Sunday, January 15, 2012

Report Card Wisdom

The little Goofs’ report cards came at the end of 2011. They were fine. They aren’t on the ABCD scale but rather 1234. A 1 basically means they own that skill, 2 means they are fine, 3 means they could work on it, and four means they are behind. Mostly twos. Tough to imagine that this disqualifies them from the Ivys, right?

Except it probably does. They aren’t prodigies; they aren’t blowing the doors off of their educational institution. But, so what?

Father Goof has had some stuff going on over the past few years – I’ll get into it in another post. But the allure of achievement for its own sake has dimmed. I’m not giving up and becoming an ascetic. I’d still love it if this blog had tens of thousands of followers who loved it so much I was paid big bucks for speaking gigs. And I still plan to finish my PhD. But I guess that’s it, I only want to achieve things that make ME really happy and in which the process is satisfying.

Very, very few of us will, in the big picture, do much on the world historical scale. I’ve had a pretty strange (but interesting) career path. If I had done everything right, maybe I’d be an associate poli-sci or history professor at some modest university. I know enough to be pretty sure that while my work would have been credible, I wouldn’t have set the field on fire. I would not be a big star. And frankly, even if I had been – how many political scientists really change the world (and if so, how often do they do so for the better?) Maybe I’d have a bit more money and prestige – or maybe not. I can’t complain.

Much of the game of life, viewed from a thousand miles up, is pretty absurd. The key is to have fun playing.

So my kids aren’t geniuses. They are doing perfectly fine academically. They are smart enough and, within reason, should be successful at whatever they put their hearts into. I hope they choose wisely and enjoy whatever it is they choose. I hope they have fun, are joyful, and generally happy.

More importantly, they are kind and generally excited about trying new things. The little Goofs look for fun and usually find it. They aren’t Stepford Kids with pleasant grins plastered on their faces. They have moods, they push my buttons but underneath it all they pretty much enjoy what comes their way. It took me forty years to get a fraction of their wisdom.
I keep thinking of what Elwood said in in Harvey:
Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" - she always called me Elwood - "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

I let the little Goofs look at their report cards and told them they were doing fine, but if there was something they thought they should work on I’d be happy to help. And that is enough.

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