Last Saturday morning, Riley had the opportunity to take part in a rite of passage, of sorts...one in which he joined tens of thousands of students across the nation who were gathering at the same time, to do the same thing...take the ACT Test. (I'll pause for a moment here to allow the shrieking to die down, as you deal with the painful, unpleasant memories of your own experience involving this particular...Instrument of Teenage Torture--which by the way would be a MUCH better acronym for it, right?--or its equally loathsome cousin, the SAT. Okay, we good now? Right, back to our story...)
Once you've recovered your wits, I know it'll begin to dawn on you that there's something definitely... fishy...about this whole scenario. Hmm...what could it be? Ohhhhh, yeah: Riley's in 7th grade, not going to college anytime soon...heck, not even thinking about high school yet, for crying out loud...so why in Heaven's name would his evil, sadistic parents sign him up for such an agonizing event? Eh, it seemed like a good idea at the time. KIDDING! Well, sort of...but that's only part of the reason.
Let me back up--during the Summer we got a letter from Riley's school, informing us that he'd been identified as eligible for this "special program", based on some outlandish Standardized Test Score that he'd achieved during the academic year. Frankly, I almost tossed the paper into the recycling bin unread, because it had that nearby "4-Letter-University that shall not be named" in its title...but I decided to give it a once-over anyway. Basically, it stated that he could take either the SAT or ACT, and his performance would determine what, if any, other benefits would be granted him based on the results.
Aha! This set off alarm bells in my brain, as I myself had gone through the very same process back when I was a 7th-grade lass. (And no, I don't recall why my own loving parents subjected me to it, either...but I figured hey, I survived...relatively unscathed...my kid'll be just fine...) The memories came flooding back--how I had been fitted with braces on my teeth the day before, and was therefore wrapped in Utter. Freaking. Misery. from the pain of new brackets and wires tugging and scraping at my mouth. (In fact, I can still vividly conjure how it felt trying to manage the tiniest of nibbles from the peanut butter sandwich I had brought as a snack...owwwwww...) To add to the overall atmosphere of sky-high-stress, my dad was supposed to drop me at our local high school, where I would catch a bus, which would then transport me the rest of the way to the testing center. Well, for reasons that completely escape me all these years later, we totally missed that sucker....forcing my father to drive me the extra hour. And then, of course, the 4-hour exam. Just a delightful Saturday, I tell ya.
So yeah, let's absolutely have Riley do it! Husband and I discussed it amongst ourselves briefly, but we were in solid agreement that he should participate in this...um..."occasion for growth"...so the poor kid never really had a prayer. When we presented it to him, his immediate reaction was predictably "strongly opposed", with a large amount of "incensed" thrown in for good measure. There was the expected "Whhhhyyyy are you making me dooooo this?" followed by "WHAT? 4 HOURS? On a SATURDAY? Are you nuts?" as we carefully leaked more of the pertinent details.
Yep, it's safe to say he was a weeeee bit grumpy about the whole endeavor. I tried to bolster his enthusiasm by sharing that--after I lived to tell the tale--I got to do some pretty cool stuff. Now, to be perfectly honest I can't actually tell you the Math-related outcome, since it's not my favorite subject. However, what I do remember with utmost clarity is being invited to take a 2-week Creative Writing course...at Hood College in Frederick. Yeah, it was during Summer Break, but so what? I was 13, and sitting in a college classroom--I felt like the biggest badass...nerd...around. And I can't say for sure, but maybe that class helped me become a better writer, or motivated me to continue cranking out my own personal brand of nonsense...such as this. I ask you: why on Earth wouldn't I want to expose my own kid to that kind of potentially life-changing...blah blah blah....and whatnot? (See? Only a semi-professional Maker-Upper-of-Stuff could get away with those kinds of...prosaic liberties. I rest my case. Or, you know...whatever...)
As the day approached, the protests did not diminish...until at last, with about a week to go, Riley appeared to become somewhat resigned to his fate. Husband even convinced him to log on to some of the helpful practice websites that had been provided for us, as a way to familiarize himself with some of the content, and learn valuable test-taking strategies. Riley seemed outwardly calm--especially when Derek's friends came to dinner last weekend and one of them revealed that he would also be taking the ACT, offered by their high school as an ungraded, trial-run for the real thing. That's right, Derek could have done the same, but laughed hysterically...then flatly refused...when we suggested it. Hey, at least Riley got to bond with SOMEONE over the impending doom--I mean "learning opportunity".
On the actual T-Day, you had to be there to check in at approximately o'damn early. But Riley was relieved to see other kids who were clearly in Middle School, scattered among those who were pulling out their driver's licenses for identification purposes. When his room was called, I watched him walk away with mixed feelings...Pride ("Way to go, buddy!). Sympathy ("Sorry, but it'll be over before you know it...er...kind of...") Encouragement ("You've got this!") And finally, nostalgia...with a hint of melancholy ("My baaaaaby!")
Also, I did mention it was much too early for this foolishness? Yeah, I needed more coffee, and badly. When Riley returned home, he was obviously thrilled that it was done and not hanging over his head any more. But he also (at last) admitted that he was glad he'd taken it when it didn't count for anything, because now when he's a Junior and it actually matters, he'll know what to expect and not feel so nervous. (Um...yeah...can I just add a great big WE TOLD YOU SO! Love, your father and me.), Now, we wait for the scores...and cross our fingers that he doesn't get contacted by that "You Know Who" school for any enrichment activities!