Love is its own award

By Mir
May 14, 2009

This morning, we trooped over to school like the dutiful parents and grandparents we are, and watched while a whole passel of third graders were shepherded through their “moving on” ceremony, even though there’s still a week of school left.

This is a terrible time of year for the kids; in addition to the end of the school year kind of bringing the CRAYZEE no matter what (because… CHANGE! means you should… RUN AROUND IN CIRCLES! or something, when you’re a kid), owing to our superfantabulous redistricting that goes into place next year, approximately 65% of our student body will be headed to a different school next year. Approximately 100% of these kids will be losing close friends to a different school, and approximately 110% of the parents in this district assume that our School Board is run by minions of Lucifer himself.

Anyway! Moving on. Today it was time to moooove on.

Now, I haven’t mentioned this, I don’t think, but as hard of a time as most of the kids are having now, at the end of the school year, Monkey is really struggling. He does not want to change schools, Sam I Am, plus he loves nothing better than order and routine and predictability, and with one week of school left, he has very little of that going on right now. And that’s aside from the fact that his regular teacher is gone all week for reasons I do not understand and cannot discuss without my head exploding, because the substitute manning the classroom in her stead is not my favorite person. (And by “not my favorite person” I mean “makes a box of hammers look intelligent in comparison.”)

The whole thing just makes me sad. Who wants to want her kid to be sad? It sucks. Period.

So today we went to the ceremony and watched each teacher get up to hand out awards to her students and say glowing things about each of them. Except, of course, that Monkey’s teacher is away and the teacher who stood in for her had no personal commentary on the kids (probably because she doesn’t really know them), actually dismissed the entire class as done but had MISSED A CHILD (that poor kid!!) and no one caught it until later, and Monkey’s class only got “improvement” awards and “outstanding scholar” awards (meaning, no “needs improvement” grades) rather than the additional awards that the other classes received. Possibly his teacher ran out of time before she went and ABANDONED HER CLASS. Ahem.

Monkey did his thing and got his certificate and sat down with his class. And then he worked his way over to us and handed me his certificate. Then he curled up in my lap. (At nine and a half perhaps he’s getting a little old for this, but I’m certainly not complaining.) He murmured something into my neck, and I leaned down and asked him to say it again.

“They spelled my name wrong,” he said, blinking back tears. “I’ve been here for two years, and they spelled my name wrong like they don’t even know how to spell it.” I sighed and hugged him tighter, promising to email the principal to ask if perhaps they could redo his certificate. He jabbed a finger at his teacher’s signature underneath his butchered name. “She even signed it. She KNOWS that’s not the right spelling.” I sighed, again. I tried very hard not to think unkind thoughts about his teacher, whom I adore, but can’t stop wishing that she hadn’t chosen to leave at this particular time of year.

He readjusted on my lap and went on, “And some of those other kids got a ton of awards, all because they didn’t do well, at first, and then got better. If you’re smart like me and do well all along, I guess you just don’t get anything.” I whispered all of the Right Parental Things to him; that those children need more encouragement, that being smart and good at school is its own reward, that his Outstanding Scholar certificate was sort of like saying he was at the top. None of it soothed him, and frankly I don’t blame him, because in the other classes there had been awards for “best” at various topics, but not in his.

He continued looking dark and dour and finally I whispered, “I have a trophy for you.” That piqued his interest. “It’s invisible, though, so you’ll have to be REALLY CAREFUL with it.” He raised an eyebrow at me. I pretended to hand it to him. “It’s in the shape of a puppy,” I confided, “and it’s the award for being the very best Monkey.”

“I’m the ONLY Monkey,” he huffed, unimpressed. I gasped.

“Excuse me, you most certainly are NOT. I know other Monkeys. But you’re the best one.” I kissed him, and then feigned exaggerated concern when he pretended to pocket his award. “You’ll squish him!” I cautioned. Then he giggled, and put his imaginary puppy on his lap and pantomimed petting it while I ruffled his hair.

