Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Fine Line Between

My daughter hates me.

This in and of itself isn't particularly newsworthy. Or unique to me. In fact, my mom mafia and I exchange texts to that effect fairly frequently. If you don't believe the old adage "there's a fine line between love and hate," just have a teenager. And wait a minute.

So, this time I'm the target of her anger and ire because I'm forcing my daughter (practically at gunpoint, if you ask her) to go to SAT prep classes. That's right, I've actually spent significant money to assure that she does well on her standardized tests so she can get into a good college and acquire a fine education which will help her build a more productive, profitable and pleasurable life. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Man, I suck.

She says "It's not fair." Guess what? I totally agree. But, guess what else? I didn't create the system. 

If it were up to me, things would be different. I wish colleges had the luxury to look at people before numbers. That they could put individual strengths and passions and personality ahead of quantitative scores. IMHO, the only thing the so-called "aptitude test" measures is a student's skill at taking aptitude tests.

Another thing, I hate the fact that the system contributes to the chasm between haves and have-nots in our society. Let's face it, there are many students out there who don't have access to these dreaded prep programs. They are expensive and as such, they are exclusionary. In essence, students who probably already have an advantage based on where they live and the schools they have access to also end up with better test scores.

I felt the sting of this myself way back when. I went to a fabulous school, and my own test scores were absolutely respectable. But, some friends who were more affluent were able to afford private tutoring and raise their scores. Academically competitive by nature, I resented this to no end. In fact, I sounded exactly like my daughter.

"It's not fair."

So, thirty-five years later, my daughter is hating me for something that I feel absolutely trapped into doing. I don't believe in the system; I think it's grossly biased and I resent spending the money (believe me, even if my daughter doesn't, I can think of many, many, many things I would have rather used the money for).

Kids in our upper middle-class Boston suburb do test prep. It's just a given. And, yes, I'm going along with it. Because, until the system changes, the stakes are too high. I'll be the first to admit that I'm being a wimp about this. But, I'll also know that I've done what I could to ensure that my daughter gets into the best school she can.

I'm sorry that the summer classes, practice tests, homework problems and fairly incompetent instructor are so tedious and frustrating. I'm sorry that my daughter hates me. However, as I recently reminded her, if she made a list of all the reasons she has to love me and lined it up against a list of reasons to hate me, I'm fairly confident that the first column would be longer. Like, a lot longer.

When she was a couple of weeks old (and I was still suffering some postpartum blues), I worried that her newborn unresponsiveness was a reflection of her (lack of) affection for me. A compassionate coworker of mine had more parenting experience than I did; he had a teenage daughter at home.

"I think she hates me," I confided. 

"No," he told me gently "She doesn't hate you ..."

"... But, she will."

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at 

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