Jump Higher

Last night when I finished my Governance Focus Group in Winnipeg, I noticed that I had three missed calls from home and a series of text messages. The last one from my husband was sent at 9:55 pm and said: “You there? Kathleen is at 185. Crying.”

I stared at my phone from a province away and thought: What could this possibly be about?

Soon it became clear. Two weeks ago, our daughter Kathleen came home with a Jump Rope for Heart sponsorship sheet, but she was not enthusiastic. She is a competitive little girl and she wanted to get the top prize: if you raise a certain amount of money, you get a lunch box. (Really? A lunch box? In another blog, let’s discuss the ethics of this sort of extrinsic motivation.) She was discouraged because her friend’s mom gave her a cheque for $200. Kathleen has a strong sense of justice. She knew I wouldn’t just write a cheque, so life was not fair. Without much thought, but not to be out-done, I made her an offer: if she raised $200 herself, I would match it. (Who did I say was the competitive one?) She thought my challenge was unreasonable, and that seemed to be the end of it.  Or so I thought…

So yesterday was the day before the Jump Rope for Heart. I knew she had raised a bit of money from some family members on Mother’s day, but I didn’t know she was serious about raising $200. Since I was in Winnipeg, I didn’t know that yesterday after school, she went door to door in our neighbourhood collecting donations. Most people gave $5-10 so she had a busy evening. But she came up short by $15 and she wasn’t allowed to knock on any more doors after dark.

There were tears, but Kevin wouldn’t top it up. Jacob came to her defense, demanding that Kevin give her 15 bucks. But he wouldn’t rescue his daughter. What a parent dilemma – we raise the bar higher, but if it is too high, do we let them fail? And how should we approach this dilemma in our schools – we want our students to succeed but we know important lessons come from failure.

Kevin decided that this was a good learning moment. We talk a lot about the need to make our kids resilient, and he thought this was an opportunity for her to fail, so he refused to solve her problems, and Kathleen sobbed.

Just before 10pm, she had a solution: a call to her Papa. (In another blog, let’s discuss the role of grandparents in teachable moments).

By the time I called home after 10pm, I heard the play-by-play from all three perspectives. But I had a very proud daughter. “Ignore my upset voice messages, Mom. You owe me 200 bucks.”

I told her that I was proud of her…that I believed she could do it all along… that I need to be the sort of Mom who pushes her because she will succeed. Then I told her, “I wish I had said $500.”

I couldn’t see it, but from Winnipeg, I could hear her smile. She knew that I knew she would have jumped higher.

ps – As you know, my kids approve anything I write about them. Kathleen wanted one addition: The lunch box includes a radio!

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