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The PSAT (Parental Scholastic Aptitude Test) Would You Make the Grade?

 Parental Scholastic Aptitude Test

psat testWhile listening to National Public Radio on Sunday, I heard an interesting story about a high school in New Jersey where, as part of a health class project designed to, among other things, discourage teen pregnancy, girls were entrusted with robotic infants to care for over the course of two days.

According to the report, the babies exhibited all the characteristics of “real” infants: crying, sleeping, eating, burping and requiring diaper changes although, I think, the latter neither involved the mess nor the odor that come with the real McCoy.

Moreover, when the  plastic baby cried (which, according to the report, occurred quite frequently) the “mother” had to determine if the baby needed to be fed, changed, burped or rocked, and to act on the baby’s needs within a prescribed time.  In addition, the mother could not assign these tasks to a “substitute” caretaker, as the moldable midget would only respond to the mother’s care, courtesy of a wrist band that the “mother” would wave over the baby to identify her.  The mom’s response (or lack thereof) registered on an internal computer that gave the teacher data to then assign a grade to mommy based on a 100% scale.

The two high school girls followed in the story, we are told, are best friends.  One young girl, who told the reporter she was a Christian, wished to go to a religious based college and find the man of her dreams and then start a family early.  The other best friend was “theatre girl,” interested in drama and performance, and clearly more likely to be the “wild child” of the two.

So who do you think ended up with the higher grade at the end? I’ll save you the suspense of waiting until another blog or looking up the story on NPR’s website.  It was Theatre Girl hands down, with a score of 94% versus Prim and Proper’s unimpressive 71%.

So  much for preconceived notions of what characteristics make a good parent.  Now, candidly, this “real life drama” failed to give the mom a break at all, including when the moms were in class or rehearsing for a play.  Obviously parents of real life humanoids would not think of leaving a baby behind a stage curtain while rehearsing or bringing the child to class.  All parents need a break sometime.

But I had to wonder, what if my two now adult daughters came with a readout  of how I measured as a parent from their infancy?   How would their father compare if the exams were placed next to each other?  Would I be graded on a curve based on my friends and how they parented their children? What are the criteria? How smart they are?  How nice they are? How talented they are?   Would it be a larger curve based on South Florida, Florida, the United States (sort of like a PSAT – but in this case it would be a Parent Standard Achievement Test).  Perhaps more scary is what if my kids gave out the grades? I’m pretty sure I’d get a higher grade from one of them, but would they both give Dad a higher grade?  After all, he has about 1000 times more patience than I have, and he never nags them…if nagging were on the test I’d definitely get 100 percent.

Fortunately for me, and perhaps most of us parents, we do not have to worry about getting a physical report card for our parenting skills.  But, as parents, it is not a bad idea to stop now and again, and do a little self evaluation score card.  No place would this be more appropriate than where parents are not living together, and share time with the other parent and the children.  This is not to suggest that you should measure yourself against the other parent.  Rather, remove yourself from the picture, become a third party observer (the proverbial fly on the wall) and think about how you handle  the day-to-day activities as well as those more difficult moments with your children. Better yet, imagine your children in the very distant future…at your funeral.  What would they say about how you raised them?  How would they describe your relationship (or lack thereof) with their other parent?  Would they say you always took the “high road”? Would they just skip over that because the memory was not a pleasant one?

Truly, this is a self- graded exam.  The results will not be published; they will not help you get into graduate school or get a better job, or get you a raise at work.  In some instances, a higher grade may result in a lower income because  good parenting involves a lot of time, a lot of patience and putting your kids above all else…even those negative emotions harbored with their other parent.

But, at the end of the day, if you, unlike the high school girls with their plastic pups, brought these babes into the world, then you owe it to them to try your best to, not only pass the course, but get a gold star.

Try to remember this the next time you have the urge to bash the other parent in front of the kids!



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