you’re questioning whether you’re enough for him and whether you’re doing enough BEING enough is why he’s going to be freaking awesome. You’re paying attention to your kid, and that’s great! I happen to agree that school is not the end all be all, and when he finds something that matters to him, his motivation will come with it. I taught enough students as a high school teacher to realize that every student has a fire that drives them. Some find it at age six, some find it at age twenty-six. But what makes a huge difference is having parents who are ready to help their children explore the world around them to discover what lights their children’s fires. You’re doing that. It’s good to be okay.

  6. Define ‘try’?
    Because smart kids in school are -bored-, and that is massively the issue. He probably doesn’t have to try much to do what is being asked of him at the moment (I am speaking from experience. Midterm paper with oodles of praise? Written the period before with 0 prep, absolutely).
    Is he acting out? Or just not that interested? I know you probably don’t want to blab his stuff all over the internet (Mom’s already on TV and all that) but a little more detail might help anyone who is there/has been there offer ideas.
    Personally I was always good enough at school, but I never wanted to be on time or always turn everything in. Still a national merit scholar and tons of other nonsense that sadly means little to nothing in the real world but is ‘success’ in school – to anyone you’re having a conference with, at least.

    What really made me -try-, quote unquote, was things I liked. Like Speech and Debate (obviously a little little for that, but still, maybe some day), or Destination Imagination/Odyssey of the Mind (if y’all have these, try to get him to give it a shot. They are FUN, and not ‘too girly’). Reading.

    Try out various ‘niches’, specific and general, until you find one that is him. You’ll be amazed at how quickly that brainpower gets put to work. Then you can show him that he can cross-reference that into school (niche is bugs? Have to write a story, ew? Put bugs in it! Put bugs in it a different way next time! etc) and/or get similar praise/accomplishments/outcomes if he works that hard on something else even if it isn’t quite as fun.

  7. Carolyn Gillespie K on

    I’m with Emily… he needs Challenge. When we allow the schools to let our kids “float by” for years and years, we teach them that studying is not important, and that they can just show up and ace everything. But at some point, that’s not true any more. It can happen in middle school, or high school, or even college. When it happens, the child who has been deprived of the opportunity to learn how to face challenge from the youngest years, the earliest grades, is the child who is at the highest risk for failure. These are the kids who are later accused of having a “fixed mindset.” And they do. Because the schools have spent YEARS forcing it on them by not challenging them!

    For his academic success, he needs the chance to learn in school, to be challenged, and to FAIL, just like all the other kids. If that takes subject or grade acceleration, do it. The research on acceleration in any form is overwhelmingly positive, no matter what the educators tell you. Read A Nation Empowered, a free e-book full of research and summaries on more than 16 different forms of academic acceleration.

    Homeschooling is always an option, but do NOT duplicate school at home through an age/grade level canned curriculum. He needs CHALLENGE!

    Don’t write off homeschooling. By age 8 or 10, you’re more like the administrator then the teacher when homeschooling kids like him. Online classes can cover math, language arts, and more. He can become an aide in a local library or museum. Social studies through middle school can come from on-site learning by traveling to local historical places, or traveling the world via the internet. Volunteer at a nursing home and learn about history from those who lived it! Science can be the hands-on experiments that all kids wish they could do in school! But whatever you do, do NOT purchase a grade-level curriculum and try to dupicate school at home. He needs challenge, not canned curriuclum. Once he’s in middle school, he can take the SAT or ACT through Talent Search and use Community College courses as his late middle and high school curriculum. Much more challenging. Much more INTERESTING.

    For lots more on raising kids like him, join a gifted community like Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page or GHF: Gifted Homeschoolers Forum on Facebook. You’re not alone! Get him together with other crazy-smart kids like him, so he learns that he’s not alone. Community makes a HUGE difference in all our lives.

    Carolyn K.
    Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page

  8. Laura Griffith on

    I think the fact that you’re worried shows that you ARE qualified. You’re thinking about it, you’re worried about it – I just think our first babies are always our tester babies. Oh sure, our younger kids throw things at us that we didn’t experience with our older kids – just to keep us on our toes, but with our oldest kids, EVERYTHING is new. I’ve never had a seven year old before, or a kid in second grade, or had to teach a kid to tie his shoes, ect. There’s a learning curve there. My son is also crazy smart – and he’s very left brained – he wants facts, he wants non-fiction, he’s not good and making things up (like stories) and even when he draws (which he’s good at) he wants to base it on a picture of something – it doesn’t come from his imagination. He’s also a rusher – meaning he makes a lot of little mistakes that he knows better about mainly because he wants to rush through it all. He’s also a boy with a ton of energy.

    I agree with both parts of the comments below – on the one hand, he still is very young. My sons first grade teacher last year made the comment that they were working on things they used to teach in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. I think this makes us feel like they should be acting older, when in reality it wasn’t that long ago they were babies. On the other hand, I do agree that they DO need to be challenged – because a bored kid does become lazy and often times destructive (sometimes that’s self desctructive – like getting poor grades because you just don’t care.)

    My suggestion would be to find something he’s interested in that challenges him and find a way to connect it to learning. Sometimes this is easier said than done – like my son is into science, so we get him science kits so he can do hands on experiments and make messes. If your son is into drawing and making up stories, buy him supplies to make his own books (by this I mean nice paper, or help him type it up and print it out – you could even scan artwork to be uploaded in a photo book) or enter writing contests. There are STEM groups who do things like build robots – connect what he’s learning at school with something FUN to do, because I promise it’ll help him get more excited and care more about learning.

  9. I’ll second the comment about homeschooling. I taught elementary school, then homeschooled, now tutor 1:1. If you homeschool, you will have the freedom and the time to feed your child’s brain with the ‘food’ HE wants to eat, not the proscribed, schoolish stuff. You watch – you will not be able to hold him back from learning. It will all come together. Get a Blister Microscope ($50), go to the park, go to the zoo, throw rocks in the river, look at dirt with your microscope. Let your school be child-led. You cannot stop kids from learning if they get to decide what they want to know. It really works.

  10. Oh how I can relate. I feel your frustration. All I can say is this, no one has the perfect solution to fit every child. Keep doing what your doing and learn along the way with him. That’s what I’m trying, that and wine…for me of course!

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