When the brunette twin is upset, we know it. She will talk or cry or snuggle in a way that let's us know there is something bothering her. If she's really upset, she'll grab Koala and crawl into her bed. She's an open book when it comes to things that bother her. It's why I spent more than one movie sitting in the lobby while the blond twin and Daddy finished the movie. The brunette twin was frightened and wanted to leave the theater.
The blond twin wants so badly to be seen as a big girl that she rarely tells us she's afraid. I can remember only a few times when she said something frightened her. Usually we don't discover a problem until it shows up later.
When she was little she had night terrors. She'd wake up in the middle of the night screaming and shaking. She'd babble nonsense while we held her trying to soothe her. Sometimes the night terrors were easy to trace. The blond twin watched a scary movie or someone was mean to her. Other times we had to piece together possibilities. She rarely experiences night terrors anymore. Now her manifestation of choice is a stomach ache.
I picked up the blond twin at school today. The health aid called to say she had a terrible stomach ache and thought she was going to throw up. When we were in the car driving home, I asked her what was wrong. She replied that she was really nervous, but didn't know why. I didn't probe anymore. I know exactly why she was nervous. This week the girls have their standardized tests.
The blond twin knows that if she doesn't do well on the standardized tests that she will be dropped form all her advanced classes. It's one of three test points the school uses to determine who is in what grouping. In third grade she was not in the advanced math program. She spent an entire year bored and frustrated. She tested back into advanced math in fourth grade. She loves it. She loves the challenges. She loves the teacher. She loves the advanced work. She doesn't want to lose her advanced classes because she doesn't test well on a standardized test.
The problem is not her testing skills. She tests well because she knows her stuff. The problem is she understands how important standardized tests are to her school placement. It stinks for her. She's a smart kid, but that doesn't matter if she doesn't receive the test scores the school requires for placement.
I want to protect her from this stress, but I know it is more important that she learns to manage it. Throughout her life there will be test after test after test. She won't be able to come home from all of them. We'll have to figure out how to move from "too scared to move" to a place where the stress motivates her to do her best. It won't be easy, but she really can't continue like this.