What report cards can’t report
The four-year-old class attendance book felt extra heavy when I picked it up this evening.
I opened the book to find my son’s name, then grimaced when I saw what was contained within: my son’s twice yearly report card.
I slipped the envelope into my purse and collected my son. I meant to hand the envelope unopened to my husband, because little that is important to me is ever expressed on these report cards.
My son began playing with a classmate. I watched for a moment before deciding, Why the heck not? If report cards aren’t important to me, why would I not at least glance at it as a curiosity?
I opened it and scanned quickly over its columns, noting agreement with some and wondering with amusement whose son some of the other marks were meant to reflect. When I was done, I tucked it back into my purse, prepared to deliver it to my husband for his perusal and signature.
I’d learned nothing about my son that I didn’t already know. I’d had affirmed what I knew about schools, which is that their report cards measure that which is easily measurable, not that which is most important.
My son thinks in big pictures, and does a beautiful job of linking together complex concepts. He articulates himself at a level his teachers identify as extraordinary. He is inquisitive, inventive, and dissatisfied with answers like, “Because I said so.” This makes him a joyful and challenging companion, and one whose company I greatly enjoy.
As my son grows older, I will expect more focus of him. I also expect he will know and care more about things which currently, abstracted from his understandings of what’s important in this world, bore him as trivial or meaningless. I do not expect these things of him now, nor measure him by someone else’s expectations in these regards. They tell so little about who he is, or who he will become.
I measure his growth by a different set of standards. From where I’m sitting, seeing who he is as a whole person rather than segments divided neatly across a standardized report card, I think he has done a marvelous job learning the things a four-year-old should know.
He knows how to love. He knows he is loved. Yesterday, home sick from school, he paused his movie to give me a hug, reporting, “Mama, you are loved.”
He knows how to imagine, and to see more possibility in this world than only that which is literally and directly in front of him.
He knows how to comfort, and offers comfort freely, with tenderness and wisdom that seems incongruous such a sweet, young face. When I explained abuse to him a couple of weeks ago, he asked a great many questions before saying, “That makes me bery sad.” He later proclaimed he’d be the best boyfriend ever, and I agreed that he would. In about twenty years.
He knows how to ask the questions important to him, and that it is important to ask questions.
He knows I will protect him to the best of my ability, and not be deterred by threat or admonition. He knows how to protect himself by challenging others when they do or say things that hurt his feelings.
He understands consequences in seeing daily the difference between “right” and “privilege.” He knows that if he hurts people, or is destructive, he will lose out on enjoying the things he loves: Doc McStuffins, toys, dessert, trips to beloved places.
He knows how to laugh. He knows that humor is in the unexpected, and tests this understanding in new ways each day. If he also finds the words “poopy” and “butt” hilarious, demonstrating their hilarity dozens of times a day, I can accept that.
He knows how to say sorry, and how to forgive. Some of my favorite words he has spoken to date were an exasperated but loving, “Mom! I already told you it’s OK!”
All told, he’s learned a heck of a lot in four short years on this earth. It’s astonishing to see what he has learned in such a short stint here. Every day, I am excited to see what new little things he has picked up along the way. There’s always something.
No piece of paper–none–could ever tell me more about this little boy than what I already see when I watch him interacting not with scissors, paper, or glue, but with the vast and glorious wonderland that is this world.