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How to Assess My Daughter

Lila had her kindergarten screening.

I don’t like the wording, don’t like to consider my daughter something to be “screened” and placed as part of a track, especially one based on how well she can parrot back her ABC’s or if she draws all ten fingers on her stick figure person.

I don’t like the idea of someone comparing her to other children at all. And so I’m bracing myself for what’s to come. And by that, I mean, I don’t want to compare her to other children, even my own.

I remember Alex’s assessment, how he was smiling with pride as he returned to us, how the guidance counselor hugged him and told us how wonderful he was and told him how excited she was to have him joining their school family. I remember his kindergarten teacher raising her hands in the air at our first parent teacher conference, What more can I tell you? He’s wonderful. And then rifling through her paperwork, charts and drawings, assessments, Top of his class, top of his class. Always friendly, always helping other students. I love him. And I see his perfect report card every time I open the refrigerator door – 99th percentile for reading, “Advanced” across the board, long teacher comments dotted with smiley faces and exclamation points, singing his praises.

Those are big shoes to fill, big footsteps for Lila to follow. Big footprints for me to ignore. Because she does not need to follow his path, she is her own person and will make her own way. It is me who needs to shelve the expectations that I have for Alex as being unique to him and embrace Lila for who she will be as she starts school.

And, having grown up in the shadow of a 99th percentile, intelligent, hard working older sibling in a small town where people know who your siblings are – I know that it’s an expectation that teachers might have for her as well. I still remember the coffee breath blowing over my forehead as a teacher leaned down and asked me with an ugly expression on his face, Aren’t you Gwenne’s sister? Can’t tell. (Because I wasn’t as mathematically inclined.) Things like that, they linger.


Lila came out from the assessment with her head down, eyes on the floor, fingers at her lips – nervous. She did not make eye contact with the screener, who was not terribly personable herself. She gave me the routine We’ll send you the results in July, things to work on. She did a nice job. Thank you. Good bye. In a nutshell.

As we walked to the car, Lila had her arms wrapped around her chest, her chin buried down. Are you okay?  I asked, how did it go?

I don’t want to talk about it, was all she gave me.

This is not my daughter.

And so, my Small Town Public School, here are the things your fifteen minute assessment of my daughter’s capabilities won’t tell you:

*She was walking and talking before she was twelve months.

*She was the toddler who took her older brother by the hand and helped him feel comfortable with going to Sunday School and Children’s church.

*She will remember every conversation you have with her and analyze it as she sits in the back of our minivan, looking out the window, (occasionally asking me questions that point me in the direction of where her mind is wandering.)

*She is easily encouraged and easily discouraged. Encouragement will get you further.

*What she thinks is beautiful is different than what you think is beautiful. Her outfits and hair styles will most likely reflect this on a daily basis.

*She likes to wear glittery shoes and then jump in mud puddles. She picks up her baby sister every morning and runs to her when she is crying. She dances with her little brother and goes to dreams of princes and getting married in a blue Cinderella gown. She still sleeps with her favorite blanket.

*Her socks will never match and she does not care one bit.

*When you do embarrass her, she retreats into herself, locks the door and hides the key until she has time to lick her wounds. (Or until you do something foolish enough to make her smile and forget.)

*She knows more, and can do more, than she is telling you.

*She keeps a little pot of gold deep down inside herself and if you are lucky enough to earn her trust, she will show you glimmers, but not everything. She guards her treasures close to her heart.

*I am hard on her at home so that you shouldn’t need to be. (You’re welcome.)

My daughter is smart and witty and amazing and you (I) need to assess whether you (or I) are even up to the challenge of her wonderfulness.


  1. oh my dear. This is so lovely. And your daughter, who I have yet to meet, is also twice as lovely. No one will define her. She will blaze her own trail, with sparkles in her eyes as well as her hair clips. With a mother like you, who will encourage and embrace and love, I don’t see how she can’t.

  2. stacey

    brought tears to my eyes Melly! I always compare my kids but I need to stop and realize that they are two WAY different children. Where Sawyer is intelligent and articulate….Taylor is a silly heart and just wants to make you smile 🙂 I admire how God has made each child in his own likeness. Thanks for your well worded thoughts on a beautiful little lady and on life in general 🙂

  3. eryn

    ok, so, I know how wonderful your daughter is, and the experience you described at the “screening” just made me want to cry . . . . I look forward to those adorable mismatched socks and unique little outfits 3 days a week. She is like sunshine in each classroom full of kids I have seen her in. She is amazingly good, smart, funny, helpful, kind, and beautiful!!!! Thanks for the reminder that no matter what our children’s strengths and capabilities are, it’s WHO they are that we cherish them for, not what they can or cannot do . . . .

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