Susan Badeau

There are only two lasting gifts we can give our children - one is roots, the other is wings


Are You Smarter than a 2nd Grader?

Posted by Sue Badeau on March 13, 2013 at 1:50 PM

Am I smarter than a 2nd grader? I’m not always sure. In fact, in the past couple of weeks my 2nd-grader granddaughters Chloe and Tatianna have both kept me on my toes with some of the information they shared from their science and social studies classes at school.

My senior year in college, I couldn’t decide what I was going to do upon graduation, so I joined many of my friends in taking both the MCAT and LSAT tests. I scored really well on both. So well, that my advisor was shocked when I decided not to apply to either law school or medical school. “Why not?” he asked, “Surely you can see that you are smart enough.”

Surely you can see that you are smart enough.” At the time, those words gave me a boost of confidence and added to my self-esteem. However, over the years, the words almost seemed to become a taunting refrain echoing in my mind every time I faced a challenging and troubling situation as a parent.

“How could it be?” I would often ask myself, “that I am smart enough to be a doctor or a lawyer, but not smart enough to be a mom?”

Not smart enough to know what to do when my bright son with the high IQ scores was failing in school.

Not smart enough to figure out how to stop my talented son with the promising future ahead from descending into the pits of drug addiction.

Not smart enough to prevent teen pregnancies.

Not smart enough to help my handsome African American son avoid the stinging pain of racism and rejection when he got turned down for a prom date because of the color of his skin.

Not smart enough to see the warning signs before a son’s runaway episodes.

Not smart enough to help my granddaughter avoid a relationship with an abusive boyfriend.

Yes, I have faced these and many more challenges in my years as a foster and adoptive parent and kinship caregiver. There were many, many times when I just didn’t feel smart enough to conquer the challenges confronting me.

At times sheepish or even ashamed when I had to reach out to others for help, resources and supports raising my own children.

And then one day, I had my proverbial “aha” moment. I was sitting in the driveway, in the car, about to drop off my young adult daughter and her 2-year-old child. He had been giving her more than the usual run for her money that day and they were both exhausted. She turned to me with tears in her eyes and asked, “Do you think I’ll ever be smart enough to be a good parent?”

“Of course you’re smart enough,” I quickly reassured her, adding, “but even smart people need help from time to time.” I then thought of my professor all those years ago in college and I asked my daughter, “Do you think that I’m smart enough to be a doctor – or maybe a lawyer?”

“Oh yes, mom, you definitely could be a great doctor or lawyer.”

“So, then, if you needed surgery today, you would trust me to wield the scalpel?”

She panicked for a moment, not knowing what to say. Finally, she quietly said, “Well, no, not really.”

“Why not?” I asked, “I thought you just told me I was smart enough to be a doctor.”

“True,” she said, “But you’ve never been trained as a doctor. You never went to medical school or learned all that stuff.”

Bingo. Being smart enough doesn’t mean you have all the knowledge, training, equipment or tools needed to handle every situation in life. If I could easily acknowledge that I, while smart enough to be a doctor, could not actually practice medicine without further education, experience, coaching and support, why couldn’t I also acknowledge that as a parent or caregiver, especially of children with a range of special needs and early life exposure to trauma, I would also need further education, experience, coaching and support to do a good job?

There is no shame in seeking help.

Once we overcome that mental hurdle and are willing to seek help, the challenges become knowing when to seek help, and how to find the right kind of help for the situation.

I’ll talk about how to find the right help another day! Stay tuned . . . .

Today's blog post is an modified excerpt from a longer article I wrote for the Foster Parenting Toolbox, which can be found here: a modified version for kinship caregivers will also be included in the soon-to-be-released Kinship Caregivers Toolbox which will be available at the same website.  

Categories: Building Bridges of Hope

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Reply Anne DeCock
2:40 PM on March 13, 2013 
I LOVED this post, the first of many I shall read. This is really great!
Reply Sue Badeau
3:09 PM on March 13, 2013 
Thanks for stopping by and reading it Anne! Appreciate the feedback. Someday I might graduate to 3rd grade - we'll see!
Reply Vonda Skelton
12:40 PM on March 14, 2013 
Great message for all of us in whatever we're facing. Being smart enough isn't enough. We have to do the preparation and work that goes with being a "good" whatever-we're-striving-to-be. :-)