Wednesday, September 26, 2012

All In The Perfectionist Family

My sister, Beth has always been very smart.  Not that Megan isn't, but this post has less to do with her and more to do with Beth, who coincidentally is having her birthday tomorrow.  Yay! 29 plus a few years,  right Beth?  Beth was the type of kid who didn't really have to study to much to make great grades.  She would study though, because the last thing Beth could have was an A-.  Oh and the horror or horrors if got one or two wrong on a test.  I think she had straight A's on her report card all 12 years of school.  If she didn't, she would surely have cried about it for at least an hour.  The times she didn't ace a test she'd come home crying.  If she wasn't sure about a test she was studying for, the night before she would cry about it and say how she was sure to fail.

All this was completely lost on me.  I was not a bad student, but I was never as obsessed with good grades as my sister was.  A solid B was great and if I got an A, freaking fantastic!  But I was known for getting a C a time or two and perhaps a D one semester.  However, in my defense, that was in French and my teacher was a loon.  I swear. You can even ask my mom.  So when Sonya came home last Monday close to tears because she didn't get 100% on her math test I realized, crap, I'm raising my sister.  

Sonya has always done well in school.  The kid was reading at three, for crying out loud.  She is just naturally smart, much like Beth.  When she doesn't understand something, all hell breaks loose, because she's just so used to everything coming so easily---BETH! (Incidentally, this is one reason why there is no way I could home school.  We would kill each other.  Or I would have to drink WAY more. )

Every couple of weeks she has a big math test at school.  She always does well with her homework and seems to understand everything.  There's a computer game that she can play the night before a test to review what she's learned.  She has always done well on the test.  Last Monday I picked her up from school and as she approached the car, I could see that she was upset.  I opened the door and greeted her, and she gave me a very upset, 


"What's wrong, baby doll?" I asked.

"I FAILED my math test on Friday!" she said, with tears starting to well in her eyes.  

"WHAT? What do you mean you failed??" I asked, very confused.

"I got one wrong on my test!" She told me.

"Wait, how many did you get wrong?" I asked.


"Out of how many?"  I asked.

"Twenty," she replied, holding back her tears.

Really?  One wrong out of twenty and she thinks she failed?  Perhaps she's not as bright as I thought.

"Sonya that's not failing," I informed her.

"It's not?" she asked.

"No.  That's still very good," I assured her.  

"But I knew the answer, I just did the wrong one," she told me and threatened tears again.

I wasn't quite sure what she meant by that, but  I told her to calm down and I would take a look at it when we got home.  

Once we got home she immediately pulled out the test and handed it to me.  You guys, she got a 95%.  If you remember correctly that's still an A or in 3rd grade, a 4.  Don't ask.  Anyway, I looked at the one she got wrong and realized what she had meant.  She knew the answer, but she colored in the wrong bubble.  Something I'm sure everyone has done at one point.  

"Oh I see what happened," I said.  "You just colored in the wrong one, but you knew the answer."

"Yeeeesssss!!!!" That was it, the damn broke and she was in complete tears.  

"Oh girlie," I said hugging her.  "It's no big deal!  You still did great and got a four!"

"I did?" She asked looking up.  

"Yeah, see." I pointed to the paper.  "Sonya you're not always going to get 100% on all your, tests baby girl.  Sometimes you won't know everything, or sometimes you make a mistake like this, but it's not something to get this upset over, (Beth)."

The crying started to cease and she wiped her eyes.

"As long as you do your best, that's all Daddy and I care about, ok?"  She nodded at me.  "Did you do your best?"

"Yeah," she told me sniffing her nose.

"And look, you got almost all of them right except for this one.  That was just a silly mistake and you can fix that next time, by checking your work if you have time, okay?"

"K," she said, a little more relaxed.  I gave her a hug and sent her to her room to start her homework.    

It's funny how life prepares you for things.  Had I not grown up with a sister who reacted the same way, I may not have understood why Sonya was so upset.  Fortunately, her Auntie Beth made me very aware of this piece of perfectionism.  I can see how she thinks that her not getting a perfect grade means she's failed and her life is over.  Although, I don't think we are quite at the "life being over" part yet, but I know we will get there.  Yay.  Can't wait.  Thanks for that piece of DNA Beth.  I'm giving her your number and she can cry to you next time she "fails" a test.  

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