One morning, when Dragon was in fourth grade, he came home with a C on his math test.
“What, a C??! What happened?” I yelled.
“I don’t know! I thought I did okay. I don’t know what happened,” Dragon said.
All evening, I berated him. Math was his strongest subject, so I couldn’t understand how he had done so badly. Obviously he hadn’t understood the material. Obviously, he hadn’t been careful. Obviously, he hadn’t checked his work.
I didn’t say anything to Daniel about Dragon’s C, until the next morning. My sharing was badly timed, as I shared it with Daniel after breakfast, just as Dragon was headed to school.
“What, a C??! What happened?” Daniel yelled. With more accusations and more recriminations. I joined in. By the time we were done, our son was in tears. It was not our finest parenting moment.
I took Dragon to school, and asked his teacher if I could have a word.
“Mrs. Kuperberg,” I started, “Dragon showed me his math test. He got all these questions wrong. I’m not sure what is happening here, but could you please sit with him? He has never gotten such a bad grade on a test. Obviously he doesn’t understand the material.”
She assured me that she would look into the situation. I said goodbye to Dragon, who was still sad, and I left.
At the end of the day, I came to pick him up.
His teacher, Mrs. Kuperberg, came up to me.
“Mrs. Kim,” she said, “I looked into Dragon’s math situation. It wasn’t his fault. My aide miscorrected his test. Those answers we marked wrong, were not wrong. He got an A.”
Thinking back to how badly I had overreacted, how terrible we made Dragon feel, I was crestfallen. Heartbroken. Oh my son, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry for not giving you the benefit of the doubt.. I’m so sorry we brought this up just before school. I’m so sorry for not believing in you. I’m so sorry for shaming you. I’m so sorry for making your grade more important than you. I’m so, so sorry.
This parenting thing is hard. Y’all don’t come with an instruction manual, and this is my first time doing this. So I’m making this up as I go along.
Sometimes I get caught up in my own insecurities. Sometimes, I blame myself but take it out on you: I must not be doing something right, I must be working too much, I must not be good enough, and that’s why you got a C. Sometimes I lose my temper. It’s my job as a parent to encourage good academics, but it’s my more important job to love you and to accept you. And sometimes I mess up. Please forgive me.