The number 4 stares back at me on the computer screen.
It is my eldest son’s waitlist position for the school he is currently attending and the number meant he had only moved up one position in a month’s time. When I first learned that he was placed on a waitlist I thought there must be a mistake. I mean he is already a student there. Why wouldn’t there be a seat with his name on it? I called the school and was told I would have to talk to the county representative managing student assignment, which I did.
The county assured me they would look into the matter.
To be fair, everyone I have dealt with thus far has been extremely polite and considerate, my son’s placement is nothing personal. Which is the problem. The existing system is based on numbers whether they be data points or funding dollars, rather than students and their families.
The county school system lists a multitude of options. There are public schools operating on the traditional calendar, charter schools, magnet schools, and schools that have year round calendars. Thus far, the year round calendar has been a wonderful experience. We only had to plan for three weeks of additional care at a time and could space out our vacations accordingly minimizing the impact on our jobs. At the end of each three to five-week break, my son would be itching to get back to his friends and could actually still remember many of the lessons he learned before the end of the break.
Therefore I was annoyed to learn that the county had arbitrarily placed my son in a school operating on a traditional calendar with a three-month summer break, especially at a school not even fully constructed yet. I was invited to apply to transfer my son back to his existing school. Five minutes after the web portal was opened, I had uploaded my request. A counter at the bottom told me I was the ninth request of the morning.
At the time, I wasn’t too concerned he wouldn’t eventually get back in. I had done some reading on the selection criteria and everything seemed to indicate that his transfer request would only be a formality.
I later learned that the site left off some small print. The county is trying to fill the new school and this guarantee was really just for rising fourth or fifth graders. My annoyance turned quickly to anger mixed with helplessness. I had to watch as my son’s eyes welled up as I told him he might not be with his friends next year and unless four other children are placed elsewhere, and couldn’t do a thing about it.
I try to make the best of any situation I can’t fully control. I am a firm believer that things work out the way they are supposed to, but I also believe you have to take a stand from time to time, which is why I am now struggling. It’s a lot harder to be easy going when it’s your child being affected. Should I continue to fight for where I think my son belongs because it makes the most sense for our family today? Or is this a sign that I need to embrace other changes?
I am a fan of the show Mad Men, now in its last season. I will avoid spoilers for those who haven’t yet seen this week’s episode, but the entire episode was about the life not lived. It was purely coincidental that I watched it the night I learned that my son is now number four on the list. It is also coincidental that the number four is the least lucky number in the Chinese language. It is a good thing I am not overly superstitious…or is it?
But what if it isn’t coincidence? What if, like my son, I have been stuck on a waitlist, only unlike him, my number is being called? What if the universe has practically put up a neon sign and I’m just too illiterate to read it? If so, how long will the universe wait before moving on to the next in line?
“If you want something you’ve never had, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done” – Thomas Jefferson
But what do you do when you’d also like to keep the something you had?