Not me. Not his dad. Not his teacher. Only him. He keeps his own score and no matter our words or reassurance, he won’t let the number go. Don’t baby him, some say. You can’t keep him in a bubble forever, others scoff. You’ll have to let him fail sometime, you tell me. Well, I don’t agree, not when the subject still calls me mommy, the eleven year old boy who often leans in for a hug and asks to sleep in our bed when daddy is gone. That boy will be thrown to the wolves over my dead body, but really, I have thrown him to the wolves.
He took three end of grade tests (EOGs) last week and he really handled the whole thing quite well. Last year was a killer, but this year, he was less nervous and his teacher was happy to oblige with his request for a bigger area to spread out for testing and his accommodations for dyslexia provided for marks in book, so he wouldn’t have to fill in those bothersome, and for him, confusing circles. He came home serious, but seemed okay and never cried or melted down like I remember from the last go round. He has talked a good bit about the questions that were hard and second guessed his choice of light over plants for the production of oxygen. I’ve listened quietly and been honest that I didn’t know and tried to change the subject.
This afternoon, he and I took his cousin to Camp Seafarer where she will be a counselor for the summer and so, we had some time in the car alone after we deposited her. “Can I get a fit bit if I get a 5 on my EOGs?” he asked. I was dumbstruck as I had downplayed these tests as much as possible and still, my A student was keeping score. I thought for a minute and replied, “No, I’ll get you a fit bit because you worked really hard and I don’t care what you made on that dumb test, you know me better than that.” He smiled, relieved, and we carried on with conversation, a conversation marred by worry over a score that says nothing about this beautiful boy, my firstborn, the oldest of four, a middle schooler next year, an eleven year old boy who struggles with standardized tests and pressures himself to the nth degree. You’re more than a number, my precious son, so much more than a number.