Mommy Chronicles

A funny look at motherhood and the mayhem it causes.

April 30, 2003

The problem with preschool

You know those people who make jokes about trying to get their newborns on the waiting list for Yale?

Here’s the thing: They’re not actually joking. I am finding this out the hard way, as I try and figure out where to send Lucy to preschool. I’ve been researching this issue since she turned one. That, I thought, was plenty of time.

It’s not. If you want to have maximum choice in the matter, the time to choose a preschool and get on the waiting list is before birth. Preferably your own, assuming you chose your parents wisely.

I just talked with a neighbor who has a girl the same age as mine. Her sister-in-law signed up her child for preschool shortly after she brought the baby home from the hospital.

I don’t understand who these people are, but I like to imagine them, in the blissful moments after conception, rolling over and saying, “Does the Brain Flower Art Box Mozart School sound good to you, too?”

I should have known this was coming. When I tried to get Lucy, then one, into her neighborhood co-op, they told me, “It won’t happen this year.” A year later, she’s No. 40 on the list. I am confident she’ll be at the top of the list by the time she’s 18, which means she’ll totally be calling the shots in the block corner.

As happy as this thought is, it doesn’t solve my more immediate problem of what to do next fall, when she’s really, truly ready for preschool, and I am really, truly ready to take a shower without her watching, which is a classic sign of parental readiness.

Initially, my goal was to find a school that matched Lucy’s personality and interests. In addition to “helping” me shower, she likes talking, art, running in circles and reading stories. She does not like dog poop, something she reminds me of on a daily basis. At any rate, it left the choices pretty wide open, as I’m not looking for an obedience school.

I started asking around about schools. Other parents know these things, and as long as you’re not competing for Yale admission with one of their own, they’ll tell you.

From them, I’ve learned our area is blessed with a variety of choices – ones in little houses, some that cost more than tuition at the University of Washington, and a few with clearly articulated, passionate social philosophies, which in the end, left me wondering, “But what about the finger paints?”

I finally found a school that felt perfect. It had everything I wanted for Lucy. I thought we were all set.

Then I showed up at the open house, along with fifty other sets of parents who thought the same thing. Unfortunately, there are about five openings in the fall, so unless forty five sets of them were there for their zygotes, our chances of getting in aren’t good.

More daunting than the competition, though, is the required home visit. My subscription to Good Housekeeping is lost in the mail, if you know what I mean. This is a side effect of being a parent and running a business out of my basement, and it’s not pretty. Unless I find an air freshener, preferably one that has the scent of fresh-baked bread, I’m doomed.

So, I am not counting on Lucy getting in to this school. Not this year, and maybe not even when she’s ready for Pre-K, whatever that is. My secret hope is that she will soon be old enough and smart enough to figure out these complex schooling issues for herself.

That, after all, will look good on her Yale application.

A version of this story first appeared in the April edition of ParentMap newsmagazine.


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