Monday, April 5, 2010

When Being "That Parent" Pays Off

Remember this blog post from years past? Well, being the shining example of a mother-with-her-act-together, I have yet to continue my search for a preschool for Little Husband. Once upon a time I was proactive enough to get my fetus’ name on a preschool waiting list. Now my toddler is at the age where if I don’t get his name on the waiting list, I’m going to miss out on all the best preschools. I used to think that this sort of mentality was crazy, but now I get it. It’s not about the Ivy League or social standing or your child’s ability to read Moby Dick at age three; it’s about wanting your child to be immersed in an environment where the caretakers truly care about him. It’s those schools that seem to have the longest waiting lists, and the sooner you get your child’s name on that list, the more likely they are to get in.

This brings me to last week when I finally made a call to a highly regarded preschool that is just mere miles from my house. The conversation went something like this:

Me: "Hi. I'd like to speak with Mrs. X about touring your preschool."

Snotty Secretary: (sounding put out) "Uh Miss? You REALLY need to make that appointment with Mrs. Y."

Me: "Oh, I'm sorry, your website said to make the appointment with Mrs. X, but if it's Mrs. Y I need, then that's fine too."

Snotty Secretary: (sounding completely put out). "That's okay. Let me see when we can get you in...we're very busy and it won't be for quite a while."

Me: "Okay..."

(I hear papers shuffling in the background)

Snotty Secretary: "Mrs. Y can see you tomorrow morning at 9:30."

I arrive at the school and am immediately struck by the fact that I can walk right into the building. I wander the halls in my search for the school office, and no one stops me to ask me what I’m doing. This is disconcerting on many levels, one of them being that my son loves nothing more than to high-tail it out of an unlocked exit. In fact, as I’m typing this he’s opening a back door to the pool area (shudder!). Thankfully we have a child safety gate erected around the pool.

I make my way over to a friendly looking teacher and ask for directions to the office. I notice her glance up at my hair but her expression remains unchanged as she tells me where I need to go. Once in the office I find myself face-to-face with Snotty Secretary and she is everything I thought she would be: 50-something, dowdy, overweight. It was clear that she held some sort of power in that school and it was clear that her modicum of power had gone to her head. She glanced up at my hair as she asked if she could help me.

“Yes, I’m Femme and—“

“You have a 9:30 appointment with Mrs. Y,” she interrupted briskly. It was clear that she was very proud of her efficiency, not matter how rude it made her. “She’s right in there.” She pointed to a nearby office.

I walked into the office and was greeted by Mrs. Y, who was very friendly and professional. I felt myself begin to relax.

“Let me tell you a little about our school and then we can go on the tour,” she began as she glanced up at my hair. I had a fleeting thought: Why was everybody glancing up in my hair?

Mrs. Y continued speaking and I became absorbed in the conversation. At one point I ran my fingers through my hair only to find a rather large object stuck to my bangs. My hand came away holding a leaf. A big, ratty, dried-up oak leaf!

Mrs. Y never missed a beat as I held the leaf up to the light and stared at it in amazement. Realizing that I’d been walking around the school with this fetching “leaf-hat”, I let out a rueful laugh and asked, “Has this been in my hair all along?” Mrs. Y ignored the question and continued talking about the school. No longer possessing the ability to concentrate on the conversation at hand, I again interrupted to discuss the leaf.

“How on earth did you concentrate on our conversation while staring at this big leaf in my hair?!?” I asked, laughing and shaking the leaf in the air to emphasize my point.

Ever the professional, Mrs. Y again pretended like we weren’t having this separate conversation and continued talking about the preschool. For some reason this annoyed me, and I can’t articulate why. Perhaps it was because there was an opportunity to switch off formalities and actually bond with each other and she didn’t take it. I mulled it over as we walked around the school and finally it struck me: for all of its merits (and there were many), this school had no heart. I want my son to go to a school where people can let go of pretenses, relax and just be themselves. Where teachers are light-hearted and generously dole out smiles and hugs. I want to visit the school and feel like I’m genuinely welcome there. Little Husband’s got plenty of time in his adult life to be exposed to corporate drones, he doesn’t need it at age three.

I left the school with an application in my hand and a heavy heart. Mrs. Y all but guaranteed that if I got Little Husband on the waiting list soon he would be admitted. Knowing that time was of the essence, I continued to drag my feet about returning the application.

Then today happened.

Today I received a call from The School, the one I applied to when Little Husband wan in utero. The caller, Christy, was happy and chirpy as she informed me that they have a spot for Little Husband this fall. My baby—who won’t even be two years old—starts preschool in the fall. I feel like I’ve won the lottery.

I toured the school last January with my mother-in-law and it was so wonderful that I actually became a little emotional when we left. Just like I knew when I first laid eyes on Husband that he was the one for me, I knew this school would be a good thing for Little Husband. I feel ridiculously grateful that he was granted admission--I can’t imagine how I’m going to be when college rolls around!