January through April of 1996 proved to be a very stressful time in my life. My son, Christian was four years old and I was filling out applications for admission to several of Atlanta’s finest private schools. Kindergarten was right around the corner, and everyone knows that getting into a good kindergarten is critical if you’re going to be a success in life. Really. People in Atlanta go crazy during private school admission season. I admit that I got caught up in the frenzy, but who wouldn’t? I mean there was something like a fillion-dillion applicants for three spots and two were earmarked for siblings. Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but statistically it was more competitive for my son to get into to kindergarten in 1996 than it was for me to be admitted to Yale in 1980. Really. I remember one question on the application that really worried me. It went something like this: List and describe all honors and accomplishments. Now keep in mind we are talking about four years olds. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Did I miss something? I contemplated describing the ease with which Christian completed potty training by the age of 2, but ended up leaving it blank. He got in anyway.
Fast-forward five years. I am now going through the same process for Jared, but this time I am a seasoned private school parent. In addition to submitting an application, candidates must attend one of several Assessment Days during which they are asked to complete a series of tasks and exercises with faculty members. The best part is that parents get to observe this phase of the process, and since Jared was entitled to sibling consideration, I was much more relaxed the second time around. If only I’d known what was about to unfold surely I would not have been the cool cucumber I was. I suppose that’s why they say ignorance is bliss.
As Jared’s session wound to a close, the teacher assessing him handed him a large blank sheet of paper and some crayons and instructed him to draw a self-portrait.
“Jared, do you know what a self-portrait is?”
“Yes, ma’am. It’s a picture of me.”
“Very good, Jared. Now, I’m going to sit at that table across the room and talk to that little boy for a few minutes. While I’m gone, I’d like you to draw a self-portrait. Do you think you can do that?”
I watched from afar as Jared worked fervently on what I anticipated would be a masterpiece of a self-portrait. He finished quickly and shielding his artwork from my view, glanced over his shoulder and shot me a sly smile as if to say, “You’re going to love this picture.” I smiled back knowingly and gave him a special mommy wink and a nod. The teacher returned to Jared’s table and sat beside him.
“Oh my. Can you tell me about this picture Jared?”
“Yes. It’s a picture of my mommy dancing with a lampshade on her head.”
Now I know full well that Jared understood the instructions given to him. What I don’t know is why he chose to draw a portrait of me, and of all things, dancing with a lampshade on my head. I have never danced with a lampshade on my head (that I remember). And if I had, I certainly would not have allowed my children to see me. Really.
Apparently Jared’s sense of humor was perceived as a sign of intelligence because in the end he got in anyway. Phew.