My twice-yearly dental cleanings are an interesting opportunity to feel like a completely mediocre achiever. I don’t think I’m incredibly lazy, or unable to follow directions. OK, I probably don’t brush for the full two minutes each time, but I floss twice a day (always!), and I try the different techniques that have been offered–circular! slower! angle up! count to 6!

Maybe it’s my genes, or my technique, or karma from a former life as a toothless witch. But the mix of encouragement, cheerleading, and disappointment I hear at every visit make it clear I don’t have what it takes to be an A student in this category. C? Maybe. Maybe even C+.

As I think about our future kids and what they’ll be like, I realize that struggling with school is not something I can relate to very well. I was lucky to be smart in the things school cares about and to get a lot of encouragement and belief in my capabilities. When I did come up against something I wasn’t great at, I could squeak by, and focus on (or hide behind) my strengths in other areas.

So I think there will be no problem encouraging the kids and believing in them. But it could be more of a challenge for me if they find some of the things I love and enjoy—reading and writing especially—to be as daunting as I find gum hygiene or sports. Remembering what it feels like when things don’t come easy for me might come in handy.

Feeling like a poor student this week also helped me realize something about the foster/adoption system. I think in all our classes on parenting, home safety, bonding, etc, Jay and I approached it like school. They were classes, right? If we learned the material and were nice to the teacher, we thought we’d go to the head of the class and get those kids right away. A gold star to reward our efforts.

Thank god the system’s not set up that way. It’s not about performing. It’s not even about us, the parents, beyond our ability to keep the kids safe and be a good resource for them. It’s about the kids, who are not rewards for a job well done, or a lifestyle accessory. They are—or should be—the whole point of the system. Who they are, and the family they need, should drive the whole process. They show up when they need us, and we’re supposed to be trained and ready.

And we are!

Hopefully I can shake this “I deserve it” feeling, and wait for the universe to bring the right kids here, at the right time for them. Also I’m trying to brush for at least 2 minutes, every day, morning and night. Wish me luck.