Not me. Not his dad. Not his teachers. Only him. He keeps score and no matter our words or reassurance, he won't let those numbers 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 sixth grader who 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 handled the whole thing quite well. The first year was a killer, but last year was better, he was less nervous and his teacher was happy to oblige with a bigger area to spread out for testing. 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 I've listened quietly and tried to change the subject.
This afternoon, I hauled the four of them to the dentist for a cleaning. We headed to Rocky Mount, my hometown, just down the road to see my uncle and had some time for a Target run. Blair needed a bike helmet and I thought they could all get a treat for their hard work. “Can I get some Beats if I get a 5 on my EOGs?" he asked. I’ve 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 Beats because you worked really hard. 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, a twelve 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.