My heart raced as I tore through the mail yesterday. Even the monthly BlogHer ads check (GINORMOUS as it generally is) wasn’t what I was looking for.
I was hoping for one of two familiar logos in the top left corner of the envelope, either one containing the word preschool.
As I mentioned back in November, if you don’t live in NYC you can’t imagine the hysteria of the preschool application process. There’s parents who apply to a dozen or more schools, there are parents who bribes their kids to behave on the interview (“If you don’t pick your nose, I’ll get you some ice cream when we’re all done.”) there are hysterical moms this very moment posting incessantly on the Urban Baby message boards, Did the acceptance letters go out yet? Has anyone heard? How about now? What about now? How about now?
Vowing to circumvent some of it, we dawdled, delayed, then finally applied to two schools, both great, both within walking distance. I dropped whatever names I could in the application, used my best penmanship, sent gushy, sincere thank you notes, and then decided the rest is out of my hands. I figure, eh, if Thalia doesn’t get in anywhere – 350 applications for 42 spots is tough odds – she’ll take some extra music classes and we’ll call it a day.
(Although, um, yesterday I totally forgot to take her to music class. And this is why I don’t homeschool.)
My laid-back, what-ev-ah attitude lasted about a minute. Or at least the amount of time between the first preschool tour and the first “call us to schedule your kid in for a playdate” letter.
The first session was pure torture. Thalia hadn’t slept the night before. The meeting was scheduled for 3:30-4:15, when all exhausted 2 year-olds are at their best. Thalia, generally the picture of energy and advanced social skills exhibited none of the above. She hardly said a word, which is so uncharacteristic, I had to hold myself back from turning into That Mom who hovers around making excuses for her kid.
No I swear, she usually sings the alphabet forwards AND backwards. Sometimes in Greek. And you should see her mix a martini!
I was stressed through the entire playdate – was she playing with one toy too long? Was she supposed to be playing with so many toys? Should she be interacting with the kids more? Why isn’t she singing to herself – she always sings to herself. When the director asked her name, why didn’t she answer? Ohmigod she’s not playing with the dolls, should she be playing with the dolls like the other girls? Should I point her to the dolls? Hey, that parent is playing with the kid – should I be standing back or in there playing with her? What are they looking for anyway? Do they know how late it is for a little girl? GOOD GOD, WHERE IS MY TODDLER EVALUATION CHECKLIST AND SOME FUCKING XANAX?
Seriously, you want to be the preschool that every parent wants their kids to attend? Don’t bother touting the teacher-student ratio or progressive curriculum. Just have a ready supply of anti-anxiety medication for the taking.
My heart went out to the one couple whose daughter snatched away every toy that any other child in her vicinity was engaged with. “Please share…please, please share with the other kids… just be good, sweetie..” they pleaded, no doubt as they mentally crossed that school off their list of possibilities. The rest of us just looked at our feet, guiltily pleased that she wasn’t our own child.
At the end, as we headed out the door, the girl and Thalia finally clicked. “Oh sure, now she plays nice” the mother said to me without so much as a smile.
The worst part of it all was how crappy I felt on the walk home. I felt just terrible – not that Thalia didn’t perform on cue like a trained circus monkey, but that I kind of expected her to in the first place. It was absolutely brutal to think of my child as being judged, as possibly being deemed not worthy. I hated myself that night. Although of course that’s not what happens at all. Surely the schools are just looking for preschool readiness and a good mix of personalities and backgrounds to fill out the classroom. But boy, it sure feels like cold-hearted, brutal judgment when it’s your own kid under the microscope.
The next playgroup was far less stressful, less rigid. Thalia was her cheery self, and I got to feel self-righteous next to the little girl accompanied only by her nanny. Thank goodness for small favors.
And then March hit. As in, March When the Acceptance Letters Go Out.
So now I wait. And wait. And bite my nails. And check the mail (ugh, why does our postman always come so late in the day?) and wait.
And maybe occasionally I log onto Urban Baby just to see if anyone else is pretending not to be as stressed as I am pretending not to be.