Last week while the boys were playing outside, I saw the postman come to the door. It was Saturday late morning and he was early. My heart sank. My pulse became rapid and I seriously thought I would throw up. It’s not that I have a no-confidence vote for my son, it’s that we have been here before in London, a few years ago, and it was an excruciatingly awful experience trying to fit the circle of what felt like my son’s very soul into a square, rigid, awkward peg. He was shoved and pushed, this way and that, and all I could do was watch with horror.
So here we are in the Palisades, with schools ranging from very progressive to quite traditional, much more fitting for my unconventional son, and it’s taking all my strength to reach the front door. I feel as though all of his self worth is wrapped up in these decisions. Will he finally get in to a school that is on his list? Will they see the beauty that he has? Or will he be chucked out again, without much consideration or any sense of loss.
The postman walks away. I’m watching him from the window. I open the front door and stare at the box. If there is a big envelope, he’s in. If there’s a small envelope, he’s out. The metal box was easily shut, so unless a packet was folded well, it’s not a good sign. I open the box. There is a local newspaper folded with other white envelopes draped around it. Could he really have been chosen??
But as I unfold the mess of papers, my heart literally stops for a second. There is nothing there. Nothing! Was it so bad they didn’t bother writing at all? Wait, shit, wait, we’ve moved…surely I changed our address. Think, think…uh, nope. I didn’t. How painful is this moment? After the agonizing wait to get these friggin letters, I never even thought once to change our address with these schools.
My son comes to the door. My face tells a story he can’t read. “I didn’t get in, did I,” he said forlorn of all hope. I was so mortified of my mistake I just threw my arms around him which, in that moment, probably made it worse for him. I told him how I messed up and that it’s a sign for us to relax and know that he will go where he is meant to go. Neither one of us really felt any better by my wise words because in the moment, accepting that things are meant to be as they should be felt more like a concept that is wise and beyond us; failure feels like failure and wanting something you can’t have feels like shit.
A few hours later my computer ‘bings’. It’s an email from one of his top choice schools. ‘Congratulations…you have been accepted to by part of the Class of 2016. By now you would have received our letter and forms in the mail….’ I scream to my son. This time he can read a different face, but still wonders what disappointment awaits. He very cautiously reads the email. “I got in? I got in!!!!” Apparently some schools send emails as well.
The moral of the story…well, honestly, how much easier is it for me to write that the moral is about believing that things are as they should be, that they will work out in the end, when my son did indeed get into a good school. I wonder what I would write if he hadn’t? What I know to be true, here and in London, is how hard it is to judge one’s child based on where they are and not where everyone else is; how tricky to stay in your own game with them. For now, we celebrate that he finally gets to feel the academic accomplishment he deserves and make sure we regulate the critics that surround us all. The worst ones, of course, are in our head.