Change is upon us. Change is hard. Grace is sometimes elusive. But he truly is the very best Monkey I know. In fact, I think he’s outstanding.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone. Love may not be the solution, but I still think it’s the answer.


  1. Leila and dad

    We were there and he is outstanding. As are you.

  2. Tracy

    I can’t believe his teacher. I mean there are some excuses that would be acceptable but only in cases of death. Congratulations, Monkey! Trust me sweetie, life doesn’t get any easier and sometimes you have to make up your own rewards to make it a more even playing field. Happy Love Thursday—-FINALLY!

  3. liz

    Aw. I know Monkey personally, as well as a few other monkeys, and I happen to KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that HE is the very bestest Monkey ever. Show him this please, would you?
    Now that Jackson is a big boy and graduating from preschool today, he will want to go play with another big boy soon. :)

  4. Sharon

    My son recently won an award and his name was spelled wrong on the certificate. My husband was more upset than I was but I never did anything about it. Since I’m usually a stickler for spelling, I must have had other things on my mind and was too busy. Lately I’ve been thinking that I should have requested a new certificate. I just didn’t want to be a picky parent. A few months have gone by and I feel like it is too late. By now I think my son has forgotten about it, but I’ve considered correcting the certificate myself!

  5. kakaty

    Gah – I always hated those things as a kid…it’s like giving awards for the sake of giving awards. “Hey you passed a grade just like hundreds of thousands of other kids your age – let’s make a huge deal and single some of you out but not others!” And Monkey’s right – the smart kids never get any of the recognition, unless they are super-gifted-smart.
    I would take an invisible puppy shaped throphy over an inflated awards ceremony any day.

  6. Katie in MA

    It’s like I tell my girls: It’s tough being smart AND beautiful, but someone has to do it.

    No easy answers for that one – for him OR you!

  7. Jean

    I feel for you, on all counts. The teacher should have been there or at least left a “script” of sorts. The certificates should’ve been carefully proofread (like THAT would ever happen). Monkey deserves more, but he has you and that will be more than enough.

    I can relate to the certificate thing, since my son was the only cast member in the school play who didn’t have a “card” made to receive kudos and kind words from those who came to watch. Cards made by those involved with the play. Cards that first time play people were unaware of (read: ME). He said it was no big deal, but it was. That kind of childhood pain is awful, especially for the parent.

    Your solution was wonderful and obviously well-received. I marvel at how you can think on your feet and wish that I could do as well. Best wishes to Monkey and all the redistrictees.

  8. Damsel

    You are an amazing mom. I can only WISH for that type of creativity!

  9. Megan

    Sigh. My poor Child 2 who is (gasp) graduating tonight received half its awards in one last name and half in another AND had its first name butchered (granted, it’s not a standard, Merkin name, but honestly) AND… and… but it is definitely the very best Child 2 I know of, and I have no doubt Monkey is as well.

  10. WaywardGoddess

    Every year my boys have their names spelled wrong too.
    I have a Conner and a Griffen, but they always come home with stuff for Connor and Griffin. It’s annoying. How hard it is to proof read something?
    I always take special notice when someone takes the time to get their names right.

  11. Aimee

    Grrr. Poor Monkey. Or is it Monqui? ;)

    Anyway. My name was always spelled wrong, by teachers and classmates alike. It is still spelled wrong, by coworkers and clients. Even when they’re responding to an e-mail or fax that has my correctly-spelled name RIGHT ON IT. I feel Monkey’s pain. Tell him it just means he’s a better speller than his teacher, and they couldn’t give him an award for that because it would embarrass the teachers.

  12. Anna Marie

    Sweet Monkey is so lucky to have you as his mom.

  13. elizabeth

    I love the way you handled that.
    and grr at the school, how hard is it to get a name right? honestly.

  14. Javamom

    You are a great, wonderful, fantastic mom to your Monkey child!

