26 January 2006

Primary Education

I have good organizational skills. I can make a matrix on any subject and creatively file so that most people can find what they're looking for. I am well-educated and laid back enough to comfortably wait in a very long line at the post office. I live in a neighborhood jammed with strollers. I have internet access, a cell phone, a home phone, a car, and (currently) 7 days a week to make calls and go places. Why can't I find a preschool? Why can’t I even decide which preschools to consider? I'm not looking for the standard 2 year, 9 month start gen-U-ine School, but some place to deliver Stella three full days per week when she's 2. Our nanny is moving at the end of the year.

People warned me that preschool entry is competitive. Competitive?! Despite this warning, I am in shock. Obviously, there are two possibilities:

  1. Parents are freaks to think that the “right” preschool assures the little one a slot at Harvard/ Sarah Lawrence/ Whatever.
  2. I am a neglectful mother whose child will never make it through primary education.

I have heard of people who have been on waiting lists since before conception. Thankfully, I don't know any of them because I don't know what I would say or do to them if I did. I also just found out that people camp out for preschool admission!

I went to a preschool fair on the weekend. I saw the tables with photo displays of multihued smiling faces and small stacks of shiny pamphlets. Were they handed out more eagerly to some parents than others? My mama friends and I are generally a balanced bunch. But school is making some of us a bit nutty. I ran into a dad at the fair. He looked scrubbed and planned out. The baby was in a matching outfit. Dad admitted the family had "dressed up” just in case they might talk with an administrator of a potential school. They are kind, normal people. She’s an artist. I think he’s a tech guy. They had a reggae singer at their son’s first birthday. I don’t think he was kidding about their admission anxiety.

Stella will be too young this winter to enter most of the schools- which is good since we will have fewer to choose from. Good because I am wholly unprepared for the insanity of 20 plus potential schools. I have prioritized the selection criteria: Close to home or work. Minimum hours 8am to 6pm. Multicultural and affordable. Filled with happy parents and friendly teachers. That’s it.

When I left the fair I had a little lump in my throat thinking about sending my baby to school. I imagined packing her lunch, watching her wave bye and patter away. I called my mother as another lump rose in my throat. I asked how she chose my preschool. She said there was one across from the campus where she was in college. And when I couldn’t go there because I had a runny nose or it was closed, she brought me to class. I remember sitting in the back drawing.

If it could be so simple.

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