On the test day, we arrive at the old Stuyvesant High School on 15th street.
There are many immigrant multi-generational Asian families with little brothers and sisters accompanying their intensely-serious teenagers. The entrance hall is majestic and crowded.
Families enter the auditorium, where the test will be administered, accompany their teenager to designated seat, give their final blessings, and leave.
The results arrive some days later. P. has passed the test, and is entitled to attend Stuyvesant High School. Uh-oh. Decisions must be made.
The aftermath: First we ascertain that P.'s decision deadline is the first day of school in September. Then he takes tours of the local Alternative and mainstream high schools. Based on her observation of his behavior during the tour of her school (hanging out on the sofa), elswhere advises: the A-school is not for him. He shows too much resemblance to those classmates who descended into a cloud of marijuana smoke and vegetated there. That narrows the field to two.
My thoughts wander: the "today I am a man" message of the Bar Mitzvah, the meaning of puberty for males, and how few life-decisions young suburban teenagers get to make nowadays...Fathers as role models for sons who grow up in single-mom households...Something primal about young men and older men being together...Two parents who live in different homes but both love their kids...The decency of my ex's new wife. Finally, I decide not to decide: P. will have to take new responsibility for his own life and decide this one for himself, using me as sounding-board.
There follows a period of considerable restlessness and indecision for P. I sense a difference in myself: I look at my son as a fledgling grown-up now, no longer a tall little boy. "You're not choosing between your parents: you're choosing your own future." "If it doesn't work out, you can come back." "If you stay at home, I know you'll do well." Helping him think through his decision, I honestly don't have a preferred outcome except for him to decide. Will he choose to stay with his friends? Will he trade the known for the unknown? Dr. Dreikurs, my work is just about done.
I think it was mid-July when he woke up more refreshed than I'd seen him in months and said: "I've decided. I'm going to go to Stuyvesant. But I won't have a Moving Day. Every weekend from now on I'll take some stuff over to Dad's, until most of my stuff is there. I was able to make good friends here, so I should be able to make more good friends there too. And once school starts, I'll come back here on weekends to see my old friends." And that was what happened.
**********End of Part 5**********
One more episode to come...tomorrow...The Finale
6. Ten years later: a surprising vindication