  15. Jean

    I want to punch his teacher! But I think you did perfectly Mir. Did I mention I want to be you when I grow up? I hope I do as well with my son.

  16. khubb

    UGH! In my 3rd grade class there was another girl with the same name as mine. Our teacher asked the two of us to discuss this situation and work it out because it would be WAY too confusing to have two girls with the same name! I felt like my entire identity was being taken away and I was scared and depressed. Luckily for me the other girl stepped up and said it was ok to call her by her initials. Seriously, I’ve had some really great teachers but some of them definitely need help!

  17. Jess

    Poor Monkey. This made me feel very sad for him. What a drag that his teacher let down her kids, and I hope he feels better.

    I hope that, when my kid inevitably has a similar letdown, that I’m able to handle it with such grace.

  18. ~annie

    I guess times have changed. At least I don’t remember the end of the school year feeling unsettled or anxiety-inducing. If anything it was more relaxed and the anticipation of summer was glorious. We didn’t have any ceremonies or recognitions until finishing the eighth grade, either. And on the many occasions one or the other (or both) of my names were misspelled n something? Well, that was my parents’ fault, obviously. Why did they pass such difficulties down upon us? But you know what? It really didn’t matter. Because our parents provided for us and loved us and anyone’s inability to pay attention and get things right reflected more on that person than on us.

  19. Kelly

    I can’t believe that teacher/school – someone in the administration should’ve noticed the discrepancy. But you handled it wonderfully and I’m so glad you are there for him. Monkey is lucky to have you, and you are lucky to have Monkey.

  20. Christy

    Two of my family-members-in-law consistently spell my name wrong (after 10 years of marriage!). We’ve given up correcting them. Such a little thing, but it’s a careless act that bothers me. And, I’m 36. Poor Monkey. My oldest loves order and routine and predictability, too. She’s already nervous about moving on to third grade, months away. Change is hard.

  21. Randi

    I think, when you send the teacher her little end of the year gift (come on – you know you do), her name needs to be misspelled.

    Or, ya know, she could be completely forgotten about.

    Yes, I’m evil. I know.

  22. kath

    this is sad. but you are a great mom.

  23. Sheila

    See? THAT is why I read you every day, right there. Also why I would have you over for coffee twice a week if we lived in the same state. Never in a million years would I have thought of an Invisible Puppy Trophy, but it’s yet another nugget of wisdom I have in my parenting arsenal for when the time comes that I need just such a fix. Brilliance!

    (And you probably thought half of us were here to read about sex toys.)

    (Monkey? Is a lucky, lucky boy.)

  24. Pepper

    I do believe I would spell her name wrong accidently of course, on her year end group. Posts like this are the reason I love reading what you write.
    You are such a great mom I would have never thought of the invisible puppy trophy!

  25. Little Bird

    When I was a kid we did award ceremonies like that too. They never spelled my name wrong and it’s a pretty difficult name to spell. Of course my father was the principal. But when I got to high school (the second one) I never once saw either my first or my last name spelled correctly on anything they gave me. Except for my diploma.
    Monkey’s a lucky kid to have a mom who can come up with Invisible Puppy Trophies!

  26. MomCat

    Awesome Love Thursday post!

    I love imagination games. I once kept my then 9 year old entertained on a long drive by pretending we were in a spaceship. “Look! A space station! Do you think there are aliens there? Wave at the Venusians – did you know they can breathe methane? Their gills are concealed in their hair.” (Oh yeah, I’m a sci fi geek)

  27. Scottsdale Girl

    No one in the history of ever has spelled my name correctly the first time out. Granted, it’s a bitch of a name. And its rare that anyone PRONOUNCES it right. But, it is unique and I like it so I don’t complain. Much.

    Happy Moving On to the kidlets!

  28. Bethany

    How is your school out next week already???? In mid may?

