Shop the fall collection ➔

Not long ago my fifth-grader came home from school with the mid-quarter update of his grades. It’s a surreal parenting moment when your child suddenly has percentages and letter grades tied to their name, along with an ability to associate their own self-worth with said grades. 

RELATED: No One Told Me How Hard the Elementary Years Would Be

My kid is as perfectionist as they come. He lives to achieve and to please, and he cannot stand to disappoint. I am not this. But, I know this is how he operates.

And I also know as a parent, my job is to teach him to be successful by himself and for himself, not to be successful because his parents want him to be. 

A quick glance at the reports for each subject ranging from 92-99.7%, straight As, earned him a “Great job, bud!”

“But Mom, I only got a 92 in science,” he looked at me confused. “Don’t worry, though, I’m working on bringing that up because science just started up again.”

I was confused, “Don’t worry about it, bud. It’s an A, and I’ll always be proud of your grades if I know you tried your best.”

This is the truth.

“Really?” he said. “Some kids in my class were crying about similar reports to mine. They said their parents will ground them if they don’t get all 100%s.” 

As a parent, this makes me so sad for those kids. I see it in sports and in school and I just can’t wrap my mind around it.

Parents teaching their kids that their best isn’t enough. 

I believe strongly that failure is good. It teaches kids and adults that everyone makes mistakes, everyone has shortcomings, and some things are easier for some than for others. Kids need to learn how to fail. All of us need to learn to fail. And parents need to learn it is OK for our kids to fail. Good for them, even. 

RELATED: Good Grades Are Nice, But I’d Rather My Kids Pass

As a kid, one of the greatest lessons my parents taught me was just this. I have vivid memories of my mom telling me someone would always be smarter, faster, richer, or prettier than me.

“No matter how good you are, Shannon, someone will always be better. And that’s OK. Because if you are true to your character, if you are a good person, and if you try your hardest, then that is enough.”

It was harsh, but it was true. And it has stuck with me all these years later. As a society, we are teaching kids at 10 their best isn’t enough, that they aren’t enough.

We are encouraging them to be robotic, to live for perfection, and not to live a life full of contentment and relationships and joy.

I will always be proud of my kids for making great grades, for being great athletes, and for being successful at what they put their minds to. And trust me, I will always expect that their best efforts are put forth.

RELATED: Raising Kids to be Kind and Strong

But, I will be far more proud of them if they are good people who are kind to others, who recognize and accept their own flaws, and who embrace failure as a way of teaching them how to do better. 

There is no grade book in life.

I can assure you I don’t remember a single grade from when I was 10. I don’t know many people who do. I was a good student who worked hard and did my best. I also have a wonderful life to show after years of hard work for which I never earned a single grade. 

I have happy, healthy kids. Kids who fail a lot. Kids who will fail far more frequently in these upcoming teenage years. And kids who know how to get back up and dust themselves off when they fail. Because for me, and I hope for a majority of moms, I’m as proud of their efforts as I am of their successes.

Shannon Meurer

Shannon Meurer lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband Brett and her three boys Braden, Nolan, and Austin. As a family, they enjoy long weekends spectating swim meets and soccer games and many nutritious concession stand meals. 

I Love it When You Smile at Me

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little girl in wheel chair with classmates, color photo

I gained a bit of insight today. We were walking past the checkout at the store this afternoon when we came upon a mom and her children, waiting in the checkout line.   RELATED: A Simple Invitation Means the World To a Special Needs Parent My daughter Chloe rolled by them in her wheelchair. I watched, as I often do, as the children noticed her. One girl about Chloe’s age smiled at her as we walked by. As soon as we had passed them, Chloe turned to me and said . . . “She’s the first person to smile at me!”  Let me say I...

Keep Reading

It’s Okay to Say No to the Promposal

In: Kids, Teen
Boy holding pink sign saying "Prom with me?"

Promposals are cute.  But, even for the sweetest questions, it’s okay if the answer is not yes. I have more boys than girls at my house so the whole meet the boy asking your girl out with a gun posts don’t sit well with me. Boys and girls have an equally hard time negotiating friendships and relationships in high school, and I care equally for both. A young man spent some time, told his friends, made a cute sign, and planned to ask my daughter to a dance. A friend of my daughters mentioned he might ask (and even made...

