Last week, while the rest of the city buzzed about the Giants, Hillary vs. Obama or whether kids should be allowed at Union Hall, a certain echelon of Park Slopers obsessed over which PS 321 kids got into local private schools.
Smartmom had this thought: Who cares? It’s your business if you want to send your kid to private school. But it’s really creepy when everyone has to know who got in and who didn’t.
Then again, it’s probably human nature, sour grapes and just the Park Slope envy thing:
Doesn’t everyone want to spend $26,000 on private school?
Doesn’t everyone want to know that her kid measures up to the rarified standards of local private schools?
Doesn’t everyone want to exit the diverse and sometimes messy world of the New York City public school system and enroll in a private Nirvana?
Smartmom is, of course, being facetious. There are plenty of parents around here who, like Smartmom, can’t afford to send their kids to private school. And even if they could afford it, probably wouldn’t do it because they believe in the benefits of a public education.
Still, last week, Smartmom found her mood swinging faster than a cab on Fourth Avenue.
On the one hand, she was fascinated with all the stories about who got in and who didn’t. In fact, she couldn’t get enough of it.
On the other hand, she found herself getting agitated again and again when she heard about children having emotional meltdowns over their rejection letters.
Judging by the way the parents were reacting to the news, it’s no wonder that the kids were taking it so hard.
When Smartmom’s friend told her that her son didn’t get into a certain local private school, she could tell that both of them were deeply hurt. To console her, Smartmom told her friend that she wanted to send a particularly nasty letter to the admission’s department. And she meant it.
Do people actually think this stuff is meaningful? A kid is not smarter, more desirable and more interesting than another kid just because a private school wants him or her.
At Sweet Melissa’s on Friday morning, the air was thick with admissions gossip. “So and so got into Berkeley Carroll.” “So and so got into Poly-Prep and Packer.” “So and so didn’t get into any of the schools she applied to.” “So and so got into all the schools he applied to. With financial aid.” Blah, blah, blah.
One friend’s son didn’t get into one of the private schools on his list. It’s not like he wanted to go there or anything. It’s just that it made him wonder why he wasn’t good enough for that school — he’s got plenty of friends who go there and he just can’t figure out why he can’t go there, too.
Life lesson, some would say. But don’t you think fifth grade is a little young for life lessons? Fifth grade is too early to feel like the jury has already decided that you’re on the B-list and someone else is on the A-list. All of this comparative babbling made Smartmom want to stand on one of the calico-covered banquettes at Sweet Melissa’s and scream, “Stop it! This competitive culture is disgusting!”
And it’s not just private school.
Last week, the public middle school applications were due. With Smartmom’s help, OSFO decided on schools she is interested in. The night before it was due, OSFO filled out the form. In ink. With great seriousness, she selected her first, second, third, fourth and fifth choice.
Now the waiting game begins. In a few months, the talk of Seventh Avenue will be who did and who didn’t get into the hot public schools.
There are going to be hurt feelings and deep dips of self esteem (for parents and children).
Smartmom isn’t looking forward to it. In the meantime, she can try to teach OSFO how subjective and shallow all of this is, how important it is to not let yourself feel judged by others, how important it is to feel strong within yourself.
It’s going to be a hard lesson to teach because Smartmom is still trying to learn that life lesson herself.
Every day. Maybe they can work on it together.