What’s your score? You know, on your Mom-SAT. What, you don’t KNOW your score? You didn’t know you were being tested? Oh, silly, of course you did. Although in your defense, the components of this test tend to reveal themselves randomly and stealthily. You must be ready at all times.
I have never been a good test-taker.
Like when I had to take the regular SAT for my college admissions applications. The first time I took it in 10th grade, my 7th grade brother took it “for fun” and outscored me by a substantial margin. (However, if you asked any of our teachers over the years who was the better student, or – and not to get all brag-tastic here—who was a joy to teach, I have him beat by a mile. As is turns out, knowing it all – and knowing you know it all – by the 7th grade sets up a challenging dynamic for future instruction. To be fair, he might request we inquire about who wins the teacher’s-pet-fanny-kisser award).
But all of that is the minor league compared to the Maternal Subsistence Achievement Test. For example, let’s work a word problem: Your daughter comes to you saying she doesn’t want to go to basketball practice. You notice that she has been struggling in practice lately and has become withdrawn from her coaches and teammates. You give her a kind but firm pep talk about how she has an obligation to her team; that she made a commitment to play this season, and that she must finish what she starts. Your final answer: You will not let her miss practice that day. You see tears well up in her eyes; then, she throws up all over the rug. The thermometer reading ends your exam for the day: an unhealthy and impressive 102 degrees. FAIL. Good job, Mommy. Now hit that Detention/Study Hall with the Resolve Carpet cleaner . . .
Luckily, the exercise above doesn’t really go to your MomScore (worse, its seared into your heart and then deposited into your Guilt Account at the Mommy Bank – constant deposits, no withdrawals). Public missteps, however, land on your official transcript.
Like my friend who, while perusing the artwork in her daughter’s class on Parent’s Night, was alarmed to read the laminated text framing the information about her family. Next to the line about “My mom” was the damning scoop: “My mom is happy when . . . everyone leaves her alone.” Nice. Extra credit will be necessary for redemption in this case – go ahead and sign up to keep the class during the Teacher Appreciation Luncheon next month.
You can guess my reaction, then, when my son brought home the POP QUIZ – I mean, the MILESTONES ASSIGNMENT – for his third grade class. All I had to do was provide an extensive list of the dates of the important milestones throughout his life, along with descriptive details. He would later use this information to create a timeline in computer class. There was even a helpful example from an industrious mom who had done this to perfection (First sound! First solid food! First word! Details and dates, details and dates, details and dates.)
Here’s the thing. I know that the reason my son doesn’t want to go upstairs to get his socks isn’t because he’s lazy, but because we are all downstairs and he is a little afraid to be up there by himself—although he would never admit it in a million years. I know that his mind is constantly organizing things, taking it all in and assessing what he could make out of any object before him, which is why we have dozens of “presents” created out of the recycling bin and why he loved to make endless parking lots for his toy cars as a toddler. I know that he loved his blue blanket Lamby Lovie to death (literally, left it in tatters by age three). I know his only fear of the Dr.’s office involves the possibility of taking a strep test, which he unfortunately endured several winters in a row. I know that his favorite hero is Harry Potter – and that he understands that JK Rowling is a hero of mine, because she made him love books. I know that he is precise in his understanding of the world, and always has been, twisting himself into knots when someone doesn’t follow the rules or when he perceives he has been wronged. Rigid, unyielding. Maybe a few years will lend themselves to seeing the shades of gray. Maybe not. I know for all his bravado he has a tender heart.
These things do not fit so well on the milestone assignment.
I try not to panic and to not waste time on my utter lack of preparation for this curve ball. No amount of hand-wringing or curses or prayers will bring a detailed baby book into existence. I try not to obsess with the mental image of all of the kids pulling out their milestone sheets in class, glancing around, taking in who has a shameful single sheet in 20-point font with a few lonely lines, and who has multiple pages single-spaced, a smart staple glinting importantly from the top corner. After all, I remind myself, more pages doesn’t equal more love.
Will my son understand this?
I hunker down and just get to it. Try to remember the great advice from Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird about prying yourself out of procrastination paralysis . . . but I get distracted remembering her brilliant take on writing Shitty First Drafts. Huh. Not so helpful in this case.
OK. Breathe. Envision success. Be creative (“Hey, family vacations to the beach with our friends should count, right?”). Be resourceful (“Honey, go get that [dated] T-shirt they gave you when you started Big School”). Use a lifeline, phone a friend (“I know this is going to sound crazy, but do you remember the name of the kids’ very first preschool teacher?”).
And guess what . . . in the end, we put together a respectable three-page list that was pretty cool, and included my son’s first fish caught, his baptism, and his third place showing at his first kids’ triathalon.
You might think this experience sent me straight to the picture drawer to begin my remorseful organizing and labeling, in gratitude for not humiliating my family via my son in front of very single one of his classmates. But no, much like my earlier school days when I squeaked by the Calculus exam, this Hail Mary PASS wasn’t going to change my study habits. I am not sure it would even matter that much if it had, though. Here’s the good news and the bad news: Your Mom Exams are everyday forever. And your scorekeepers are no one and everyone – and, most importantly, yourself.
I heard that some colleges have stopped requiring the SAT for entrance exams. There’s some concern that it doesn’t really reflect what you previously accomplished; it doesn’t accurately predict your chance for future success.
I can see why they would pitch it. It just doesn’t show what you really know.
(this post is a MaeMucho artifact that first appeared on skirt.com)