Dealing with Disappointment


I decide to ring the Department of Education because it is mid way through August and we are supposed to hear about Jasper’s application in August. I don’t really expect to be given a result on the phone, and so when the person says, “I can check, what’s his name?” I am unprepared. I feel my heart wobble. It comes free from its attachments inside my chest. Name given – a pause – “It appears he won’t be being offered a place in the first round,” comes the reply.

I close my eyes. My head screams, NO. My heart slides downwards towards my stomach. The disappointment is visceral really. I have my own disappointment, but more than that, I have a son to tell. He has already become very attached to the idea of studying visual arts at the school. He will take it hard.

Graham is away, and so it falls to me to deliver the news. I could wait till Graham got home, in a week, but that seems deceitful – to know for all that time and not let on.

I wait till we are home, after school, in our kitchen. He has a very crunchy ANZAC biscuit in his hand and his back to me when I begin. “I rang the department today to ask about the visual arts and I am sorry to say they said you didn’t get in.” When I start the sentence he turns to look at me, a slight smile, and I can see from his expression he thinks the sentence is a good news one, but as I get through to its second half, it dawns on him that this is not a good news sentence at all and his face changes. It crumples into tears. I go to comfort him. To hug. He pulls away and rushes from the room.

I don’t follow him immediately. I wait in the lounge, by myself, wondering how long do I wait for. What words of comfort can I offer? I know you’re disappointed, I rehearse in my head.  He is not in his room. He is not in the study. He is not in my room – that I can see. He is in my wardrobe – behind the clothes – crouched in a huddle – beneath dresses and jackets and the confetti of shoes. I can see his sneakers and in his hand the ANZAC, untouched. It is a safe hiding place. Go away.

I close the wardrobe door and leave him in the dark. I’m so sorry…

I leave him.

To myself – Maybe don’t eat the ANZAC in there..

I leave him some more.

Still hiding.

He comes out.

He is outside in the courtyard, bouncing a ball, and I am in the kitchen making a cup of tea. I view him through the window, across the sink. Skinny, lanky, always moving. I see a big tear fall from his face without hitting his cheek, like a rain drop falling to the ground. I am crying too and he sees me. He comes inside. Let’s take the dog out. We walk the dog. My solution to all woes. The road by the port is closed and we must walk by the railway. Broken glass. The slap of skateboards. Still beautiful. It is a day like any other to the dog. There is winter grass to pee on. There are urine soaked telegraph poles to sniff at. There are homeless begging in the mall. Jasper asks what has happened to his career? He is eleven. “We’ll just have to show them what a great artist they missed out on teaching,” I say. We eat churros dipped in melted chocolate.



7 Replies to “Dealing with Disappointment”

  1. Poor Jasper. We went through it last year. Cinque’s a great singer and performer so we had never doubted that she’d get in. 3 callbacks, and at the interview they told her that her drama results were very, very good. But she didn’t get a letter. Her friends did, and my friends called to let me know that their kids got in. It was hard for her to go to school because everyone told her she should be at JC. Parents told me it was some sort of conspiracy, that maybe they weren’t taking the polished kids, just the raw ones. I rang and found out she wasn’t on the list, then when we didn’t get a second round offer I rang for feedback, about 3 weeks after the first round. We were heading to Seton for an interview (in a panic because there was no plan B, I’d never heard of Seton and till then) that day, and I spoke to JC for some closure. After they did some research they realised that they had mistakenly left her off the top of the list for drama! By then we’d had a month of anguish, it was such a relief to know what had happened. We continued to the Seton interview, Cinque was offered a place for year 7 which we eventually accepted. She loves Seton, doesn’t want to leave it to go to JC so we’re still thinking about it…
    As everyone said at the time; when one door closes, another opens.
    I hope that Jasper finds his place. Apple cross and Melville both have great visual arts programs, and no matter where he is, no one can stop him practising his art.
    Sorry about the long jumbled post, I’m typing on my phone, waiting for a class at Uni. Good luck!


  2. Disappointment is always hard, particularly for kids who don’t have the age and experience to buffer themselves against the raw pain. My family has had its share of disappointment – missing out on a place on the team, an award, a job, a party – it’s always horrible and always affects the individual’s feelings of self-worth.
    My initial reaction to my child’s disappointment (and it’s probably not very adult) is to ‘dis’ the prize, and so its desirability, and I say platitudes like, “It’s their loss” or “Well they’re not that good anyway”.
    I don’t know the details of Jasper’s application, but I do know that most schools offer an incredible array of opportunities for artistic students, visits to galleries and exhibitions,courses and workshops that help to nurture and nourish artistic talent. Often criteria for selection for special places is quite narrow and it’s not always an accurate reflection and appraisal of talent or potential excellence.The main thing is to keep up the creativity – the sketching, painting, sculpting… amass a body of work, an ongoing port-folio.
    Jasper has the best thing going for him, he has a mother who supports him and believes in him. This is worth way more than the judgement of others.


  3. Love your post and your beautiful writing. One of my daughters was a State Volley Ball player, one year her knees gave out on her, the specialist said she was to young to have a knee reconstruction (16). She was not selected to go away with the team, which by the way was the year they knew they were going to win gold. It was a terrible time that I will never forget, there was no comforting her either. A lesson learnt that life sometimes throws you a curly one that you have no control of. xxx Rae


  4. Yeah.Fools rush in with opinions or criteria where even a***holes fear to tread. Someone makes a decision in the lofty towers of Ejakation and away on the ground hearts break. Stay strong in your convictions. I got into the Architecture stream at UWA but a lecturer told me I would “really struggle” if my maths was not excellent so I listened & …now …am nowhere. xxx


  5. Disappointment is a kind of grieving. We sometimes forget, especially with children, that actions rather than or at least as much as words, such as walking the dog, are a great way to grieve. I’m glad as well that you did not say something like, “Oh that program’s not that good anyway,” because children as well as adults know when someone is offering false comfort. So you handled it just right!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: