College staff: “Your daughter is remarkable – how did you do it?”

Dd20 is now a college graduate!

Dd20 graduated a day before her twentieth birthday with a specialization in technical engineering/industrial design. At the graduation event, dd was called up to receive a certificate of excellence, which she was later surprised to find was accompanied by a generous check.

I got teary eyed during the speeches as the significance of this milestone sank in. Less than five years ago we moved from the US to Israel with a fifteen year old daughter who couldn’t speak Hebrew, who faced every challenge thrown at her with a good attitude and never gave up.  And here she was, not only coping in an Israeli educational institution in a very challenging field but excelling.

Afterwards the head of her department came over to me to and told me that not only is dd the top student in their college, but she would have been the top student in the best university in Israel.  She went on to detail the personality traits she based her statement on and asked me, “I honestly want to know – what is your recipe for raising a daughter like this?”  I deflected the question and said that dd has had the main part of turning herself into an amazing person, but the department head told me that she has seen many, many students and she is convinced that how dd was raised is a big part of her success.

People have asked me how I raised my children to be high achievers.  My honest response is that I didn’t actively set out to do this.  The fact that my older kids have all excelled in the academic and work frameworks they’ve been in is a reflection of their personal motivation and work ethic.  If they hadn’t excelled, I would think just as highly of them all.  If they do their personal best then I see that as a success, regardless of how that compares with anyone else.

I tried to create a home environment in which their internal motivation had space to develop, where their unique personalities and gifts were recognized and supported.  I didn’t have a personal agenda that I pushed on them.  I didn’t give them the message that I needed them to succeed in a certain way to make me feel like a successful parent.  Parenting isn’t supposed to be about me – it’s about helping my kids become who they are meant to be.

I’ve tried to communicate to them my deep belief in them without pressure to perform or produce.  I trusted that they would all develop according to their own individual timelines, and to believe in their abilities and competence even when I didn’t yet see it.  I encouraged them when they were unsure of themselves but didn’t push them to do what they didn’t yet feel ready to do.

It was important to me that they were hardworking and responsible – and they are – and those qualities have served them well.  I wanted them to believe in themselves, to invest themselves fully in whatever learning or work experience they were involved in.  And they have.

It was nice to be recognized as having had a part in dd’s success, but really this is her success, her hard work, her investment in herself and in everything she’s done.  We are so, so proud of her!


11 thoughts on “College staff: “Your daughter is remarkable – how did you do it?”

  1. Avivah, this is awesome! Yashar ko’ach, DD20! What were Dd20’s personality traits that her department head detailed for you?

    1. Josh, while her instructor was quite effusive, I try not to speak too specifically about my kids and their accomplishments on my blog because that would make them uncomfortable, so I stay vague to honor that. This post has pushed the limit as much as I dare! :)

  2. Mazal tov! You are right that this is your daughter’s success, but in addition to your homeschooling messages, you and your husband both modeled hard work and reaching high.

  3. You deserve to feel proud!!!!! What an unbelievable accomplishment in such a short amount of time!!! Mazel Tov to the whole family!!!

  4. Hi, I’m wondering how you would react if any of your children decided they didn’t want to be charedi anymore? What if one of your daughters decided to be Modern Orthodox- still keep shabbat, kashrut and taharat Mishpacha, but wear short sleeves, pants, not cover her hair after marriage, etc. Would you be able to accept that? What if one of your kids decided he/she was an atheist and left religion altogether? Would they still be accepted as part of your family?

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