I spent the weekend filling out independent school applications. Well, two of them. Yes, they're a pain. I'm exhausted. I felt like a senior in high school applying to colleges. I even cried for about an hour on Saturday morning because I was feeling so overwhelmed.
But I understand and respect the process. Imagine if independent schools didn't require applications? More people would apply. Eight hundred families would be applying for 22 spots rather than 250 families. Because I have to fill out an application and write essays, I'm applying only to those schools that truly seem like the right fit for Alice.
And as I wrote the essays, I was forced to think, What am I really looking for in a school? Who is this daughter of mine?
Also, as I wrote my essays, I couldn't stop my mind from going wild . . .
What are your child's strengths and interests? This seems to be the most common essay question. When you think about it, this really is a funny question to ask about someone who is only four years old.
Alice can crack an egg without getting any shells into the batter. She can do a backward somersault, sometimes. She can write nearly every letter in the alphabet—except an uppercase N, which she draws backward. She can swim. She can pinch her brother. She can do downward dog. She can dry wet lettuce leaves with a salad spinner though she would never eat salad.
Alice knows that Pluto isn't a planet. She knows that bats are nocturnal. She knows that Pink Ladies are her favorite variety of apple. She knows right from wrong, most of the time. She knows it's nice to share. She knows her phone number, usually. She knows that she wants to be a ballerina-artist-mommy when she grows up. She knows that Paris is in France. She knows the difference between a guitar and a ukulele though she can't play either.
Alice can identify several types of flowers: camelias, alyssum, nasturtiums. She can eat spoonful after spoonful of peanut butter. She can cry tears that are so big I sometimes start crying myself. She can say hello in Italian, "Ciao!" She can count to 60. She can hop on one foot. She can gallop. She can walk backwards. She can run really really fast. She can name nearly every Disney princess. She can tell funny jokes: "A comb sat on a mouse that turned purple."
Alice likes play dates. She likes preschool. She likes bread. She likes the Boxcar Children books. She likes to watch Singing in the Rain with Gene Kelly. She likes to play with dolls. She likes to paint. She likes baking banana poppy seed muffins. She likes visiting Frida Kahlo at the SFMOMA. She likes walking in the rain with her umbrella and jumping in puddles. She likes to go to the park and the science museum. She likes merry-go-rounds. She likes kittens.
Alice can chew five pieces of gum at once. She can tie a knot but not a bow. She can pick beautiful bouquets of flowers. She can play a sweet tune on a harmonica. She can find the mouse on every page in Goodnight Moon. She can pack her own suitcase for sleepovers at grandma and grandpa's. She can make her own bed. She can peel an orange.
Alice says, "Mama" in a sweet voice that melts my heart every time I hear it. She says, "Please, can I have some chocolate?" She says, "May I please be excused," when she's done at the dinner table. She says, "Mom, you need to clean the house." She says, "Monsters, wild onions, and George Bush—those are the bad things in the world." She says, "Leaping lizards" and "Oh, my goodness." She says, "We should take the train instead of the car because it's better for the environment." She says "I love you."
Alice can ride a tricycle. She can scream, stomp her feet, and slam a door louder than anyone I know—and she's not even married. She can create almost anything out of a single piece of paper and a roll of tape: a birthday hat, a slipper, a baby bed, fairy wings. She can dress herself and wear a dress, a skirt, pants, tights, and three tops all at once. She can say big words: "Mommy, you're infuriating." She can help her brother put on his shoes.
Alice gives the world's best hugs—long tight squeezes that always make me feel like everything is going to be OK. She gives friends her toys and clothes to borrow for "one week." She gives her brother kisses and licks. She gives Santa cookies and milk and the Great Pumpkin all of her Halloween candy. She gives her Daddy the raisins in her cereal. She gives her baby dolls haircuts. She gives her family and friends love.
Alice is Alice. She's one of a kind—just as all children are.