March 18th, 2008
I’m not competitive, I’m just not.
A fire burns in me to be the best I can and I do like to win Trivial Pursuit or Balderdash, but I’ve never felt the itch to have the biggest house, enter my kids in the best schools or drive the shiniest car (actually, no danger of THAT ever happening).
I’m more the type that will strategize silently in the corner, carve out my little niche and try to live well within it.
That said, I do like to think I CAN be better at something than Joan Blow (because I’m insecure and being better means something to me), but only in areas where I think I have a fighting chance, like drinking the most coffee or having the most demented children.
What I’m trying to say if I can’t find a preschool for Toots. And I hate, hate, hate the waiting list thing, the moms on the playground professing their kid’s school is the finest, the freaky agro parents who name their kid Francoise and put him in language immersion school at age 2.
I want a good preschool for Toots, I do. But why do I get the feeling that for some parents putting their kids in the “best” preschool is more about them, than the kid. To me, a good preschool is one where Toots will be happy.
Since I quit my full-time job last year to work from home and escape the non-profit world where the CEO ruined my view of charitable organizations forever, I’ve had Toots in preschool two days a week. At first, I had her on every waiting list in the county and crossed my fingers, hoping to get her into the school that moms in my area rated “the best.”
Finally, I found a “performing arts” preschool with an opening. I read about their curriculum and got excited. “Spanish every day!” “Two two-hour ‘work’ periods!” “Science!” “Cooking!” I remember thinking, this could be my ticket to child protege-ism. Hey! Maybe my brilliant daughter will make me some money! Maybe she’ll write a Spanish cookbook at age 6 and it will all be because I enrolled her in THIS preschool!
I ended up hating it. The teachers appeared dazed, bored and disconnected. Ages 2-5 learned together in one classroom, and the 2-year-olds felt ostracized by the older kids. At Toot’s “graduation,” the teachers paraded the kids out to the parents and led them through learning exercises that included naming a prism and listing the days of the week in Spanish. I watched Toots during this display and she looked like a robot, eyes glazed and everything. She wasn’t having fun.
So, I took her out and enrolled her somewhere else. She’s much happier where she is, and has a great teacher in a school where it’s obvious the staff loves kids. (For St. Patrick’s Day, the teachers messed up the classroom, put “Leprechaun” footprints everywhere and scattered gold coins on the floor. Those mischievous imps even used the bathroom, leaving green pee in the toilet.)
So they don’t have “work periods” lasting four hours. But Toots now knows how to write her name, is learning to sound out words and loves art. She’s “activated,” and empowered by learning, instead of feeling like she MUST learn her Spanish words for a dog and pony show that only serves to make the parents feel good.
But now I’m thinking of putting her somewhere else for Pre-K next year. It’s not that we’re not 90% happy where we are, but there’s a mix of factors that leads me to believe this school is no longer the best environment for Toots. And that’s what I care about — what is working for her.
I’m back to calling around and hearing “Sorry, we don’t have any openings, but we’ll put you on the waiting list. Right after every other person in the whole entire world. And in the universe. Also, other dimensions.” I’ve returned to listening to the moms at the park tell me why their preschool is best. And I do not want to care as much as I do. But I do, and I do, and I do.
Not from the “my school is better than your school” standpoint that some parents seem to revel in, but from the “am I doing what’s right for my child” view. Is taking her out of a school that advocates 3-hour naps the best thing for Toots? Is this about me or about her?
There’s something to be said about the “best” schools — usually they have that rep for a very good reason, but I’d like also select her school based on what’s right for my child. And just because it sounds good on paper, doesn’t make it the “best” match for your kids.
It’s not a competition.
Really, just watch the Real Housewives of New York. Then tell me if you want that constipated, worried-what-people-will-think, have-to-have-the-biggest-house-in-the-Hamptons look on your face all the time. There’s not enough Botox in the world to erase that kind of ugliness.