My Postman is Better Than Your Postman

03.11.13

Friday night was a bit of a disaster. We all hopped in the car to go to Sugarfish and as we were almost there Jane yelled at one of us for something. I lost it and yelled something at her to further escalate the issue. I should have known better. I’m allegedly the adult.

We turned around and went home because I spent eight long years working in diners, bars and steak houses and I’ll be damned if I’m ever going to be the person who goes to a restaurant to fight. Those are the worst tippers and the most horrible patrons. If you’re having a bad day stay home until you can pretend to be happy.

We had dinner, Jane was sullen and Alexander was trying to cheer her up. When we’d finished she looked at me and asked if I’d take her to Hugo’s for hot cocoa. Not only did we go but we had a lovely time. She was chatty and happy and back to being the kid I’ve raised for 14 years. Things were normal again.

Until Saturday morning. There was door slamming and yelling at 8.30 in the morning. Again, this is my sweet and even tempered child. I don’t have experience with mood swings, tantrums or doors slamming. We didn’t even have a terrible twos. Nothing. We just had Friday night and Saturday morning. Mercifully at about 9am an email came through with a link to a video. It was this.

Ever since traveling with the folks from Project Aether I’ve been looking at single sex schools differently and Archer is a great match for my kid. I love everything about that school and hoped that it would be her first choice. It wasn’t and I’m pretty sure she’ll be going somewhere else but I’m wise enough to know that until we put the envelope in the mail things can change.

Jane was incredibly relieved because Archer was higher on her list than Notre Dame but not as high up as Viewpoint or Oakwood. Shortly after 9 she’d showered and we looked outside and saw two magical objects parked on the street. Mail Delivery Trucks.

Jane and I did the same thing as many mothers and daughters around Los Angeles on Saturday morning. We hovered on steps at the front door and sort of stared longingly at the trucks. I sort of nudged Jane and said, “Go ask the mail carrier if you can have your mail first.” And she declined. Too shy.

So I sort of wandered to the mail box and my mail carrier came to talk to me. He has a 15 year old daughter and wondered if we were waiting for a package, he didn’t want to disappoint Jane but we had no packages. I explained to him that we were waiting for high school acceptance letters and he gave a finger wag and a, “Why didn’t you say so?” talk. He explained that he was training a new carrier and he was slow but getting faster and was just around the corner. We talked about his daughter’s high school and then he just disappeared.

The next thing I know my mail carrier is running down the middle of the street holding envelopes up over his head and yelling, “They’re here, they’re here!” and the neighbors are looking and one of the envelopes is very very big while two of them are small. Jane runs to meet him and starts screaming Viewpoint after grabbing the large envelope from his happy hands. Our neighbors and their kids are yelling congratulations and all is right in the world.

 

Unprepared for Disappointment (updated)

03.8.13

My daughter is cranky today. This is worth noting because, much like her father, Jane has a complete inability to hold a grudge or stay angry for any period of time. I, however, am perfectly capable of holding a grudge long enough to forget a person’s facial features but I can easily recall the slight. I’m not proud of this. It’s just the way we’re made. So when I pick up a stressed out and unhappy kid from school I was surprised and unprepared. Alexander and I are walking on eggshells, she’s sitting next to me now scowling a bit and refreshing her email every few seconds.

Today is the day that the high school acceptance letters are put in the mail. Last Friday was the day for the parochial schools and today is the day for the secular schools and my daughter is freaking out more than a little. She applied to one Catholic School and was accepted there. It’s a great school, she and I both love it (Mr. G is lukewarm) but it’s not her first choice.

Last Friday at promptly 3pm I got an email from Notre Dame congratulating Jane on her acceptance. The following day an admissions packet was sent to my mother’s house (we’d had that bit of mail forwarded to where the kids were staying) and tomorrow is an orientation day (which is code for get your checkbooks out). Of course we’re supposed to be at that school first thing in the morning tomorrow but the mail arrives around 12.30 which will let Jane know what other schools she’s been accepted to and there’s the whole issue of being in two places at once.

In that car on the way home today Jane was really upset that one of her teachers wasn’t current on grades so she appears to have a B when, in fact, it’s more like a B+ or an A- and the high schools got the wrong grades and on and on. Again, there is oddity in hearing her upset. So Alexander pulled out his limited toolkit and said something about how she’d get into every school she applied to and not to worry. He was met with venom. “Don’t say that! You don’t know that. Stop it.”

And we were all silent. Both of my kids were miserable and I wanted to punish my daughter and hug her at the same moment.

Alexander and I are doing our best to avoid her now and she’s just asked if we can have dinner at Sugarfish. I said no but missed the moment when I didn’t finish the sentence with… because I’m not spending $150 to have sushi with you when you’re nasty. I guess a good bit of parenting involves missing the moment. It’s a good thing I’ve got a few more years to get that right.

