I have it.
Today, I was home for lunch, and we were all sitting around the table. I was opening mail and I opened a report from Son #1's school.
It was the results of some standardized writing assessment they had done, prior to the start of the school year. Weird kind of test that I've never seen before, completely subjective. Not the #2 pencil fill in the bubble kind you and I used to take when we were kids.
There is something a little wrong when you don't understand the scoring, to begin with. I have two degrees, one of them a Master's. When I finally figured it out, it wasn't good. In fact, he'd scored incredibly low, relative to his peers. In percentiles and normal distributions, we're talking "short-bus" range.
Now this is a kid who is articulate and verbal and witty and smart. His grades aren't what mine were at his age, but a solid range of As, Bs and Cs, nothing lower. Sure, he's got the attention span of a fruit fly with ADD sometimes, and he's frequently reprimanded in school for talking too much (wonder where that comes from . . . ), but never anything of this proportion.
Without hesitation, or pause, I went off. Chastised him at the table. Told him this wasn't what I expected. Started railing on how this wasn't acceptable.
I saw his shoulders drop a little, but he kept eating. The curtain of hair flopped further over his eyes, and he said nothing. Then I saw a tear trickle down one cheek.
I felt awful, and went over and apologized. Gave him a hug. Told him I only wanted the best for him, and that meant doing well in school. He nodded, swallowing hard on the bite of sandwich he had, and didn't speak. Finished his sandwich and went upstairs. I talked to him later in his room, too, and he let out his frustration a little more, but still, not much.
And then I got the guilt, again, as I drove home from grocery shopping. Do we expect to much of our kids? Do we put too much weight in standardized tests and grades? But if I don't do it, who will? How do I teach him that this is his introduction to life, where the tests aren't even standardized, and pass or fail means you have a job or you don't?
I'd love him to excel academically, like I did, but does he have to? Should I hold him to that standard, or something else? Is that standard still relevant anymore?
No one told me there'd be guilt.