The Horror, the Horror! I Dreamt It Was My Tryout!

I waited patiently outside an auditorium door for my turn -- then bravely took the stage to work on the song I'd been practicing for months, "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music.

Three judges stared silently at me, looking bored and unimpressed, their arms folded neatly in front of them.

I opened my mouth, ready for that first phrase: "Raindrops on roses ..."

Nothing. I swallowed, panicked and tried one more time. This time, I sang loudly and clearly, but the judges stopped me after just a few phrases.

"Yo Dawg," said Randy Jackson, shaking his head and laughing. "What were you thinking?!"

Wait, he was right! How did I get on American Idol? What was Randy doing judging my audition as a vocal major to Fiorello LaGuardia High School? (Or was it Talent Unlimited, Professional Performing Arts or Frank Sinatra High School?)

I woke up in a sweat, then started to laugh with relief. And that's when I realized my attempts to remain low-key and laid back about New York City public high school admissions in front of my 13-year-old had backfired.

We are in high school hell. My dream went ever further than the aborted song. I was also struggling to put together an art portfolio for admission to a high school art program, even though I've never had any artistic talent. The only drawing I could find was the intricate pencil doodles I found on the back of my older son's chemistry homework recently.

In that very same dream, I had decided to memorize a monologue to perform for a drama audition, just like some eighth-graders who are hitting the tour circuit, preparing portfolios, songs and skits and who may also be getting ready for instrumental auditions on top of interviews, different entrance exams and the SHSAT for the specialized high schools.

All this talk about high school is doing me in. In my suburban hometown, everyone went together to junior high school from grades 7-9, then moved on to high school together in 10th grade.

There was no agonizing about separating from your friends. No tests, tryouts and no choice, although I have to admit, the school system could not match the diversity, sheer variety and excitement offered in the best New York City schools (the same ones everyone wants to get into).

I'm not complaining - we chose to live here and love it. I guess I just never expected to spend so much time thinking and talking about high school again. They weren't exactly "Glory Days."

"Anyone who tells you they loved high school and had a good time is lying," a girlfriend said to me last weekend, after I had trudged up and down the cavernous floors of Brooklyn Tech at the high school fair, my mostly silent 13-year-old in tow.

"Ask questions!" I whispered every now and then, because I was trying to keep my mouth shut, trying not to be that stage mom who showed up in my dreams. I also tried to steer him to some new and interesting schools.

We all had a good laugh in my family when I told the story of my imagined tryout over breakfast, but the judges in my household were unanimous in their opinion that my singing be confined solely to the privacy of my own shower.

With so much hard work and tension around the concept of "getting in" to a top public high school in a city where the supply does not meet demand, I shouldn't be surprised that there was one scene at the high school fair that left my 13-year-old looking and feeling relieved.

We spoke to representatives from LOMA (Lower Manhattan Arts Academy), a fairly new art school on the Lower East Side. (I stayed out of it, of course, listening respectfully from a distance).

"Do you have to take a test to get in?" came the question to the welcoming and enthusiastic young teacher.

"No, there is no test," the teacher said.

"What about the tryout, then?" No tryouts, came the reply.

"I think LOMA is going to be my first choice," my 13-year-old declared, smiling for the first time that day.

Never mind that we have yet to see the school and still know very little about it, although we signed up for an open house next month.

For all I know, LOMA will turn up in my dream tonight -- and I can't help but wonder if that will count as one fewer school we'll have to visit.

In the meantime, I'd love to know how it's going in your household. How are you (and your children) handling preparations for multiple tests and tryouts? Does it feel like too much?

Anyone want to go back to high school?

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