I have 3 daughters. All amazing, and exhausting, in their own ways.
Emma’s 20: tall, lanky, intense, funny, deeply intelligent, elegant, somewhat-nerdy, burbling with talent, and gratefully, away at university (I love her so much….when she’s at school….and I send up a little prayer of thanks daily when she’s away, “God? Thank you for creating universities in other cities. Thank you Lord. Amen.”)
Then there’s Isabelle. 17-year old Isabelle. If there were a prize for the World’s Best Teenager, Isabelle would be in the top ten. She’s, quite frankly, amazing. She is smart, funny, beautiful, sensitive, thoughtful, and she keeps the snide back-chat to a low roar. She’s serious and sincere. And she’s got the work ethic of a Trojan (warrior not condom). Isabelle’s one significant weakness? She’s got Woody Allen-sized anxiety and self-doubt. It’s of epic proportions. When, in the fourth grade, the class was examining enhanced photos of dust mites, she went into a 2-day obsessive scratching-twitching-skin-scorching-showering-insomniac frenzy that nearly had us wrap her in plastic wrap and drop her on the curb. Or, the absolute tail-spin terror that accompanies each and every hair cut. So when September rolled around and her final year of high school was imminent the stress began to build.
The first couple of days seemed to go fairly well, but as the pressure started to build, Isabelle started to waver and quake. I shouldn’t have been surprised when she walked through the back door 2 hours before school ended one day….but being me, I was. One look at her face told me something was dreadfully wrong. One word and she burst into tears.
She got to school that morning and her world literally began to turn upside down. As she lay on the bed in the spare room, sobbing and holding her pounding head, she told me: first, she’d lost her ability to understand what her friends and teachers were saying–everything was gibberish. Then she lost her ability to write, her normal tidy scrawl, becoming a indecipherable line-drifting mess. Finally, she lost her ability to form words. She bailed out of school, walked home, and fell apart.
So after I’d listened and internally fallen apart, I took her to the only place I could think of….the Emergency room.
We sat together waiting to see a doctor and Woody began to show his grizzled head. Isabelle began to stress about her homework….she had a Chemistry assignment, an English assignment, and an Art assignment. All due the next day. She rang her hands, and began to vibrate with anxiety. So I did what any decent, right-thinking parent would do……I did her homework.
Alright, I didn’t do all her homework. I did her English homework (she blew off her Chemistry and Art homework with a note from me).
I wrote a great piece of work! 200 carefully chosen words. All painstakingly arranged into a grade 12 English assignment that rivalled some of my university writing. I loved it…..I mean, how could you not, right? I’ve been paid to write. I made a moderately unsuccessful career doing it.
So just after I’d finished Isabelle’s English homework, and her CAT scan was complete, diagnosing a stress-related migraine (rather than the paralyzing stroke or brain tumour I’d been imagining) I was elated. We went home with a handful of Percocet, a plan for mediation classes, and what I knew to be a piece of grade 12 English homework that would go down in the annals of high school writing. They would frame it and ask if it could be used as a classic how-to-write example for generations to come. I tucked Isabelle in and all was well with the world.
Until she got her assignment back. I got an 8 out of 10. I got an 8 out of 10!!!
I got an 8 out of 10–from a Social Studies teacher, a Social Studies teacher, mind, assigned to teach English–because, …”while it was certainly the funniest, it lacked substance.”
No framing, no gilding, no using my writing as an example for ripe, young minds yet to come, because, well, because I lack substance. And now my sweet, earnest daughter want me to attend parent-teacher interviews to meet my nemesis. To sit face to face, across a library table with the clearly uneducated, unappreciative, illiterate boob and make nice (okay, perhaps I’m being a bit harsh, but 8 out of 10??!!).
Nope. I’m going to take a pass on PT Interviews. I’m going to take the low road to sit home and sip scotch and ponder my skills–as a feeble parent, as a substance-less writer, and as a long-term grudge-holder. And just possibly, if I perform well enough, I’ll give myself a 10 out of 10.