“Dad, are you mad at me,” my nearly seven-year-old said.
I knew what she was talking about. We had discussed it at the dinner table. Not to mention, it looked like a monkey had tried to peel one of her pointer fingers like a grape.
“No, I’m not mad,” I answered.
My older daughter, who I consider one of the smartest kids I know (that’s how I should think, right?), had gnawed on her finger to the point that the top layer of skin had come off. I don’t want to be dramatic, but her finger was missing quite a bit of skin on its very tip.
“I did it during a math test,” she sheepishly admitted. “I couldn’t figure out a question.”
It breaks my heart. For somebody like myself, who suffers from generalized anxiety, I ache hearing that she’s reaching for perfection in the first grade.
“Your mom and I only expect two things from you, babe,” I said. “That’s for you to do your best and to take care of your body. I don’t care if you miss every problem on a math test as long as you tried your best.”
When I was in school, my stomach would turn for a week leading up to the SAT exam in high school. I never enjoyed any tests throughout my years in school until I got to college. In college, exams turned into a challenge. I loved it.
As a kid, I don’t remember my parents pressuring me to do well, other than the natural instincts they had to encourage me to do my best. I’m concerned for my daughter, hearing that she now experiences that same anxiety at such a young age. Where does the pressure come from?
My wife and I do not expect her to be a Mensa child. For Pete’s sake, she just started taking tests. Any ideas from where that anxiety to get everything right on a test comes?
Jay Hardy is the father of a six-year-old and a baby in Holly Springs. He's a former sports photographer and reporter for WRAL-TV. Find him here once a month on Wednesdays.