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The Division In My Parenting

photo-5My daughter’s school district, as opposed to assessing children on a scale from A to F like most other schools on planet earth, assesses kids in relation to grade level standards. Fourth Graders are supposed to be a bunch of Fourth Grade Things and, if they are, they MEET the standards. If they are more capable than Fourth Grade Things, they EXCEED the standards. If they can almost nearly do Fourth Grade Things, they APPROACH the standards. And if they’re not even close, they’re EMERGENT/DEVELOPING.

The top 3 are all clear verbs in relation to the plural noun “standards”. I don’t know what it means, though, to EMERGENT/DEVELOPING STANDARDS. It means F, no? It means they’re still doing Second and Third Grade Things, but not Fourth Grade Things. I’m not really sure why we’re wrapping F’s in a sugar coated shell of emergence and development because, if I remember right, F means FAILING – not BLOOMING.

Anyway, my daughter can’t long divide. And it’s not like I fault her for that or hold it against her. Long division is HARD, man. I mean, before long division, all we did was count numbers; we added some up and took some away. No big deal. And multiplying was a little trippy but at least the numbers still maintained their distinction. A 5 was a 5 and, if you had 4 of them, you got 20. Okay, fine. But something goofy is going on with division that bends your mind. You’re trying to inject numbers INSIDE numbers and it still makes me wince. How many 10s can you cram in a 50? What does that even mean? It’s like crawling and riding bikes. What?

So I’m not judging or hating, but I felt it was my parental duty to inform my daughter that, even though her report card cast her in the light of a pleasant metaphor, she was failing math. When I tell my editors that a missed deadline is still emerging and developing, they’re sorry to report that my check has wilted and died. So I told her, yeah, you’re failing math, and she starts crying these tears the size of fully ripe pears and I feel like a complete huge idiot.

I’d really rather just give her big red suckers, you know? And listen to her tell me stories about how Casey is so mean because Allie let her borrow her scissors and Casey got glue on them but said it was Michael and now Allie and Michael broke up but Michael’s innocent. Michael is INNOCENT. He never even TOUCHED Casey’s scissors and now he’s alone but he’s working on a poem. Her stories are like myths to me – I’m enthralled – but sometimes I have to be a parent and parents care about things like grades and the future, which is very important. Your future. You don’t want to wreck your future, do you? Of course you don’t, but my daughter doesn’t care about the future. How can she when Michael is RIGHT NOW being faced with such cruel injustice?

And what makes her cry when I tell her she’s failing math isn’t her passionate commitment to the future. It’s the unhinged sense that I’m not proud of her, that I don’t love her, and that she’ll never, no matter what she does, be enough. And that’s the rub, isn’t it? Because I’m going to love the stuffing out of my daughter whether she long divides or not, but there’s this stupid built in component of parenting that urges our kids to keep being more than they are. She IS enough. No she isn’t. She needs to be bigger, better, faster, more, successful.

I don’t have the answers to some of parenting’s more complicated contradictions, but I do know where to find big red suckers.
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