  29. The Other Leanne

    You’re right, Monkey, sometimes those of us who worked hard all along deserve a trophy. And I don’t care what you say about me in the newspaper, just spell my name right! And don’t call me “Lennie” or “Leanie” either!
    28 people (and counting) on the Internet wish they could give you a trophy today.

  30. Melanie

    I will admit that I have nothing original to add to this discussion. My overwhelming (and profane) feeling is WTF? There is no excuse for his name being misspelled. Also, how stupid to have his class sit there without the additional awards and commentary. Do they not realize that people notice these things? Grrr… I guess I’ve ranted long enough and I didn’t even bring up skipping a child… I hope your Dad and Stepmom have a great visit.

  31. Crisanne

    I went to the same school K-12 and they spelled my name wrong on a certificate my senior year. My name isn’t exactly an every day name, but 13 years at the same school where both of my parents taught??!!?? I took it back to the office myself and asked for a new one. Odds are, since the teacher was not going to be around the whole week of the ceremony, she signed them before the kids’ names were even printed on them.

    Sorry to hear about all the changes in store for Monkey. I’ve started saying prayers for my daughter’s 2nd grace placement and I’ll add your Monkey in there as well.

  32. sassymonkey

    You may tell the young master Monday I, being one myself, know many, many Monkeys and he is indeed a rockstar. He is the bestest Monkey. I’m saying so on my birthday because that’s how much I mean it. It is indisputable.

  33. Heather

    My high school graduation certificate says something about the 28th th of June. Because it is awesome.
    I kind of want a puppy-shaped invisible award instead ;)

  34. Flea

    I have an award for Monkey. I’ll send it to you in a bit.

  35. Katherine

    Last year Son 1 got several awards at the end of the year ceremonies. They did manage to spell his name correctly, but couldn’t pronounce it – several times – even though it was his teacher (from all year long) reading off the name. Grrr.

    Then there was the time several years ago where son 2 was getting an award. Note, son 1 had been there for several years and had received various awards, usually pronounced wrong. So, I was proactive and reminded the principal of the pronunciation (and so did son 1) – she still got it wrong! Then she pulled him up to the mike in front of everyone and had him correct her. Luckily this didn’t embarrass him (it would have terribly embarrassed son 1). After that, she did get it right though.

  36. susie

    Tears for Monkey!

  37. Amy

    I hate award ceremonies and “graduations” from one grade to the next. I’ve been teaching a long time now, and rarely have I seen these things have the morale-boosting motivating effect they are intended to. There are always lots of kids that feel disappointed. That is terrible that they spelled his name wrong. Monkey has every right to be saddened by that, and it sucks that he has to experience the effects of people not paying enough attention to important details like that.

    Also, I have 6 weeks of middle schoolers to endure, and their brains are already on vacation. Wish me luck.

  38. P.A.

    Perhaps you should be grateful, Monkey’s mom, that the school is not giving your son any awards for being “smart”.

    “Giving kids the label of “smart” does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it. does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it.”

  39. P.A.

    (Oops, sorry for the duplication, it was unintentional when I cut and pasted the quote from the article).

  40. angie

    You are such a good Mommy that I’m getting choked up.

  41. Fran

    I really don’t see the benefit of awards at this level – this only ones who seem to benefit are the parents of the recipients…;-D Everyone has a story: Jump forward 9 years…senior year graduation..our son receives the Art Dept Award. Now after 13 years of schooling, you’d think they “know” him. So he receives his award – a beautiful bound sketch book. NIce? Well it would be if he could draw/sketch. His forte is 3 dimensional art..not 2. sigh. At least they spelled his name correctly – his brother’s awards had spelling mistakes which of course they had 13 years to get right as well. Needless to say mommy still has issues and they are 32 and 37 years old!! You did well, Mir, but I’m sorry to say you have many more years of this crap ahead of you.

  42. StephLove

    Sounds like a chaotic end of the year. Sorry about that. And how strange they get out in May. Is that a Southern thing? We go until mid-June (elementary school) and early June (preschool) here.

