I made a sort of mental “never” list before I had children. On it were things like: never let my children wear dress-ups in public or eat sugar or watch TV or go barefoot or run in the halls at church.
I know. What was I thinking?
Yet there are a few nevers from this list I’ve held on to. One of them is to never pay my children for getting good grades. Even when I was earning grades, I never understood the, “I’ll pay you $20 for every ‘A’” program some of my friends were on. The grade is its own reward, right?
But before I could say junior high school my husband offered our thirteen year old a trip to New York City if she could get straight A’s through seventh grade. He thought it would get her off to a good start.
So like most things on my list, this one died an early and deserving death. Turns out my husband, who doesn’t make a lot of lists, had it right. Junior high school report cards are a big change from elementary school. Instead of being one of twenty-five darlings in the classroom, you are one of over one hundred. And sometimes you are not even you–you are a number on the roll. Our junior high daughter had to learn to play a grade game she hadn’t played before. What’s more, we had never put much emphasis on the letter grade before. The big trip incentive was a way of saying that grades matter. And they will continue to matter for several more years.
There were a few close calls. At one midterm, she had a “D” in Algebra. But she held tight, learned to check her grades often, and even followed up when she thought there may be an error. During a time when teens are searching for identity, part of her identity became “the girl who gets good grades.” Not a bad place to begin junior high.
When her final 4.0 report card came home, we spent four days in New York City. We haven’t spent that much time alone with her since she was a baby. It gave us time to talk. Time to explore. Time to pick up the pieces from seventh grade (it was not an easy year) and remind her how much we believe in her.
It was such a magical time that my revised list reads: never skip a chance for a one-on-one trip with your thirteen year old. Even if (especially if?) it means paying her for good grades. For us it was totally worth it.