Sunday, April 05, 2009

News Flash: Rejection Sucks. Especially for 10-year-olds

The letter came yesterday.

Kiyomi never really cares about the mail - in fact she's heard Rigel and I curse enough times when we receive our bills to know that the mailman is really just the grim reaper in an ill-fitting blue uniform. But since she knew the letters had been sent out, she'd been camped out near our mail box all morning. By the time it finally came she could hardly contain herself, but she wanted to wait until Rigel got back from his errands to "share in the moment" as she put it. When he returned a few minutes later and saw us staring at a piece of mail, I'm sure he just figured it was one of his checks and we were figuring out ways to spend it.

Kiyomi's been sick and had woken up with a fever but she said just seeing the envelope had made her feel better. She ran over fingers over the return address before she turned it over, and then she opened it slowly, tearing away the flap and then pulling out the folded piece of paper carefully. Rigel, Kira and I were huddled around her and just watching her face for a clue on what was inside. She started off reading the first sentence, "Thank you for auditioning for the Performing Arts Academy..." but her voice trailed off quickly and then she whispered, "I didn't get in."

She collapsed into sobs, and none of our words or our hugs could comfort her. To make matters worse, she heard a few minutes later that her best friend had gotten accepted, which meant they'd be separated. Could this day get any worse? (Turns out it could, which I found out ten hours later at Target when a heavy plastic pitcher fell from the top shelf and hit me on the head, but that's a story for another time.)

To be honest, I was hesitant about the whole thing from the start. The middle school she'll be attending has a well-known performing arts department, and one of the ways to get in (besides our arbitrary school district lottery known as the Magnet system) is to audition. Prospective applicants are required to do a one-minute monologue, sing a Broadway show tune and perform a series of dance steps. It sounded like a tall order for a ten-year-old, especially since competition would be stiff; many are professionals who already have agents, and there are a few celebrity kids among the student body. (At least one Disney star, and the child of an American Idol judge. The least annoying one.)

For Rigel and I the whole thing was like brain surgery. Coming from a 'non-show business' background, what they were asking for sounded about as easy as being told to juggle a pig and chainsaw while flossing your teeth. We thought it would have been easier if Kiyomi had tried out for the underwater luge team or the varsity log-rolling squad. But she was determined to do it, so we hired an actress friend to work with her a few times a week and we were surprised at how well she did - she could carry a tune, memorized her lines with no problem, and delivered them with just the right amount of sarcasm. It seems all those days prancing around the living room in her panties re-enacting episodes of SpongeBob really were leading to something.

According to her, the audition went smoothly (parents weren't allowed to watch.) So when that rejection letter came today I have to admit it probably hit me as hard as it hit her. And after comforting her for awhile I did what any good mother would do in this situation - I totally blamed myself.

My first thought was wondering whether or not it was wise to let her audition in the first place - who needs rejection at 10 for chrissakes? Leave that for when you're older and it can roll of your bitter, leathery soul with a little more ease. Then I started wondering if it had anything to do with this incident - maybe Kiyomi was blacklisted because her mother was a crazy person who didn't like how her older daughter had been treated and then called three counselors and the principal to complain about it. Oh, and then wrote about it on her blog.

And what if someone there read that blog? (Which is a possibility because I happen to know a few people at the school who do. Hi, few!) I'm imagining the admissions panel coming upon Kiyomi's application, and stapled to it is a note about my complaints and a printout of my blog post. They all look at each other, make that whirling motion with their finger near their temple and then one of them writes across the top of her application in big, red letters GIRL IS OKAY BUT THE MOTHER IS BATSHIT CRAZY -- DENIED.

So what now? She'll still attend the school as part of the regular program, and she's already decided she'd like to apply for the Civics Academy, which deals with politics and government. I pointed out that her success was ensured, since within a twelve hour period she'd gone from being an entertainer to being a politician - just what our governor and one of our presidents has done!

