My boys are applying to schools. Even though the local public school is award winningly awesome, and even though they are currently thriving at a competitive, wonderful, traditional private school that goes through high school… we’re applying to schools. Sometimes (most times) I think this is bonkers. However, it’s also the only conversation I keep having because everyone else also has kids applying to schools—mostly colleges, but still, it’s all very similar. We’ve bought into the expensive, privileged idea that the “right school” will coax our children into becoming contributing members of society rather than boomeranging back to our basements. And it won’t. Deep down we know this. Yet still… we’re applying to schools.
My first pass at the applications was to make fun of them. You know, just a little. It’s so ridiculous to ask teenagers to write essays about a life changing experience when they really only have a handful of sentient years to draw from. Or asking parents what our short- and long-range academic goals are for our kids. HOW DO YOU NOT MAKE FUN OF THAT PROMPT? Any parent a generation ago would have snort-laughed and groused that the goal was to get the kids outta the house and paying their own way. But I refrained, and Bernie and I gave the usual reasons for applying to their school: reputation, academic vigor, something about “good fit,” and a nod to whatever they bragged about during the tours. To date, I’ve seen 6 art rooms with pottery wheels. The pricier and more exclusive the education, the more likely a kid is to make urns.
Every school is desperate to be the most inclusive and diversity is a religion. Brodie wondered aloud how the white kids were answering all of these We Are the World prompts when he can just bring his mixed DNA into the conversation. And me and Bernie? We can play that up. That is, when they recognize that I’m the mom. Although DIVERSITY gets an entire page in all of the brochures, I was assumed to be the “handler” for Brodie at one school, and at another the interviewer looked right past my outstretched hand for the more likely mom. This happens lots anyway, and it’s fine… but when it happens right alongside a framed mission statement about how inclusive and safe and wonderful and kind and diverse everything is… just calm down, diversity cheerleaders.
I am sure my own college essay stunk worse than a hockey bag, but Brodie devoted three painful days to revising a statement of how he became a better person when something bad happened… to get into high school. And he didn’t even throw down the Cancer card. Tackling these prompts with Teddy was much more fun. He has quick, witty answers for everything. And when he wrote about going to Taiwan, meeting a now favorite uncle, and writing, “the saddest day was when Ah-Bei went back to Shanghai” with actual tears in his eyes… I fell in love with my own kid all over again and preemptively hate anyone who plans to reject him. Asked to provide any additional information, Teddy wrote only one sentence: “I am a skilled dancer and I love musicals.” Love that kid.
We’re nearing the end of this process and probably the most useful aspect is now we’re a bit more prepared for the hellish torture college applications will be. Hats off to you, parents who have suffered through Early Action stress. Because there are always smarter, more athletic, ability-to-build-a-new-library, legacy, politics, and other factors that go into curating a class at these incredible schools, we have no idea what outcome to expect. I keep returning to the only thing that is true: it doesn’t matter. Home schooled, public schooled, boarding schooled, or frankly left to their own devices, Brodie will still be this old soul with an impossibly gorgeous face spouting factoids (did you know there are more chickens in the US than people on the planet?) and Teddy will always know he’s the smartest kid and best dancer in any room (mostly true). Where they go to school and what they do will never be who they are. Never. I can only hope these (stupid) applications captured their zany differences, their deliciously voracious intellects, their uniqueness, their lovable Lee-ness.