Wombat has a kindergarten screening tomorrow morning and I wish I could be cool and breezy about it but I just can’t. Those of you who are surprised at this development, please form a line behind the unicorn.
I’m not sure what all is involved in the screening–some group circle time and some one-on-one time with an administrator, from what I can gather; perhaps there will be an impromptu talent show during which Wombat can prove his well-roundedness by showcasing his “dance” “moves”?–and I promise I haven’t worked myself into a mess of unnecessary froth about him not passing muster as far as “readiness” is concerned. He’s beyond ready, no question about it. (And he still has to wait eight months arrghhbffttapp!) No, friends, I’ve worked myself into a very necessary froth over the plain fact that for Wombat to get into this school (and the other private option we applied to), he can’t be deemed merely “acceptable,” he has to be exceptional. He needs to be desirable. They have to want him/us.
Here’s how it works: If you have a jillion dollars and want to send your kid to a private school, you go to the kindergarten screening and hope your precious spawn doesn’t bite anyone or pee on the rug while muttering profanities, and then you wait six weeks to receive your acceptance letter in the mail, and then you fork over $25K a year and then you pat yourself on the back for a job well done. When you’re us, though, you fret about the kindergarten screening because you know you’re not just competing with 150+ kids for one of 20 spots, you’re competing with who knows how many kids and from who knows what backgrounds for an unknown portion of whatever amount of financial aid is budgeted not just for entering kindergarteners but for kindergarteners–and any upcoming siblings–whom the school anticipates giving an equal amount of financial aid every year until they graduate from high school. It’s kind of a big deal.
So yeah. They have to want us enough to pay for us is the thing. And one of the admissions people told us straight up that a child’s acceptance not only has a lot to do with how he or she contributes to the balance of classroom demographics in terms of sex, age, ethnicity, family makeup, etc., but also how the money thing shakes out, i.e., if they have two applicants who are equal on all other counts, they’ll usually pick the kid who can pay full/more tuition because it’s better for the school that way. This is why when we got our financial aid assessment back from the national organization who decides how much each family can afford, we were on the one hand happy that we qualify for so much aid but on the other hand nervous that we might qualify for too much. We could totally be rejected from the private schools for being too needy, which, hello, we own a house and have two cars and two jobs and college degrees and live blocks away from people who are actually needy, and a can of worms just exploded all over my brain. (In theory, every kid has a chance to go to a good school, but my experience over the past month has shown how very wrong that theory is, but that’s a story for another day.)
Perhaps what’s wigging me out the most about the situation is that there’s very little we can do about a decision that rests so heavily on factors beyond our control. I’ve felt at times like a desperate girlfriend in the way I’ve whispered at the schools’ webpages “Just tell me what you want so I can be that for you, baby!” but the thing is, if they want to balance their classroom demographics with, say, a Chinese girl who has two dads, we really can’t give that to them, at least not without some Hollywood special effects and a wig.
And of course we don’t want to be what they want, we want them to want who we are. (Is there a difference? I don’t even know anymore.) While it’s frustrating that we have so little control over the situation, I guess you could also look at it as totally freeing because we can’t really be anything other than ourselves. All we can really do at this point is wait.
I hate waiting.
As for Wombat, the whole thing has been presented to him as a zero-pressure deal–”It’s a day of pretend kindergarten! Woo! (Please don’t bite anyone.)”–and I’m honestly not hoping for him to go into the screening and present himself as better or “more” or in any way different than he is. I just want him to be himself, which sounds easy enough, but five-year-olds are mercurial beings and I can’t lie that I’m crossing my fingers he’ll give the admissions committee a two-hour window into his bright, bubbly, wonderful, charming personality instead of a too-long snippet of him acting like a total spaz.
Then again, maybe they’re looking for someone to fill in the spaz spot of the diversity quota?
Photos by the amazing Carla, who took our holiday card photos, which I want to share with you because they’re SO PRETTY because she’s SO UNBELIEVABLY TALENTED because we’re really not as sun-kissed and love-soaked as we appear in her photos. At least I’m not.