What cannot be graded (Just Write)

His pager is dying, and it beeps at me every 20 minutes, and you'd think after three hours of this, I wouldn't jump each time. Or that I'd just change the battery.

I remind her again that the tights she's whining about putting on today weren't my idea. She's the one who insists on wearing a dress every. single. day. And if these creamy white tights are really the torture she claims they are, then why can't she put on a stinkin' pair of pants for once?

We head out early to have donuts at school and peruse the book fair. And while my girl and my boy beg to buy a Pinkalicious set and a Clone Wars paperback, all I can think is this is why we have a library. Because when I can't possibly read another page of Pinkalicious, I can at least blame the book's disappearance on a due date.

His report card came home this week, and my heart pounded faster when I opened it, as if the entirety of my child's college aspirations rested squarely on the first quarter of second grade. What is wrong with me!? (Should I mention the time I cried over what would be my first and only B--in third grade penmanship? To this day, I still hate penmanship. And I love typewriters.)

I drift through the rest of the morning thinking about achievement and success, how it still means much more to me than it should. How I continue to define "success" too narrowly and shallowly--and how now if I'm not careful, I could stretch this same warped grid against my children. Oh God help me. No. Haven't I grown at all? Or am I still that fearful freshman hiding behind a lifelong 4.0, with a remarkable talent for avoiding failure, and life along with it?

I take her hand, the girl wearing the creamy white tights and the sweater dress (which I admit now is absolutely darling, much cuter than a dingy old pair of pants). We mingle among a dozen other residents, all quite elderly and all probably voting against the desperately-needed school levy. On our way out, my daughter puts on a sticker that says "I love voting."

Then a man with thick glasses and weathered skin and barely a hair on his head, though plenty above his lip, he smiles wide and holds the door open for us both. I return his smile and say thank you. And I hope that when I'm 73, as I imagine he is, that I'll have learned how to be a breath of fresh air to a neighbor. And I hope too, that by then that I'll have mastered what cannot be graded--how to show grace, to choose joy, to lean into difficulty, to refuse anxiety, to persevere, to love.

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