Thought of the Week: Childhood Stresses

This is a stressful week for Little Satis. As an eleven-year-old in the state of New Jersey, he is about to be subjected to a series of testing known as PARCC (the oh-so-memorable Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). The testing would have started today, but there was a delayed opening at school because of last night’s snow.

Starting tomorrow morning, he will be sitting through hours of assessments and tests in English, mathematics and literacy, to … I guess see how well he’s going to do at college and in his career? Honestly, the point of these tests somewhat eludes me. Perhaps that’s my failing as a parent for not paying attention as much as I should, but I just can’t find it in me to care much about all these tests. I’d rather he go to school and enjoy his time there; after all, what’s the point of education if you hate it?

This was my biggest difficulty in school and growing up. As I recently confided to Mrs. Satis, I was a high school drop-out. Yes, I eventually went back and finished high school, and even somehow managed to get a college degree, but there was a time when I just couldn’t see the purpose of continuing in education. Looking back, I still don’t know what I gained from it all. Everything I know—everything I learned—I either knew by the age of sixteen, or else I discovered through the painful process of life. I wasn’t stupid; on the contrary, I was a precocious little brat. But I burned out from the pressures of high school education.

All I want if for him to not end up like me.

I fear for Little Satis in this regard. He’s not as bright as I was growing up (which isn’t to say he’s not smart), although his social and emotional intelligence is far beyond anything I could ever possess. He gets that from his mother, I’m certain. But it means his education is probably more important than it was for me; his life will depend on it. And he’s already stressing out over it.

Earlier this year he came to us and talked about wanting to participate in the school science fair this year; he was intrigued why the geese didn’t seem to have migrated south this winter, and wondered if global warming had anything to do with it. Recently, he’s reneged on this, and professes no interest in the science project, and wants nothing to do with it. As a parent, it’s difficult to watch your child lose interest in things, and our ultimate decision was to ‘force’ him to continue with it. There’s a part of me that wants to believe it will teach him the importance of commitment.

But to see him so upset over having to do something he genuinely doesn’t want to scares me. It scares me because it’s exactly the same mentality I had shortly before I became depressed and destroyed by educational career. I felt forced by my parents, my teachers, and everyone around me. I hated going to school; I hated everything I had to do there. And at home, there was no respite, no escape.

I don’t want much for my son, which might be a dreadful admission as a parent. I don’t wish him money, or success, or a prosperous career. I don’t care about those things. All I want is for him to not end up like me. I want him to enjoy life. And while I know there are things in life that have to be done, whether you enjoy it or not, I can’t help but feel it’s unfair for him to be forced, so young, into things so deeply despicable to him. And I don’t know what to do. Where’s the balance between teaching him responsibility, and and enjoyment in life? Because for me, the two don’t overlap.

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