There’s something we’ve been avoiding at all costs in this house. And by ‘we’, I mean me. And by avoiding, I mean every time my older child brings up the subject, I sigh, and shake my head, and leave the room as quickly as physically possible.
It’s time for my older son, who is a junior in high school, to take the ACT for the first time. Of course, he needs parental assistance to register for the ACT. This assistance is problematic, however, because it requires me to accept the fact that in roughly 20 months, I will be escorting my child to his college of choice in order for him to begin his freshman year.
Oh? You’ve never felt the urge to hide behind the couch in an effort to avoid your teenage son and his repeated requests to sign up for a standardized test? I feel sorry for you…
Note from J: He would like to remind all involved at this time that we are very fortunate in the fact we convinced K to complete his senior year, even though he will have enough high school credits to graduate on the college prep track at the end of this year.
The other night, I could no longer refuse him. It was the deadline for him to register for the December sitting of the ACT. The time was now; I had procrastinated all I could, so he and I sat down in front of the computer to fill out the registration and questionnaires together.
And by together, I mean he did all of it while I sat there and sighed and made pitiful-looking faces in his general direction. Well, until the point where I began to question all of my parenting choices and wonder at the level of damaging weirdness I appear to have passed along to my son. The moment of this transition occurred rather quickly; the first warning signs presented itself during the process of creating a login. Let me give you a few examples:
The Login: K decides against my advice to pick something very easy to remember (because how often are we going to actually use this login? Please, for the love of all things good, let’s not have to use this login more than two or three times, okay?) for his login and decides to go with something more amusing to him—DeathDevilCatz666.* He giggles like a small child while typing this in. I begin to wonder if a user’s account login is part of the score report that is sent to the schools he will later choose…
Institutional Preferences: Despite listing himself as male in the basic demographic data section, the questionnaire allows him to select that he would prefer to attend an all-female school for college (as opposed to co-ed or all-male). I don’t blame this one on him as much as I do the company that administers the ACT. Folks, you are dealing with adolescent boys here. Did you think this wouldn’t happen time and again?
Ethnicity: It has become apparent that the standard response J and I always give the boys about ethnicity in an effort to promote tolerance for all people (“Ah, we’re mutts. We probably have a little bit of everything in us!”) has been taken in the most literal sense as my son clicks every ethnicity option available to him, including ‘other’. Again, I blame the questionnaire more than my son on this option. Firstly, why do allow all of the options to be selected? There’s like, 30 options! And what do you really mean by ‘other’? When you have 30 options previous to the ‘other’ at the bottom of the question, the only things that could remain as potential ‘others’ are panda bear and alien!
The Picture: Long gone are the days of ACT registration where you filled out a half-page form in the counselor’s office at school, and threw twenty bucks at them. Oh, no. In addition to the questionnaires that took roughly 15 hours to answer, you now must upload a picture of the test-taker, to be compared to both their physical appearance and their photo ID, on test day. This is an effort curb any impropriety by those who may be swayed into having a smart kid take the test for them. That’s fine; I understand your reasoning and this is a very simple request. That being said, dear company, you are dealing with adolescent males, and you should expect a certain level of shenanigans when it comes to the selfie taken on the phone or computer and uploaded for identification purposes on test day. And why, WHY would you even consider posting that photo to the score reports you send to their selected schools? The urge to be original/creative/creepy/humorous in a way that only appeals to other teenage boys becomes overwhelming to the young males in question, and you WILL get the oddest selfies taken by humans. I took no less than 56 pictures of my son making some of the oddest faces known to man. Seriously, some of these poses will haunt my dreams for years to come. Why did he feel the urge to throw his head back, shrink his neck (how does he even do this? Is my child some type of constrictor?) to virtual nonexistence, and stick out the tip of his tongue? Why does he feel the need to take a photo of himself demonstrating exactly how wide a human being’s eyes can open? Why did he feel the need to wear an ugly Christmas sweater in the photo (the sweater in question features a cat, and says “Meowy Christmas” on it)? WHY? I finally selected a slightly blurry photo that only ranked at about 42% on the creepiness scale when I lost all parental authority and doubled over in stomach-pain-inducing laughter for so long I was afraid the registration was going to time out and we would have to start the 15 hour process all over again.
There are several things I learned from this registration experience, but two items are significant enough to note here. First and foremost, there is no doubt that this is, in fact, MY child, and obviously, all the weirdness I thought I had handily hidden away in the recesses of my mind where no one can see has been quietly seeping out, unbeknownst to me, in ways that my children have been able to observe and model. Second, and I don’t know how I am going to accomplish this quite yet (thank goodness I still have some time), I am going to need to be better prepared when it’s actually time to apply to the colleges themselves and to financial aid. I have a feeling it’s going to involve copious amounts of wine.
*That’s not his actual login. I have substituted a login name made up by me. I cannot actually match the oddness of his login. This feels important to note.