The Kindergarten Interview

Mar 7 2012

Nine years ago, I took my eldest to her kindergarten admissions interview.

Abby was four years old, and she wore hot pink capri pants with sweet embroidered yellow flowers, white sandals, and a crisp white shirt with eyelet cap sleeves. Her hair was pulled back, half up and half down, and tied with a yellow ribbon the exact shade of the flowers on her pants. She was shy and darling and reluctant to answer any of her prospective principal’s questions, and it was hard to tell whether she or I was more nervous. Over and above everything, though, I remember thinking about what a miracle it was to see so much potential packed into a tiny 40 pound body, and also what a marvelous privilege it was to bear mama witness to yet another beginning in my baby’s life.

Yesterday was kindergarten interview day for Cai and Cael. The make it or break it admissions moment for the school we want them to attend. (Yeah – it’s technically more “screening” than “interview,” and we’ve vacationed with the principal, and it’s a community school that’s more about loving kids than about high-pressure admissions, but let’s ignore all that for the time being, yes? Because there’s something about putting your child in a position to be judged – on purpose – that’s a little bit of a nail biter no matter what.)

In the car on the way to the interview, following our preparatory lunch at McDonald’s because we are all high end all the time, my boys discussed the various uses of lasers. They tell me that lasers, for example, can cut through metal and are therefore often used in railroad construction. I was glad to know. And then my boys wondered aloud whether lasers can dissipate clouds and, if so, how they might be configured do so. I suggested that their various suppositions were actually hypotheses and then I started to offer a definition.

“See, guys, a scientific hypothesis is…”

And Cael interrupted me, “We know, we know, Mom. A hypothesis is an idea you can test.”

I kid you not. That’s a direct quote. “A hypothesis is an idea you can test.”

You guys, I think it’s an inescapable fact that my five-year-olds are GEEniuses.

(Please go back and say “GEEniuses” in a sing-songy, cocky voice. And thank you.)

And also – the kindergarten admissions interview? Pffftttt. We’re gonna (… use the voice again…) NAIL it.

These were my thoughts as we pulled into the school parking lot and I unloaded my precious cargo and ushered them into the principal’s office. Now, initially, I was afraid that our McDonald’s lunch was going to put us just a bit behind on our arrival time, which matters more this week than ever, but the boys were real troopers grabbing coats and shoes and scurrying out of the Playland and into the car. They were so quick, in fact, that we made up all of our time and arrived to the interview a couple of minutes early.

So it was with a self-satisfied, put-together, on-time and with-geniuses-in-hand smile affixed firmly to my face that I settled back in my cushy, grown-up chair to watch my boys take home Kindergarten Admissions Gold. Yep. Fer sure. If ever there was a moment for a mama to shine, that was mine.

And then I actually looked at my boys and started giggling like a ninny. I tried to stop but I couldn’t quite help myself. I giggled so hard, in fact, that I had to explain myself to my friend, the principal.

Sometimes life’s events, past and present, seem to run parallel to each other, and it feels very déjà vu to see the past memory in the next lane over while I’m riding along in a new model of life. It makes me want to press my face to the glass and wave at the us of years gone by. And it was that juxtaposition of Miss Abby’s interview when she was my only child against Cai’s and Cael’s interview as my 4th and 5th kids that suddenly struck me as quite hysterical.

For there my boys sat, pants decorated in splotchy white ranch dressing that was humorously reminiscent of embroidered flowers. And their hair was pulled back, at least in bits, with drying ketchup that perfectly matched the globs of the same on their tennis shoes. They were a mess, you guys! At their kindergarten interview. And I failed to notice until we were already ensconced in the principal’s office, ready to begin. My boys, of course, proudly wore the evidence of their hasty lunch and their mama’s hurried life, their postures erect and eager faces glowing with equal parts fry grease and enthusiasm.

Isn’t it funny how some things don’t change at all? Because over and above everything yesterday, I thought about what a miracle it was to see so much potential compacted into two tiny 40 pound bodies. And I was achingly grateful for the marvelous privilege of bearing mama witness to yet another beginning in my babies’ lives.

And isn’t it wonderful that some things do change? Like a mama’s ability to relax? Because I’ll tell you; the fun thing about driving this new model of life down the road comes in the joy of rolling down the window, letting the wind muss my hair, and recognizing that the beginnings are no less precious when they’re a complete and utter mess and totally covered in ketchup.