Resolution Tuesday #5

In line with my plan to mother less, but no less than necessary, I have decided it is pretty much completely unnecessary to ask a child how he did on any kind of test. 

I started not asking about tests specifically in regards to Middle’s erg tests, which are an integral part of his life as a rowing fiend. 

A year or so ago, I was talking to a friend of mine, a mother of a competitive swimmer, about Middle’s rowing and the importance of the erg time.  Bottom line, he who rows fast on the erg gets recruited. 

Her son, the swimmer, knew the time he needed to hit in order to be recruited to swim at a Division 1 school.  He could hit it in practice, but he never could make it in competition. As a result, he wasn’t recruited at the highest level.  Looking back, she thought she had made a mistake by paying too much attention to the time he needed, the shockingly low number of seconds he was allotted to swim a length of the pool.  She was convinced that the added pressure of her investment in the outcome may have been too much for him.   "Do not," she counseled emphatically, "repeat, not, focus on the number. Leave that to his coach, his teammates and him.  Your job is to love him and be supportive."

Since this seemed like eminently sensible advice, I have made a habit of following it – though it is HARD.  Erg tests are a big deal in our house,  We all know when they are coming.  The morning of an erg test, Middle eats a big carb-loaded pancake breakfast.  I order him a Godmother from Bay Cities for lunch and have been known to pick it up and deliver it to him at school.  He goes off to practice.

And I wait.  I know that by around 4:30, he has finished the test.  The results are in.  I wait.  I hope he has done well. I worry he has not.  When he doesn’t call me as he is walking to his car, I try to remind myself that that in itself is not meaningful.  He often doesn’t call.  It doesn’t necessarily mean bad news. He is not SUPPOSED to use his cell phone in the car.  He has, however,  been known to call and even then I don’t ask.  I wait.  I talk about other things. I am casual.  I wonder if he really thinks I am that relaxed about it all.

I don’t ask because I really believe that, good or bad, the experience is his to own. I want him to be in charge of every aspect of it, including the telling of the news, good or bad.  What he does in rowing is really remarkable. He works tremendously hard, is focused, dedicated and ambitious.  I don’t want any of that to be because he feels he must do it in order to be loved by me.  Too much interest on my part in his success might make him feel that he must succeed for me, that if he does not, he has failed me, and that somehow in the calculus of children, that must mean I love him less.

So, I have gotten in the habit of not asking and though it is hard, ever since I heard my friend’s hard-earned advice, I have held my silence. 

So you’d think I would know enough by now, be adept enough by now, to NOT ask Middle how he thought his US History SAT II went last Saturday. 

You’d be wrong.

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t not ask.  And the interesting part is, in that context the question, "how’d it go?" has no meaningful answer.  There is no way for him to know how he did.  He won’t get the score for weeks.

I hate it when anxiety wraps me up in its elusive tendrils and drags me far away from the mother I want to be.


6 thoughts on “Resolution Tuesday #5

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your journey in doing this, because I’m learning too! I realise that many of my little questions, such as “Who did you play with in the playground today?” stem from my own anxiety. I imagine how hard it must be for you not to ask those questions, but well done for refraining.

  2. So, let me make sure I understand. . . *not* starting a conversation with a child is a sign of good parenting? hmmmmm. . . . .
    I think the important point is to clarify the difference between asking a child how he/she did on an activity, what their day was like (on the playground or elsewhere) vs. badgering a child with bated breath and brimming expectations about outcomes. I ask my children how they’re doing in any activity because I care about their day and, if it’s an important event like SATs and your son’s Erg tests, the child likely has this on his/her mind as well. Why not ask? The key is to listen closely to their reaction and gauge your response from there . . . does he/she really want to keep talking about this? Is she worried about it and wants to talk? Or is he just perhaps annoyed because he was trying to forget it for a while?
    My concern would be that by *not* asking, you’re demonstrating not really caring about the important events they’re experiencing.

  3. Momof2, I absolutely agree that it matters to kids if their parents care about what is happening to them. That said, I don’t think my children are in any danger of feeling that I don’t care about the important events they’re experiencing! If I wait for them to start the conversation, I feel like I am giving them a sense of ownership and autonomy. They can choose to bring it up with me or not. Once they have begun the conversation, I have plenty of time to demonstrate my interest – and do!

  4. I’m making a note of this too – tests and test results were the bane of my life from the age of ten onwards. When I wasn’t doing school ones, I was being put through additional ones at home. Tests, tests and tests. If could manage for dudelet to never have to take a test in his life I be tempted. But on this planet, that wouldn’t do him much good.

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