A Great Gift

In 1967 I was married. I was young, confident, sure of what I wanted. I knew everything. I was going to have lots of children and stay home and be happy ever after. Isnít that what marriage is all about??? Yes, I succumbed to the Cinderella fantasy.

In 1986 I was alone. Well, not quite alone. I had my 4 children, but my husband was gone. I decided that now was the time for me to start my university education. The one I had thought about for years, but never done anything about. I sent away to my high school for my transcript. It took a while because it was archived. Archived?? I wasnít that old that I should be in an archive!!!

My transcript arrived and I made the mistake of leaving it out where my children found it. Look at these marks! You make us get 80%....you got a 9% in Geometry!! How can you make us work so hard to get good marks when you had marks like this. Have any of you ever had this experience? Well, let me tell you, itís not one I wanted to repeat. That transcript disappeared into thin air after I used it to register for my first course which was Basic Psychology.

Now, you would think that Basic Psychology would be pretty easy, after all, itís a basic course, and I was interested in the way the mind works .. WRONG!! Basic Psychology is the study of ALL the theories and you have to know each and every one of them for the exam!!!

However, I started working on my course and one of the first assignments was a test of reflexes. Easy enough. My oldest son had very fast reflexes and I used him as my test subject. I had to drop a ruler from a height above his hand and measure where his fingers were when he caught it. Done!

The next item on the list was figuring out the answer to 20 questions with a symbol that looked like a square root to me, so I did all 20 questions, figuring out the square root of each.

I sent off my paper and started working on assignment #2. I had just mailed it off when the results of assignment #1 came back. I eagerly opened the envelope. I pulled the assignment out. I looked at the mark....F

F????? How could this be? I carefully looked at the paper. 0/20 for the mathematical questions .. Apparently that little line at the beginning changed the symbol from a square root to something else. Something that I have completely blocked from my memory.

I looked at the section on the reflexes. That part should be ok.... no..there were some notes... The average person grasps the ruler at this point. You must have done the test incorrectly ...no marks.

As I stood there in disbelief, my children gathered around me. Letís see your assignment Mom. They began to gleefully dance around singing, Mommy got an F, Mommy got an F, can I call Neil and Marie and tell them you got an F? I said no and began to cry. Maybe I wasnít as smart as I thought I was. I had been out of school for 20 years. Maybe I couldnít do it after all.

My kids looked at me and rallied around hugging me. Itís ok Mom, Shannon said, You can do it. Youíve just been out of school for a long time. I believe in you Mom, said Clnt. Youíll do better next time. What do they know about reflexes? My younger two just hugged me until I stopped crying.

I decided that I couldnít stop until I had at least completed the course and so I continued on with assignment numbers 3, 4, 5 and 6 and then the final exam. And then I waited, and waited, and waited. It seemed like forever before the results came in the mail.

Nervously I opened the envelope. The kids gathered round. Hesitantly, I pulled it out.... B-...Yippeee!!. I did it, I passed the course! I was so grateful to my kids for encouraging me, I hugged them and thanked them, and I continued on. For thirteen years I continued on and in 2000 I received my BA in Social Development Studies. I was 38 when I started and I turned 52 the year I graduated. Proof that you are never too old to learn.

What if I had given up when I got that F? What if I hadnít had the encouragement of my kids to continue on? What if I had believed my negative thoughts about not being smart enough? I wouldnít have had the pleasure of receiving my graduation diploma at Waterloo University along with hundreds of other students who had also worked hard either in correspondence courses or at the University.

My whole family joined me at my graduation. My mom, my brother, his wife & son, my sister and my niece, my four kids and my grandson. My best friend, Joy, flew in from Seattle to be with us and brought congratulations from all the people on the plane. When I got my diploma my kids stood up and yelled Yeah Mom! My daughter said she had never been more proud of me and she paid for my graduation pictures. My sister bought me a Waterloo frame for my diploma, which hangs proudly in my office. We went out to eat together at a local restaurant. What a celebration! What a wonderful gift I had been given! The gift of courage to try, to not give up, even when it looked tough.

Each of us has been given that gift of courage. Sometimes it may seem as though it has been misplaced, but if we keep looking, we will find it and accomplish many great things.

©2004 Fran Watson Feel free to share this story, but please retain all my contact info

Fran Watson
Renfrew, Ontario