Your brother got Terrific Kid today. You know, where one (or sometimes two) kids a month are chosen as the kids who did something particularly special that month and the teacher thinks (for whatever reason) they should be recognized for their terrificness. Well, this month that kid was your brother. Last year when he got it, you also got it, so I was a little curious as to how you would react when you heard he got it and you hadn’t. I wasn’t particularly worried, I’m not sure why, oh right, because it’s a stupid thing to worry about it.
I was surprised though when not long after he came into the cafeteria for the little award presentation you also came in. “What are you doing here?” I asked. “I came to see Andrew get his award.” You shrugged as if it should have been completely obvious, and I guess if I had known you were allowed to do that, it would have been. I noticed other siblings were also in the cafeteria supporting each other, but then I also noticed other siblings pouting in the cafeteria because their sibling had received something they hadn't. I watched you through the entire program (okay I alternately watched you and your brother through the entire program) and I noticed you smiling at the other children, clapping when their names were announced and their accolades read and referring to your brother over and over as my terrific kid. I believe you were genuinely happy for the other kids. I don’t think that you not getting the award even crossed your mind.
Our society has become overrun with a sense of entitlement. We think we are to be rewarded for doing what was already expected of us in the first place. I see this in my classroom, when my students can’t understand why they didn’t get a 100 for turning in their work and doing the bare minimum. I always remind them that C is average, A is extraordinary. If you want an A, you need to impress me. The same thing should go for awards.
We live in a world where people need constant pats on the back to feel good about themselves. Maybe it comes from everyone getting a trophy for (maybe) showing up to the games. Maybe it comes from parents being afraid to tell their kids no. Maybe it’s just low self esteem caused by some chemical imbalance, I don’t know (I majored in English not … well, basically not anything that would answer that question). What I do know though is that as I watched you with a smile on your face, congratulating the other kids and joking with your brother and his friend, accepting hugs and high fives from another boy, I was every bit as proud of you as I was of your brother. As you sat at the breakfast bar tonight we talked about how maturely you acted. I told you then and I’m saying again, a piece of paper will never make you terrific or special or smart or athletic or whatever else you want to be recognized for. You either are terrific or you’re not, you either are smart or you’re not, you either are athletic or you’re not, a certificate will never change that. What made you terrific today was your attitude: it was your smile and your applause, it was your laughter and your maturity.
We can all behave how we’re expected to to get the recognition we want, but it’s how we behave when we don’t expect an award or recognition that really counts. It’s how we act when we’re down (or maybe should be) that shows our true character. It is what makes us truly terrific, and you my baby girl have got that down to an art.