Keep Reading

I Wipe the Slides

In: Kids, Motherhood
boy on slide

I want you to have the most fun possible at your tiny playground stars program, so I wipe the slides. I don’t want you to have a meltdown if your clothes get wet while I’m gone, so I wipe the slides. I want to have three precious hours of only managing your little sister, so I wipe the slides. RELATED: I’d Rather Serve My Kids Than Have Them be “Self-Sufficient” I don’t want you to feel embarrassed by a big reaction to wet clothes when I’m not there to help you, so I wipe the slides. I want you to...

Keep Reading

One Day You’ll Outgrow Being My Little Boy—But Not Today

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Mother and two sons back-to-school picture, color photo

One day you will come home after your first day of a new school year and not wish to share a single thing. Not today. Today, you got into the car and talked non-stop about every second of your day. I was delighted!  One day you will not have countless first-day forms for me to sign and return the next day. Not today. I signed my name at least four times. I was happy to grant permission for you to play sports, learn algebra, and do whatever else I gave my permission for.  One day you will not allow me...

Keep Reading

The Sports Mom Shows Up For Her Kids, No Matter What

In: Kids, Motherhood
Youth baseball game

We’re nearing the end of club baseball/softball season, and the burnout is real. The time away from home, burning through gas to get somewhere for two hours with half your house packed only to pack back up and turn around and drive to the next two-hour destination is insane. I don’t even like the sport right now. There . . . I said it. I’m so sick of softball fields and wind-blown dirt in my face. I’ve seen so many balls thrown in the last two months that my eyes hurt. But I still show up. I love to see...

Keep Reading

Having Babies and Toddlers Is Exhausting—but So, So Sweet

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
Family of four with baby and toddler on bed

I took the girls to one of our favorite coffee shops last week and all around me were parents of babies and toddlers. Their little ones ran about in the grassy area out back, toddling up and down the lawn, when it suddenly hit me with perfect clarity—the sun has nearly set on this season for me. It was a realization marked by internal tension, a mourning of the loss of one season contrasted by the joyful anticipation at the arrival of the next. It came out of nowhere and hit me like a tidal wave. Having five kids in...

Keep Reading

3 Common Phrases to Avoid Saying to Your Kids (and What To Say Instead)

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother sitting with young boy on couch

Learning to love yourself is hard work. I did not grow up loving myself. Instead, I always felt inadequate, and I felt the need to change myself to prove my worth.  I want more for my kids. I want my kids to know their inherent value and worth. I want to empower my kids to love and accept themselves.  My self-love journey, aided by the expertise of a counselor, has helped me realize there are some narratives from my childhood I needed to unlearn. I had to accept my emotions as helpful and not something to be pushed down. I...

Keep Reading

They Love Each Other (and Sometimes They Don’t)

In: Kids, Motherhood
Toddler girl lying with big brother, color photo

When I was pregnant with his baby sister, Forest kissed my belly and talked about all the wonderful things he would do with this little girl he already loved so much. His plans changed, however, after she was born, and the thing he wanted to do the most with her was place her gently in the trash can. Some mornings he would kiss her softly, other mornings he would walk into the room where I’d be nursing her and say, “Her doesn’t look precious to ME.” Two and a half years later, Forest’s feelings toward Grace remain about the same....

Keep Reading

As a Mother, I Matter Too

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and daughter in living room

“What’s more important than me, Mammy?” my daughter asked. I looked at her, and she was looking at me. Her question wasn’t harsh or accusatory, it was curious. She was curious. We were in the kitchen, I was at the table working, and she asked me to help her find something. I told her I was finishing up some important work and then I would play with her. This is when she asked me what was more important than her. I bit my tongue to stop the words that wanted to rush out of my mouth. I wanted to proclaim...

Keep Reading

Dear Daughter, Follow Your Beautiful Heart

In: Faith, Kids
Mother and daughter smiling

When I held you in my arms for the first time, it was like time stopped. As you looked up at me with innocence and new life, I was struck by the reality that my main role in your life would be to guide and direct you on the right path. I hoped I would do the best job possible. As I watched you grow, I basked in your joy of putting on your pretty dresses, adorned with layers of costume jewelry, parading around the house for your father and me to see. I dreamed often of what path you...

Keep Reading