I’ve never been a huge fan of testing. My husband, who is diabetic, has to do it all the time. Several times a day he pricks holes in his fingers, checking his blood sugar levels. It’s a way of life. I’ve had my share of blood tests, but nothing in comparison to him. There have been few times in my life when I have been ruled by the phlebotomist.
Those times have been most recently characterised by fear and uncertainty, I have to admit; fear of what the results might mean. The tests never had any significance the first time round. Back then, when I was expecting baby number one, I submitted my innocent arm without a second thought. I had no idea what a ‘high risk’ verdict might be, or of how I would feel about the prospect.
After Sam was born, and Down Syndrome was diagnosed, the pair of us, daddy and mummy, came under considerable pressure to undergo all possible tests. Why wouldn’t we, after all? Why would we want to risk going through the same trauma, the same heartache, if there was a way of avoiding it?
If we could only test the chromosomal makeup of our children before they arrived then we could save ourselves an enormous amount of trouble. Couldn’t we? I mean, they’d never disappoint us by dyeing their hair, getting themselves pierced, doing badly at school, would they? They’d always stay in some sort of state of perfection, never needing glasses or hearing tests or fillings, wouldn’t they?
They’d never break their legs, or bump their heads, or develop life limiting diseases. They’d never get involved with people who don’t love them, stay out too late, or puke all over the floor because they drank too much cider. They’d like the same music we do, dress in clothes we approve of, get the right hairstyle, eat the wholemeal sandwiches and the salad, drink the water.
And then we could be sure that they’d all progress nicely through the system. They’d all travel up the Straight Line of Progress, never deviating from the norm, rubber stamped with acceptability from the moment they entered the world. They’d never need new school shoes in the half term before the end of the year. They’d never make a hole in their trousers in the first week of term. They’d do as they were told when we wanted them to and not after ten minutes of nagging.
They’d never develop that annoying little habit of having a will of their own, a different agenda. They’d never confound us by finding the strangest things interesting. Digging. Little bits of ribbon. They’d eat up the tea we had lovingly provided for them. Frankly, adult life would be an awful lot easier if no-one ever told them about the word, ‘no’.
All we’d need to do, then, is carry on with our obsessive testing and checking for normal progress. Because they all come out the same, don’t they? And we have such control over how or when they develop and what they learn, don’t we?
And when they don’t perform the way we think they should we are ready with our labels. Because if we’re giving them A, B and C and they’re not getting to D there must be something wrong with them, mustn’t there? If we stick a label on them we can categorise to our hearts’ content, check and tick off a whole new set of measures, and if they don’t live up to them we can hardly be blamed, can we?
But really, we’d rather they all stuck to the picture perfect plan for childhood. We’d rather they trotted off to school as soon as they were four, bright eyed and ready to learn, so that we could hurry back on with our own lives, pay our mortgages. We’d rather they absorbed the lessons we planned to teach them, so that then we’d be able to prove what outstanding teachers we were. And continue to pay our mortgages.
Because then we’d be able to boast about what wonderful adults we were, parents and teachers, with our perfectly sleeping babes, our children who learn to read in the prescribed way, at the prescribed time. We’d look at each other and smile in self-satisfaction at ten-out-of-tens, top-of-the-classes, exceeding all sorts of expectations. We’d be able to congratulate each other and bask in the reflected glory of our progeny.
This post is now part of this month’s #blogsynchproject. Thanks, @edutronic_net