This time around though, the stars aren’t cuties Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens, they’re the sweet faces of our very own teens, and a lot of them are red-faced and teary-eyed. NYC high school acceptance letters are being delivered this weekend, some finding out yesterday and others today, depending on the middle school they attend. My son’s 8th grade class got their news yesterday. Needless to say it’s been a whirlwind. See, NYC is unlike most, if not all school districts in the country. There are hundreds of high schools to choose from across the five boroughs, so your kid may end up in Brooklyn even if you live in Manhattan. Or, if you live on Staten Island, you could end up traveling to Queens every day for school. It doesn’t have to be a school so far away, but sometimes it’s the school you love and want to spend your high school career at, so that’s what you pick. Well, that’s what you may rank on your application, it doesn’t mean that’s where you’ll go, because the school has to rank you as well. Very similar to medical school and how doctors get placed for residencies, but we are talking about 13 year olds! In the Spring of 7th grade, the buzz begins as the guidance counselors start suggesting that we look at the phone-book-sized list of high schools to help narrow down our choices. HA! In the fall of 8th grade, we start touring high schools, partly based on who we think our children are, who our children think they are, and of course, the schools that all the parents have labeled “must see” schools. I’ll be very honest here, the parents are generally the worst part of this whole process. For example, let’s say I like school A, undoubtedly there will be at least one fellow parent who will question that like and freely impart their complete distaste for school A, along with their disbelief that I would even like school A. Let me say this, it really sucks! My child’s first choice school may be a school that you wouldn’t even put on your list, and if that’s the case, keep your opinions to yourself! And vice versa, of course.
Honestly, railing on my fellow parents is not the motivation for my writing today, but more about how to parent if your child gets rejected from their top choice. Listen up: IT’s NOT ABOUT YOU!!!! Let me say this again, IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU!!!! Yes, be sad, be angry, be frustrated and hurt about your child essentially being rejected, not chosen, or however you want to look at it, but do not somehow internalize this rejection and project your old wounds on to your child. Comfort your child. Validate their feelings. Let them cry, scream, throw things, whatever they need to do in those initial moments of shock. Then talk to them. Reassure them that they are still the amazing, talented, funny, charming, smart kid they were before some random strangers decided that they weren’t right for some school. Remind them that they are freaking awesome and that any school they go to will be lucky to have them. Reinforce how resilient they are and how capable they are at making new friends and persevering in new experiences. Then if you need to, go into the bathroom, or your room, or the hallway, and cry. Shed the tears for your child’s upset, shed the tears for the heartbreak you feel when your kid is sad, further shed tears for all those moments from your life when you were rejected, passed over, not chosen. And then, move forward! That’s it!!! Your job is to allow your child to unravel while you stand strong, so dust yourself off, wipe your tears and get back in there. This is exactly what I did for my son yesterday, and this morning when he looked at me and said “Mom, I’m ok”, I knew we would both be ok, and that is the only thing that matters!
Congratulations to those who got matched with schools they wanted, and to all of us for ultimately surviving this insane process.