I Am That Mom; Hear Me Roar

28 Feb

Today, I was going to write about needing a third breast, but I’ve always said that the greatest challenge in parenting is the uncertainty of every moment. One minute you’re thinking you’ll write about needing a third breast and the next you’re writing about being “That Mom.”

I try, on the whole, to be amusing in my musings. But today that just doesn’t seem to want to happen. Call it a confluence of events, but the stars have aligned in such a manner that I find myself royally pissed off. I guess I should have ended that last sentence with the word “angry” so that I wouldn’t end it with a preposition, but “angry” doesn’t have the explosive “P” (pun intended) in it that makes “pissed off” such a satisfying description of how I feel at this moment.

For the first time since she was three years old, my daughter said, “I don’t want to go to school.” Actually, she sobbed, “I don’t want to go to school.” Now, my daughter dawdles. I routinely tell her to go to the car at least 10 minutes before we need to leave. In her world, re-reading the latest issue of American Girl magazine is a vital part of getting from kitchen to car. As is training the dog to stay. Brushing the teeth can be easily forgotten. Playing with mom’s eyelash curler cannot. But today’s tears were not about dawdling.

When my son was in grade school, “I don’t want to go to school” invariably meant that he was being tormented by one of the other boys in class. Now that he’s in high school, “I don’t want to go to school” is a static state. I’m sure he enjoys the hormone-charged cacophonous chaos that is his school, but if he ever said, “Man, I can’t wait to get to school, today,” we would have to up his meds.

My daughter is a good student. Her parent-teacher conferences are a pleasure. I don’t bring a list of questions or stacks of research, as I may have done for another child who lives in our home. Hell, I don’t even bring my husband most of the time. I walk in and sit down. The teacher says, “Your daughter is doing great. Do you have any questions?” I don’t. My daughter likes school. She does well in school. She has friends. No one is bullying her. So, why would she tell me, “I don’t want to go to school.”?

My daughter doesn’t want to go to school because it is ISAT week. For those not in Illinois, ISAT stands for Illinois Standards Achievement Test. The ISATs are the tests used to judge the effectiveness of Illinois’ schools. ISAT scores dip too low and schools “fail to meet adequate yearly progress,” as determined by No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Fail to meet AYP enough times and seriously bad things happen at the school, including the possibility that administration and all of the teachers might be fired. The ISAT is what they call a “high-stakes test.”

For weeks now, my daughter has been inundated with messages about how important it is for her to do well on the ISATs. There have been pep rallies. There have been practice sessions. Her class made “Rock ISATs” shirts with their names stenciled across the back, as if they are so many gridiron warriors out to defeat the terrible test monster. They’ve been playing “Minute to Win It” games to sharpen their test-taking skills. Last week, she brought home a “Be Like Bud” checklist. Check off the good test-taking strategies and she’ll be just like “Bud.” Don’t make the right choices and she’ll be a test-taking “Dud.”

Well, who do you think my daughter wants to be? She’s a girl, for crying out loud. And, though millions of bras were burned before she was even born, she still has an overwhelming desire to please others. Compound that with the “I was adopted so I need to make you happy” issues. Of course, my daughter wants to be like Bud.

What does all this have to do with being “That Mom”? (Let’s forget for a few moments the completely sexist use of the name “Bud” for the “good test taker.” There are only so many things that can yank my crank on any given day.) I’m sure I’m not the only mom who had to cope with ISAT meltdown this morning. But I am one of the moms that is going to get her shorts in a bunch and write a bunch of letters to the people responsible for my daughter’s anxiety. I’m going to be “That Mom,” the one who gets in your face when you mess with her kid.

I am going to get in the face of whoever’s brilliant idea it was to put so much pressure on an eight-year-old girl that she can’t stop crying. I’m going to do it not because I can’t stand to see my child cry. I can stand that. I stand it all the time. I stand it over chores, I stand it over candy, I stand it over every little thing I’ve done that she thinks isn’t fair. But I’m not going to stand it over something that really isn’t fair.

It isn’t fair that my daughter is being forced to bear the burden of a society that has gone insane over its educational system. My son took the very same test when he was in third grade. His school made just enough of a deal of it. His teachers prepared him for it by explaining what was expected and having the students practice. He did great; his teachers were pleased. That was six years ago.

A lot has changed in six years. The issues involved are many and complicated. Our country, ever desirous of being first and best, is not the best at educating children. I think it’s Finland this year overall and I’m pretty sure Singapore is doing a bang-up job in math. We look for an easy answer: the teachers and principals must suck. We threaten them with their jobs. They feel the pressure. The pressure gets pushed off on our children. In grade school, it makes our children cry. In high school, it can drive them to suicide.

I am That Mom. I am going to write letters. I am going to do it for my child. I’m going to do it for her best friend who will be in third grade soon. I’m going to do it for the boys I’m tutoring right now who are getting my services for free because their school can’t meet AYP. Five weeks ago, they couldn’t read English. Last week, they could. I feel good knowing my NCLB tax dollars can go for more than driving a child to tears.

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9 Responses to “I Am That Mom; Hear Me Roar”

  1. Teri McCormick Hinton February 28, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    Janice- we have had two suicides in Fairfax County high schools this year- both of them related to school actions. Be That Mom.

    • jmlindy422 February 28, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

      Teri, I am so sorry to hear that. We have a large Asian population and apparently it is a big problem among them. Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. anjobanjo22 February 28, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    PLEASE be that mom! My son has been thoroughly stressed with his end of grade testing. And moving in the middle of 3rd grade to a new state with completely different standards definitely hasn’t helped me sleep better at night. Everyday it seems more and more that our children are bearing more weight than they should.

    • jmlindy422 February 28, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

      Wow, there’s only so much a kid can take, isn’t there? I promise to be that mom. It’s really not that hard for me! I love getting up in someone’s grill and when it’s for my kid? So much the easier. Nice blog you have, btw!

      • anjobanjo22 February 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

        I think at some point when it comes to our kids, there just simply is no hesitation to BE THAT MOM! 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  3. Elaine February 28, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    You go, girl. Even Claire was talking about the ISATs this morning…and she has TWO more years before she even has to take them! Ridiculous. So sad to see these young kids so stressed about school.

    • jmlindy422 February 28, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

      Just heard from the principal! She wants to talk to Abby about the test and in her words, “take that burden from her.” So, roar on, Moms.

  4. acleansurface April 23, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

    We have testing coming up soon, here in California. I don’t understand what is happening with public education. In the interest of “accountability” and “standards” everything is so rigidly controlled, over regulated, and aggressive that the creativity and fun of learning is being lost.

    • jmlindy422 April 24, 2011 at 9:28 am #

      I think, when we are talking about something funded by tax dollars, that people are overly vigilant about the quality they are getting for their money. I believe, by and large, that our teachers are caring people highly qualified to do their jobs. Good luck getting through the testing. It’s such a shame to me that we judged our schools, teachers and students based on what is, in essence, a snapshot.

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