It started almost a year ago. I was on a playdate, and one mom-friend said, “So, where are you sending Trixie to preschool?”
At the time my daughter wasn’t even two. I thought, “Um…huh? Preschool is for three-year-olds, right? Am I really supposed to figure that out now?”
The answer—much to my surprise and dismay—was, yes.
Now, I have a lot of mommy friends and, to be honest, I let them do most of the dirty work. When one friend went on a tour of a pristine Montessori oasis on Brooklyn’s gritty Third Avenue, I sat back and waited for the report—that’s how I heard about every other reputable school. There was still some heavy lifting on my part though. Turns out if you want to apply to preschool you have to visit the school yourself first.
First up, we went to a slightly hippie, play-based school for our tour (and by “tour” I mean “interview”). All I knew of the school, in addition to the hefty price of admission, was that each parent had to volunteer seventeen hours per semester. Seventeen hours! And pay tuition! Yeah. Still, we gussied up and set out to wow the admissions staff.
Wow them we did not. Trixie spent most of the time picking her nose, but I was the screw up. I was nervous. I talked a lot. Tried too hard to be funny. At one point I randomly blurted out, “You don’t let the kids go outside, do you?” The woman looked at me like I’d asked to bum a cigarette. Like, maybe I lock my daughter in the basement—which might’ve explained why Trixie was standing in the corner of the office screaming, “Don’t look at me!” That’s what she does when she’s making a poop. (And who doesn’t like a little privacy when they’re pooping on a preschool interview?!)
Needless to say, we didn’t get a letter of acceptance. Still, I couldn’t blame it all on the interview. Like most preschools in the neighborhood (city? country?), this particular establishment had guidelines. Checklists, forms—weeding tools, if you will. They wanted to know what we, as parents, could bring to the program. What were our family’s goals for preschool? What were our child’s strengths and weaknesses? Ultimately, they were looking for children who would “bring something” to the two’s program. So I guess we didn’t bring what they were looking for—a diaper full of sh*t wasn’t it.
Another nearby school along a tree-lined block in Park Slope had a pleasant, eclectic vibe. I went on the tour—sans nose-picking daughter—and the school seemed great. Except…then I started asking friends about it. One mom told me parents often begin lining up at 1 am the night before registration to get a spot. And I’m talking bone-chilling February here. Seriously? I mean, I’ve never even queued up for a concert, let alone preschool.
Ultimately, I decided not to worry. I skipped the midnight line and put my preschool-addled brain on hiatus. I saw the forest for the trees and realized we’d find something. A co-op, a playgroup, the preschool where they give out razorblades at snacktime—something would materialize. A few weeks later, I decided to call the school with the eclectic vibe. Once I’d missed the 1 am registration, why not? Maybe Trixie could be waitlisted. To my surprise, the program director said, “Oh, sure! We still have a few spaces!” I was floored. After all those visits and interviews and applications, we managed to get into a great school.
And so, with months to spare, the preschool craze came to an end. Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the rest of summ–
Wait, what about kindergarten…?
[Published in New York Family Magazine]