I’ve Become That Grownup

Last month when I visited New Mexico and stayed with my best friend, I made it a point to spend time visiting one-on-one with each of my two goddaughters.

They are ten and eight now, fully formed people, and their challenges go well beyond walking and eating and sleeping. The so-called “real world” has decided to come roost in their lives, and it is extraordinarily hard for me to adapt as quickly as they have.

My oldest goddaughter is incredibly intelligent and incredibly obstinate too (*coff*herfather*coff*). Her problem is that she is so smart and world savvy that she’s knows when someone is pulling a fast one or isn’t acting in the smartest way.

But she’s only ten going on eleven, so her powers to right the wrongs of this world are slim. So far, anyway.

She told me about how her new teacher this year is teaching the students a new approach to spelling. “I know how to spell, this is so dumb!”

And her teacher is making the students learn long division. By last year she had long division down cold. “Why do I have to do this all again!? It’s such a waste of time!”

You know what? She’s right. She’s absolutely right.

So what do I do as the adult she’s looking to for advice?

Do I do the usual grown up thing and tell her that the grown ups are right and she should just mind what they say?

Because I can’t do that.

Do I tell her fight?! Fight to the end for justice!

No, that’s not good guidance either.

So I dug deep into my own experiences and came up with just this:

“Pick your battles.”

It was advice that was handed to me in my first year of work. Like my goddaughter, I was willing to take on every challenge, rail against the inefficiencies of the bureaucracy, fight the good fight for every injustice.

The mentor assigned to me, a very easy-going sort of fellow who was revered by the leadership of that company was the first to sit me down and tell me this lesson.

Pick your battles.

Figure out the fights that one, you think you can win and two are worth putting all the energy into. If it meets both criteria, then go for it.

And fight for the ones you can’t win if it really, really matters. But remember you can’t fight them all if you want to win any.

So I found myself sitting in the cooling evening breeze in the backyard of a Las Cruces home, imparting this same knowledge to a ten year old.

“Do you honestly expect the teacher is going to look at you and say, ‘wow, you are right, I was teaching it wrong. Let’s do it your way!'”

Her eyes went wide and she shook her head.

“So what are you trying to get to? What do you expect?”

She wants to be challenged. Ah, ok. There’s something we can work with.

I told my girl that life is going to be pretty tough if every day is spent digging in her heels.

And so all of that best answers the question posed by the idea generator today:

“If you could pass on a piece of advice that meant a lot to you when you received it, what would it be?”

Pick your battles.

I might be qualified to impart that wisdom from my position in the long and deep trenches I carry behind me, heels worn down to the nub.

About Author


  • Ken

    Wonderful advice. I wish you'd been my godmother.

  • Karen Fayeth

    I also advised this same kid, when I introduced her to shrimp (she'd balked but I convinced her to eat it and she LOVED it),

    "Nina Karen will *always* help you find the good food."


    Now Ken, about that pineapple upsidedown cake…..

  • connieemeraldeyes

    Maybe you can call the teacher and talk with her and tell her you daughter has already done the math and she needs to be challenged. Maybe they can give her more advanced math.

  • Anji

    I had this problem with my three. She's smart, as you say, so she would be capable of understanding that there are other children in the class who aren't so smart and it takes time for spelling and maths to sink in.

    There is a danger that she switches of, or becomes bored and disruptive. I hope that there is some kind of system in her school so that she gets the education to stretch her abilities.

    I think that your advice is excellent

  • Karen Fayeth

    Hi connieemeraldeyes – Her mom is a teacher so I have no doubt she's been working with the teacher to help.

    That said, sometimes a kid just has to get through the school year any way she can.

    Thanks for the comment!

  • Karen Fayeth

    Anji – Actually, the "so bored she switches off and becomes destructive" is why my goddaughter and I sat down for a little conversation.

    She's a good kid and I couldn't sort out why she was acting like a little demon.

    Now that her parents and I know what's going on, we can help sort it out.

    That was part our conversation too "if you don't tell your folks what's going on, they can't help you"

    Thanks for your good thoughts.

  • Anji

    Karen: One of my boys ran away from school and we had to change schools. The eldest went into depression for over a year when he was 15. I try my best to warn everyone I know with above average kids, they do need more attention. I'm sure that her mom is in a good place to get the help they need.

  • Natalie

    We had almost this same conversation with "evil genius" when he was about the same age.

    Then we put him in Catholic school.
    (Evil laugh…)

    I can bet you he's wishin' he picked his battles that year!

    He is, by the way, in the top 2 percentile of the national (NATIONAL!!) math genius group. Thankfully, his needs are being met and his challenges are wayyyyyy beyond my help.

    Now, if he could just string together a grammatically correct sentence… *sigh*
    That I can help him with and am constantly looking for books he will actually read.

    That is… if I can get my iphone out of his grubby little genius hands…

  • Karen Fayeth

    Anji – That's a good consideration, thank you for mentioning it.

    School is so tough because the teacher has to devise a lesson plan to fit all 30 students, and each student has a different way of learning and speed at which they advance.

    It's a long, worrisome process.

  • Karen Fayeth

    Nat – Yeeks, he IS an evil genius! That's hard when the child is so proficient in one area and lacking in the other.

    My dad was that sort of evil genius. Could solve complex equations in his head but struggled to write a coherent sentence (I think he also struggled with dyslexia).

    Imagine him having to parent ME! All words and no math.

    The Universe really does have a sense of humor.

  • Anonymous


    Ninas are wonderful! Mine was my aunt Ester. A saint.

    Don't forget that the world does NOT reward intelligence, it rewards performance,

    Challenge your godchildren to prove their performance by acing every test in their boring subjects. They'll soon learn that performance takes work.

    El Pontificator

Comments are closed.