  43. Heather J

    My maiden name is a common last name, with an unusual spelling. My 6th grade teacher kept sending notes home for my mom to work with me on spelling my name. After several notes and several requests for an explanation, it came out that the teacher didn’t believe that my last name was spelled that way. My mom – not happy!

    I hope everything goes well in the new school. Redistricting isn’t very popular in NC, where I live either. It amazes me that the administrators don’t understand why.

  44. emma

    I’m sorry to hear about monkey and end of the year chaos. It must be hard especially when he will be going to a new school next year. As a teacher (and a mom) though, my thought was maybe give his teacher a break. She probably feels guilty already. She can’t be there for her students 1000% of the time and maybe her reason is valid, even if it makes your head explode. Between doing things for your class, your school, your district, your family, and yourself, it’s hard for a teacher to make everyone happy.

  45. Amy-Go

    What Randi said. Absofreakinglutely.

  46. nil zed

    after 6 years, I changed positions within my department. at the same time, another woman with my same first name joined my new area. a year later she moved to yet another area of the dept, located in another building, but was around a lot bringing completed forms to us & taking reports back to them.

    another year or so later, I was leaving b/c of my spouses new job. Our department chair came back to thank me for a job well done. She gave a little speech, mentioned a bit of my long, 10 yr history with the dept, then turned & gave my 10 year award & parting gift to the other woman!

  47. Kris H.

    I always look forward to your Love Thursday posts because they make me smile and appreciate the good things I have.

    Today’s post made me cry!! Poor Monkey! But he is so very lucky to have such a wonderful, caring, and creative mother! You really do think well on your feet (or I guess since you were sitting here, you also think well on your butt).

    Give Monkey a great big hug from the internets!

  48. cristen

    you handled that so well. I am very impressed. I wish I could do so well.

  49. KSM

    My name is ALWAYS spelled incorrectly as well, so I feel for Monkey. My biggest pet peeve was when I would send an email to a client, with my name (obviously) spelled correctly, and then they would turn right around and reply back with my name spelled incorrectly. That was until I received an email the other day from my future mother-in-law, and she spelled my name incorrectly, and in a form that I HATE. I’ve dated her kid for 6 years.. you’d think she would have figured it out by now. That might have been most annoying of all. So tell Monkey to wear his name proudly!!! I intend to give my kids uncommonly spelled names one day just to carry on the tradition :)

  50. Emma

    Previous comment retracted. You have every right to be PO’d. :-)

  51. Dawn

    Argh. Tell Monkey not everyone, even grown-ups, can spell as well as he does.

    And teachers are not always the brightest or the most caring. (Apologies to all the wonderful teachers out there. You know which of your colleagues I’m talking about.)

    In grade 11, there was a girl with a surname very similar to mine, with just one extra letter than mine that changed the pronounciation. EVERY DAY for the ENTIRE FIRST SEMESTER, the teacher would call roll and say my name the wrong way. I would correct her. She would then call the other girl’s name, because being only one letter different, it was right after mine on the roll, and prounounce it with the correct pronounciation of my name. She would correct her. For FOUR MONTHS until the other girl finally spoke up (rather forcefully) and pointed out that four months was more than long enough to have learned the proper way to say two very basic, common English language surnames.

  52. shannon

    aww, now you’ve gone and made me tear up….
    i have a feeling i’ll be in a situation like your’s one day. thanks for sharing. one of my son’s names is spelled the traditional way, but it’s so common now that others have gone and changed the spelling to be *different*, so now i have to school everyone. so annoying.

  53. Stephanie

    Minkey is DEFINITELY outstanding. He is absolutely the sweetest and most special boys I know, virtually. :-)

  54. Stephanie

    OH DEAR! Don’t show him THAT! I misspelled MONKEY!!! It was a typo and you can’t “undo”, once you hit that darned “submit comment” button!


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