It occurred to me just moments ago that I have a celebration plan. We’ll have a nice dinner somewhere (probably Sugarfish or Katsuya) and then we’ll buy her a sweatshirt from whatever high school she decides to attend. I had not even thought of the fact that she might only get into one school. I have no plan that involves disappointment. I’m not the most optimistic woman in the world but I’m not a pessimist either. I just see my kids and I see perfection so I assume the rest of the world will too. This is probably not a realistic manner in which to approach the world.

So 3pm has come and gone and Jane and I are silently thinking that the lack of emails mean non-acceptance. When 5pm and 6pm pass and there are no emails I’m assuming that our anxiety levels will soar. How do I parent her through this one? What if her first choice school doesn’t see her as their first choice? Do I pretend to be okay with it?

What if no one emails and we actually have to wait until tomorrow afternoon? Will my heart hold out? This is not the part of parenting that I’m good at. It’s a good thing someone sent me Kinderchocolate. I’m about to bury my face in it so that my daughter can learn some real coping skills.

Update: Apparently we’re going to Sugarfish…

Sugarfish

The Benefits of a K-8 School

12.12.12

The high school applications are almost done for Jane and although it’s an extraordinary amount of paperwork it hasn’t been horribly overwhelming. The summer before 7th grade the kids all get a letter addressed to them (and not us parents) that reminds them that 7th grade really matters for high school admissions. It’s time to ramp it up and get the best grades possible. It’s a nice letter, an encouraging letter and it’s proven to be quite effective for the bulk of the kids.

8th grade is spent focusing on getting into high school. Our weekends have been consumed with school visits and the evenings are spent writing essays and trying to figure out what Jane has done that makes her special. The letter that I really want to write is this:

Dear Admissions Committee,

Jane is a good girl. She gets mostly A’s but every so often she’ll get overwhelmed or forget to turn something in and the grades slip a bit, but never below a B. She never gets below a B in part because she’s very bright but also because she’d lose all of her sports. If you ever want to make my daughter miserable just take team sports away from her. Scratch that, please don’t ever make my daughter miserable I love her.

You’ll love her too. You see, she’s a cheerful sort. When you need a big smile Jane’s your girl. She’s an enthusiastic learner and you’ll get the opportunity to educate me as well. Jane will repeat most of your lectures for me in the car on the way home, she’ll be doing it at warp speed though so if I cough I might miss a sentence or two.

She’s looking to play high school sports and is on the fence about track. A word to the wise? Give her a decent coach and chase her around the campus a little. That girl of mine is fast.

Unfortunately Mr. G and I married for love so there will be no buildings named after us and I won’t be the mom who lives on campus to organize your gala. I’m a pretty good room mom and I’ve been known to give a few shekels extra but mostly from us you’ll get tuition and annual fund money. That’s about it.

I also want to make it perfectly clear that Jane is using you. She only wants to read Shakespeare and do a lot of math. I know she really likes your film program but let’s face facts. Your high school is just her stepping stone to NYU.

I’m pretty sure that won’t work so instead I’ll talk about her good grades, her recent awards, her ability to work hard and her altruism. I’ll talk about our commitment to academia for it’s own sake and then step out of the way because something is happening with high school that I never thought would happen to us.

Going back in time a bit… when Jane was in about the third grade I’d watch the mothers with the eighth grade kids talking to them about their high school decisions. I remember asking one mom which school she wanted to her daughter to go to and she sort of shrugged and said, “It’s not really my choice.” I smiled at her and pretended to understand but until just a few months ago I really couldn’t comprehend how a teenager could be in charge of a decision as enormous as choosing their own high school.

Parents are in charge, right?

Well, parents are in charge. I didn’t allow Jane to apply to one school that she was interested in. I didn’t like what I saw there and I wouldn’t give them my money or four years of my daughter’s life. We looked at about eight schools. I said no to one of them, that was my input. Now Jane has to tour, apply, test and interview at about five of them and my best guess is that in March she’ll need to pick the one she likes best. It will be her decision.

To an outside observer this seems like a horrible process that tortures teens during critical years of their development stripping away yet another year of their childhood. From many of us whose children are leaving K-8 schools it’s a moment in time where everyone works hard for a common goal and an entire community celebrates our children’s achievements.

Yes, you read that right. I think this entire application process is good for everyone. I can’t speak for every school but my daughter’s school has a plan that began in 7th grade with a trimester long class that was devoted to researching high schools. The kids left that class with detailed spreadsheets that included everything from class size to reputation for 50 private and parochial schools in the area. Over the summer we met with school administrators who gave us lists of good matches for Jane that included a few safe schools (she’s pretty much guaranteed to get in) and a few reach schools (they admit less than 10 children in 9th grade). In October the 8th grade parents had a group meeting with the administrators once again to discuss deadlines and ISEE registration.

Going through this as a group is sort of like a really hard Zumba class. Just when you think you might die and you’re zigging while everyone else is zagging the music stops and no one died. The kids all get into good schools and everyone’s fitness levels soared.

The last applications go out this afternoon. The ISEE exams are in three days and the interviews really aren’t my problem. I just show up as the mom, tell them who Jane is, let them see who we are and wait.

My 14 year old will make the decisions now. It’s really fantastic.