Over-Under Achievers

Hope is in serious danger of needing to repeat this school year. I’m not sure what set it all off, but this year has been an academic nightmare. And for me as an academic junkie who used to verbally spar with her teachers over whether they really should have deducted a half point for some academic infraction, Hope’s academic performance has caused more than a little heartburn.

Each week I receive a progress report summary on her academic standing. Those damn things are so upsetting this that I sometimes don’t open them. They make my stomach hurt; they give me headaches and stressed out neck pain. Education and achievement are a part of my core values system. It’s been hard to understand how Hope’s background shape her views on school. It’s been hard to accept that her version of trying doesn’t look anything like mine. It’s been incredibly maddening that I can’t seem to influence her choices at all.

Last week one of Hope’s teachers reached out really alarmed with all that’s going on with Hope and her class. Over the course of the next few days, I talked to the counselor, the social worker and the teacher. We all decided that we would meet next week to further discuss ways to support my daughter.

Realistically, I have zero faith that this team of amazing people can create something that will turn Hope’s intrinsic motivation “on.” It’s not on; I’m not sure if it’s been on at all for the last year. I think Hope would love to be a good student but being a bad student…well that just feels like what she’s worth.

Hope also does not accept that any of this is her fault. Nothing is ever her fault. She was late to school and missed the announcement of an assignment? That’s the teacher’s fault because she should have pulled her aside and made sure that she got it. Chased her down the hall if necessary.  She didn’t do her homework because the teachers skills are awful, and she didn’t understand the material.  Tutoring? She doesn’t need. Homework? Eh.

This approach to school triggers every bit of my anxiety. Part of it is just how I feel about education, but part of it is just how I can’t wrap my head around this kind of self-sabotage. I don’t get it. I see it happening. I get the pathology from a scientific and academic perspective, but lived experience?

This ish is cray.

Hope has the intellectual capacity to do well, in the traditional, classical sense. Even thought I feel some kinda way about testing, Hope’s PSAT score felt validating in a “see, I knew she had more capacity than she demonstrates in class” way. Hope is smart and where she has deficiencies, she’s balanced by a high curiosity and inquisitiveness.

I have no idea what’s going to happen next. I’ve harnessed so many resources for Hope only to be met with a blank stare. I have no idea how to handle that. We are incredibly fortunate that our school district is just leaning in to providing more support, all kinds of support. Every fight I thought I’d have with them proved unnecessary—they have been more than happy to help.

And then they get met with blank stares too.

I asked AbsurdlyHotTherapist for recommendations. He sent me articles about ‘underachievers’ and told me to keep making Hope accountable for her choices and her mental health. The art therapist said the same.

My sense is that there’s a huge, dramatic decision that has to be made and will be followed by hell breaking loose. People will tell me that it will be ok in the long run; yeah, maybe, but this sucks so hard that that response brings no comfort. I’m not excited about any of this. I hate it all. I just wish Hope had the capacity and was willing to work with me and with the school to create something positive for herself and her life.


About AdoptiveBlackMom

I'm a single Black professional woman living in the DC area. I adopted my now adult daughter in 2014, and this blog chronicles my journey. Feel free to contact me at adoptiveblackmom@gmail.com, on Facebook at Adoptive Black Mom, and on Twitter @adoptiveblkmom. ©www.AdoptiveBlackMom.com, 2013-2022. All rights reserved. (Don't copy my ish without credit!) View all posts by AdoptiveBlackMom

5 responses to “Over-Under Achievers

  • TAO

    Could it have anything (or a lot) to do with the fact that 18 isn’t far off and worried about not being safe and secure with you? She’s only been safe/secure for a short time, compared to everyone else. Hugs

  • AdoptiveNYMomma

    I wondered about the 18 thing too. Hugs Momma you are doing a great job and yes it is maddening but you can get through it. Take care of yourself.

  • Beth

    I was thinking that too – maybe unconsciously she’s trying to push back graduation/growing up/leaving you? It’s got to be so hard for her to deal with the normal developmental urge to grow up and be independent, while also feeling the desire to cling to the only safe place she’s ever known.

    Maybe it would help to try to uncouple the idea of graduation from the idea of leaving home? It might help to talk about the fact that not all kids leave home right after high school – some kids stay home for the first year or 2 of college – some kids take a year to work and figure out their goals. And that it’s common for kids that have been in foster care to be a little later to launch, and that that’s ok.

  • Susan

    Hey – Sorry for all of this. There really isn’t much to say that could make you feel better but I am glad you share.

    Here is a story from our house about blank stares and teenagers and moms pulling their hair out. Not the same as your situation, but OMG.

    Pumpkin recently changed schools to a nice small school where she can get a lot of attention. There are 23 kids in her grade. At this school they do a lot of service project days. She had a service project day last Wednesday and I signed all the forms and couldn’t remember 30 seconds later where they were going. On Wednesday morning she asked me where they were going. I could have looked it up for her but didn’t want to. I said – Pumpkin I have no idea, you are 13 and have been preparing for this all week. x blank stare “Oh” x I said – well let me know when you find out.

    She gets dropped off at school at 7:20 and at 8:45ish I received a text from her that she was at Costco. COSTCO? what the heck kind of service project is at Costco? Whatever, she was on time, excited to go to school, and whatever kind of thing they are doing at Costco she was participating and giving back to her community.

    At 10ish literally these are the texts I received – ‘oh wait’ then ‘its at a warehouse’ then ‘where they donate things’

    I asked her if maybe she was at Goodwill?
    My mind: ???????????????????, seriously what the heck!!!!

    At 11:45 she texts – ‘Oh we are at Habitat for Humanity’

    I know that it is probably hard to believe after that whole story but this kid has zero special needs.

    That evening I asked her what she did at Habitat for Humanity and she said that she wore an apron and showed people around the warehouse when they needed help. I instantly had a vision of her wandering through piles of donated tile and old doors with some unsuspecting customer in tow, muttering, “I know those roasted chickens are around here somewhere…”

    Parenting is hard. I wish you and Hope the best.

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