One thing I know for sure - it isn't the last time she'll experience the pain of rejection. Whether from a school that doesn't recognize her talent or some emo boy who decides to dump her for the girl with the pierced tongue, it'll happen again. Our job is just to love her and help her get through it. And today, after I watched her call her best friend to congratulate her on getting accepted, I told her how very, very proud I was of her. And she'll never need a letter to tell her that.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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  1. Aw, poor Kiyomi. But that girls gonna be alright.

    I don't think you should worry about them having read your blog - you absolutely did the right thing. If they blacklist you for sticking up for your kid, WHO NEEDS 'EM?


  2. You two are the BEST parents!!!! ... i think the beauty and joy, intelligence and effortless displays of true talent (not to mention "bat shit" crazy humor) that i have witnessed in your family speak volumes about the LOVE you have wrapped your children in.

    Your daughters are both going to be GREAT successes in life, uniquely talented, balanced, loving and gracious.

    And you're so right... that they will NEVER need "a letter" to tell them these most important things are true.

    YOU ROCK MOM and DAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Oh, this would break my heart, too.

    I wonder, is there a community center acting club or something else nearby that she could join? Or could she keep taking acting classes outside of school? If she really does love it, she shouldn't give up.

    When I joined the track team in the 9th grade, I was the worst runner at tryouts. I didn't make the varsity team the junior varist team, or even really the C-squad. I wound up carrying water for people at meets.

    But my parents drove me to a track all summer, and I ran two miles and practiced sprints every day, hoping that if I practiced hard enough, I'd at least make an alternate on the junior varsity cross country team in the fall.

    After three months of practice, in tryouts that August, I got the fifth spot on the varsity team. I was fifth fastest out of thirty girls.

    Of course, now I'm a slow old lady. But still have my ribbons from the races I won.

  4. Annie - Yeah, who needs 'em? (Oh, I hope the principal isn't reading this.)

    Anonymous - Thank you for those beautiful, kind words. I wish I knew who you were so I could send you a fruit basket.

    Jaelith - I love your story, and I'm going to pass it on to Kiyomi. I've been trying to tell her that there are other avenues to follow her dream. She's starting to come around. Lunch at McDonalds and a new pack of Pokemon cards helped, too.

  5. Poor Kiyomi. I can only imagine how much she wanted that acceptance.

    But as the other commenters have said (and though it might be hard for her to see right now) -- she will be OK. There is not just one road to her dream. Rather than being a little fish in a big pond, she can be a big fish in a little pond. She can strive to be the star of her school's drama events rather than just one of the other actors at the performing arts school. She can continue to practice and work hard and hone in on her best skills so that she will be really ready for the next opportunity that presents itself.

    Good luck to her. I know she has other great things coming her way in the future!

  6. I wrote a post a year ago about my rejection when I was 8 and didn't make the national tour of Annie. It was completely heartbreaking, but having my dad there to console me is the memory that has stuck with me after all these years. She'll be okay.
    I'm an alumni of Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. It's free, and awesome. You might want to check into it in a few years. (My own oldest daughter is also thinking of going there.)

  7. NorCal Sistah4/06/2009 12:00 PM

    Sometimes I think these things are harder for the parents than the child. These are the things you want to protect your children from having to go through in life even though you know that they must in order to grow. Don't blame yourself please -- both you and Rigel do a wonderful job and the evidence is right there to see in your to wonderful children!

    I am a huge believer that things happen for a reason and now maybe she will have the opportunity for something better that might not have been possible if she had been accpeted to the academy. How proud I am that she called her friend to congratulate her -- that is because she has two great parents setting a wonderful example for her.

  8. if you pierce her tongue now, she won't get dumped by emo boy. just sayin'! :)

  9. hello... hapi blogging... have a nice day! just visiting here....

  10. My heart? It breaks for her. But goodness Lord in heaven, what proof to show that you are doing wonderful jobs as parents! Kiyomi was able to call and congratulate her friend, despite nursing what has to be a huge wound.

    Clearly, she is Teh Awesome.

  11. Very charming letter, because I don't know what to do in a situation like that, I think what I'd do is calming down and thinking really well how to act.


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