Parental Advisory: Grade Envy
My daughter aced her pre-k exams. Now we’re social outcasts! by Rebecca Odes & Ceridwen Morris
May 27, 2009
I live in a city where the kindergarten school application process is renowned for how it messes with parents’ minds. I expected it to be challenging. But what I didn’t expect was to lose a friend over it. After the results came out for one of the gifted tests, I called around to what my friends’ kids had gotten. (My daughter somewhat surprisingly got a near-perfect score.) This one friend of mine JUST missed out on a spot and she’s scrambling to find a place for her daughter. I feel terrible for my friend. But now she is not returning my calls and emailed to say they can’t come to my kid’s birthday. I know it’s hard for her, but what am I supposed to do? – Not Testing So Well
Dear Not Testing,
This sounds like a really hard situation for you. But it sounds like an even harder situation for your friend. You’re right that this process “messes with parents’ minds.” But your friend has more than a messed-up mind. She has a legitimate problem. September is a few months away, and her child has no place to go. She’s still got to get her kid into a decent school, or come to terms with sending her to a bad one.
You can imagine that she might find it hard to talk to you right now. She might feel bitterness or resentment toward you in particular, or she might simply be freaking out and not be able to handle a conversation with anyone who can’t relate.
Congratulations, by the way, on your own child’s testing success. Standardized testing is by many accounts a dubious measure of four-year-old intelligence, but it’s still nice when your kid does well. One thing you should know, though, in the area of general etiquette: When your kid scores a near-perfect score, you do not call around to ask other people how their kids did. You keep quiet until asked, knowing that the chances are good that your child is in a better position than most and that it might make other people feel bad to hear this.
This situation reminds us a little of the scenario when one friend can’t get pregnant and all her friends are having baby showers. You can understand why she may need to retreat for a while or see other non-baby-making friends. Your friend’s child will find a spot in a school eventually; everyone does. And her resentment will probably go down somewhat as she settles into whatever plan works out. But you might have to give her some time before she’s ready to start playdating again.
In the meantime, you can try to show her that you are indeed a caring friend who sympathizes with her plight. Let her know you are truly sorry that she had such bad luck with the testing. And we strongly suggest emphasizing the “luck” that goes into a successful pre-K testing experience. Don’t use words like “smart” or “gifted,” as they imply that you believe your child is in fact superior in some way to hers. And don’t try to comfort her by telling her only about the various pitfalls of your great kindergarten. (The infertile friend doesn’t need to hear about how lucky she is to be able to sleep in for the rest of her life.) You could even apologize for calling her the day after the test. Tell her you realize it might have been a bad idea to call with news of such good luck on a day when others might be getting a shorter end of the kindergarten stick.
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