How To Study For Your Boards: Go On A Play Date

I took the medical board recertification exam this week. This is a day-long, standardized multiple-choice test that practicing internists need to take (and pass) every ten years. It’s becoming more difficult to pass: ten years ago, the pass rate was 90%. Last year, it was 78%.

I’ve been fretting about this for months. I bought the study materials in November. I registered and paid my fee in December. I got into full study gear in January. Since then, despite my best intentions and over a thousand dollars’ worth of written, electronic, and audio board prep material, I just hadn’t been able to get through all the information.

So, last Sunday, three days before the test, I found myself staring at the list of areas I hadn’t even looked at, pondering what to cram: Endocrine, Rheum, Nephrology, or Neurology? Ugh. Still so much to read, and hundreds of potential practice questions to answer…

Then, I got a message from another mom of a boy in Babyboy’s class: They were free for the afternoon, did we want to pop over for a play date?

I stared at the message, thinking, Oh, goodness. Bad timing. I have this really important test in three days for which I have absolutely not studied adequately.

And then I messaged back: Yes! We’d love to! What time?

You see, Babyboy had never been on a play date before. Yeah, we have relatives and neighbors he’s played with, but no real play dates, like, with classmates or other peers. He’s only ever been invited to two birthday parties, and one was this kid’s party, several months ago. This mom and I had chatted about getting the kids together outside of school sometime. She’s a working professional, and we’d had a lot to talk about. But with our schedules, and just general busy-ness, it hadn’t yet happened. For all these reasons, I thought it was more important to accept the impromptu invitation.

I asked Babyboy what he thought about going to play at his buddy’s house, and he was very excited. So I left Babygirl with Hubby and we headed over.

But when we got there, Babyboy wouldn’t even look at his classmate. The child came close and smiled, said hello, but Babyboy had no response, and resisted any prompts by anyone to engage.

The mother, her two kids and I walked over to their jungle gym, which featured Babyboy’s favorite: a sand box with digger toys. But he wouldn’t come near, and instead, retreated to the farthest corner of the yard, looking down, shuffling his feet. When we called and called for him to come closer, he instead started walking around the yard, circling us from along the tree line.

I admit that I felt so frustrated at that point, I wanted to cry. I considered just packing it up and going home. But the mom was very nice and understanding, and we just sat and chatted. Babyboy came closer to ask for a snack, and he interacted with us adults briefly. Afterwards, he went right back to his slow, shuffling circling… But we noticed that the circle was getting somewhat closer. As more time passed, he was walking right around the jungle gym, and then around the sandbox, where the other kids were… and then, he began curiously touching the swings, the ladder, the ramp…

Eventually he ended up digging near the other boy, but not interacting. Then, we had to go in for a potty break and diaper change. The kids played Legos inside, near each other, not really interacting. Two hours total passed, and I started getting ready to leave. As we stood outside in wrapping-it-up chitchat, the other boy asked Babyboy what he was doing, and Babyboy responded: “I’m writing with chalk”. Which he was. On their tree.

After that, they actually started playing together, a happy game of race-the-car-down-the-hill, punctuated by “Hey I had that first” or “I want that”. They were making eye contact, discussing what to do, arguing… like normal kids. Again, I wanted to cry.

I joked with the mom about how ironic it was that it had taken over two hours for Babyboy to warm up, and now that they were finally playing together, it was time for us to go home.

As we drove home, Babyboy asked, “When can we come back?” and I knew that his first playdate was a success.

The boards? Hopefully a success as well. I won’t know if I passed for another three months. It was a very difficult test, but I don’t think an extra afternoon of cramming would have made a big difference… I’m counting on my standardized test-taking skills to have pulled me through.

Time will tell.

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