Monday, November 05, 2007

Writer's cramp and fairy tales

Last night I sat in our study and cleared off piles of papers and general crapola from our desk. I like to keep the desk tidy and organized, but as often happens, on Friday I didn't feel like dealing with the mail or the girls' papers in their backpacks, so I just put everything on our desk to look at later.

Among other things, I worked on Graceful's and Elegant's applications to the university's Saturday Enrichment Program for gifted students. They spend five Saturdays each winter doing fun things, like pretending to travel around France and learning the language, customs, geography, etc. Or, becoming detectives and solving various mysteries. Or pretending to be eco-warriors out to save the earth. Graceful has participated for three years now and Elegant attended last year for the first time and both girls have really enjoyed the program.

The applications are multi-part and include a teacher recommendation and a parent assessment of their child's talents and attributes. I ask you, do you think any parent writes anything less than stellar comments down for their child? I'm sure the program people see a whole lot of this:

"Harvey has been building nuclear reactors since he was four years old and we gave him his first chemistry set."

Now imagine if someone were actually truthful:

"Muffy is such an idiot and there's no way in hell she'll be able to keep up with the work, but we sure hope you'll consider her nonetheless."


"My gawd, our son Biff is just a pain in the ass. We just want him out of the house for a couple hours so that we can have some peace. If we turn our backs for a second, he's sure to have a string of firecrackers tied to the cat's tail. Again."

We usually write something along the lines of "Graceful has enjoyed attending the SEP for the past three years. She is an intelligent child... blah blah blah..." You get the idea. What I really want to say is, "People, my child fucking ROCKS and you are damn lucky to have her." But I'm thinking that wouldn't go over so well.

When I was done with both girls' applications, and suffering greatly from writer's cramp -- when are these schools and programs going to start putting their applications online? -- I worked on Elegant's application to the private school we're interested in transferring her to.

As with the SEP applications, the application to a private school is one of those areas where everyone makes themselves out to be the damn Brady Bunch. No one wants to sounds like Al and Peg from "Married with Children." No one is going to admit that they beat the children and keep them locked in a closet for parts of each day.

For example, in the area where I was supposed to describe our family's interests and activities, what the school wants to hear is this:

"We volunteer at the local soup kitchen so that we can help those less fortunate than ourselves. We also love to read out loud as a family -- most recently The Odyssey in the original ancient Greek, which the children just adored and begged for more! In fact, the children have asked us to give away our TV so that we can have more time for reading, practicing Japanese calligraphy, and learning how to raise leeches for medicinal purposes."

Not this:

"No one in our family reads. Who has time for that shit? We get all our learning from the TV, which is how God intended it. With careful channel surfing, our kids can learn a bit about cooking, travel, fashion, law, and science -- all in one evening. If someone has too much homework, we just have them do it in front of the tube so that they can multi-task. Hell, we'll even bring their dinner to them so they don't have to stir from the couch. We're good parents that way."

I worked hard to give the admissions people a good sense of how fabulous Elegant is, but also an honest assessment of her strengths and weaknesses. You know, how Elegant embraces life fully and is well accessorized in the process, but also a truthful synopses of El's ADHD and resulting attention span issues. I don't want ADHD to define my girl, but it will surely come up in the teacher evaluation, so I had to discuss it in the application. I think -- I hope -- I found a good balance. I also have faith that the admissions people will take one look at the photo of Elegant that I attached to her application and decide that this is a child they must have in their school. I sure do wish they'd give a scholarship based on cuteness because El's smile alone would get her fully funded.

So now my desk is cleared off -- more or less -- and I got to do lots of creative writing last night. I'm feeling ready to face Monday.


The Hotfessional said...

I'm sure you did an excellent job. The closest I got to creativity this weekend was working on a very boring crocheted lap blanket while attempting to keep two cats from thinking it was THEIR ball of yarn I was using.

Happy Working Mom said...

I agree...who on earth is going to write anything but great stuff about their kids?

I'm sure that was hard...places like that do need to move to an online system...writing is hard for us in this day and age...we want to type!

Family Adventure said...

You are so right. What exactly do these schools expect when they ask a parent for an assessment? Honestly?!
I didn't know that Elegant had ADHD. B boy has it, too, and we've actually had him undergo a full psych eval, because we didn't know what was going on. He tested as gifted with fairly severe ADD. Anyway, my point, the way he is now, I just don't see how he could get into an enriched program. He really cannot focus. I wonder how you are coping with that with Elegant?


Jennifer (Jen on the Edge) said...

Heidi: If you look down on the bottom right, you'll see my labels, including one on ADHD. Feel free to email me offline and I'll be happy to talk with you about how we cope.

Lela said...

I hate applications. If it is not on the computer I put it off as long as possible. Typing it into a pdf form and printing it even makes me happy.

Josie said...

We're struggling through University and scholarship applications right now. Not fun.

While I am sure you did a stellar job, I would love to send in a fake application for "Biff" and the family that doesn't read. See if you get points for honesty.

Flutterby said...

Wait... huh? You mean that's not what all those neat little closets in the basement are for? What the hell am I supposed to do with them if it's not for storing kids?

Linda and her Surroundings said...

Whenever I have to fill in an application for anything my head goes into Corporate mode which was where I learnt about "telling stories without telling lies". Talk about the art of spin. But really, if you step back and look objectively at children there is always a lot of good stuff to write about without being over the top.

Mrs. G. said...

Ah, a mother's knows no bounds. My fingers are crossed. And employing hyperbole when describing our children is our job...and did I mention I have the smartest children in the wait! The planet.