I taught my son to write his last name yesterday. The family name. His Granddaddy’s name. It felt awesome and right.
The Missus had primed the pump by working hard with him on his first name for a while now. I have too, but she has by far spent the most time with him on things that could be considered book-learnin’ down the road, writing his name included.
But he hadn’t been taught his last name yet and I took advantage of the opportunity. The fact that he follows instructions well (“Draw a stick. Now give it two bumps that meet in the middle.”) was a definite plus. Before I knew it, quicker than I had expected, he was writing it out in rows.
We were already in the midst of a bunch of tests his preschool sent home. Can he count to 20? Does he know his name, what city he lives in? Can he stand on one foot and hop for five seconds? Can he cut a straight line?
All that shit. It’s like a field sobriety test for kids. My first reaction was outrage. I’m way opposed to testing kids at his age. He has his whole life ahead of him to stand on one foot and jump through hoops for The Man. But The Missus eventually sold me on the program, explaining it was more to measure The Boy’s developmental milestones than to fast-track him to the gifted toddlers’ program at the local Montessori school.
The last thing I want to be is the Rick Moranis character from “Parenthood.” We agreed on that before he was even conceived.
But upon reflection, this didn’t smack of that so I decided to play along.
Turns out—after skimming the directions—it’s also a test for the parents, because after we administer and record the results of all the items on the test, the teachers will duplicate our efforts with The Boy. So I’m not sure what the real purpose of the test is. To measure our honesty in grading our beloved progeny? To actually measure The Boy’s developmental progress? To compare how he scores on the test when administered by his parents as opposed to how he scores when tested by his schoolmarms?
Still, it gave me something interesting to do with him yesterday afternoon when he walked into my office and asked, “Will you do something with me?” (Ordinarily, that kind of question draws an immediate and sharp rebuke—and, if local custom permits, a good caning—but coming from The Boy, I make exceptions.)
The Missus had already polished off more than half of the challenges on the preschool’s work sheet, but there were still plenty of interesting ones left. And by “interesting,” I mean tests in which I thought The Boy would excel.
One of the assignments I was eager to administer was “Can your child draw a person?” (I laughed on the inside; give us a hard one!) I sat in my recliner, with an album cover on my lap as a drawing board. The Boy was facing me over the album cover. I put a blank piece of paper on it and handed him a pen. “Draw me a person,” I told him.
He drew a big loop and said, “That’s the head.” Then he added eyes and hair (“That’s hair,” he said), eyebrows (“eyehair”) and I began to notice, he was suffering from some sort of visual dyslexia; everything was upside down, from the smile at the top of the figure’s head to the scruffy hair underneath. Even the eyebrows were placed perfectly under the eyes.
Then he paused and looked up at me. “Body?” he asked simply. I nodded and he began sketching in a torso—upside down.
He proceeded to finish the drawing, adding arms and legs, everything just where they should be, I realized with a shock; upside-down to him, but right-side up for me, his audience.
Factor that into your stupid test, damned meddling preschool test-takers! Good luck finding a cozy category for our boy...