Today I went looking for preschools. I have heard great things from people in the area about one of the top-rated schools in the downtown area. So I go check it out. It is a machine. There are 4 or 5 different classes, at least three teachers in each, multiple rooms for different activities, learning equipment, playgrounds, waiting rooms with cookies on the coffee table, and chic moms standing around in high heels or matching juicy couture track suits waiting to pick up their kids after school. But they're not necessarily all in business attire. Which leads me to believe some of them may actually stay at home with their kids. Luckily I actually took some effort to look good that morning or I would have felt even more intimidated and out of place - which I'm wondering why I do anyway, because this is a pre-school for heavens sake.
An accented woman takes me around rapidly explaining the school, the philosophy, the school in Italy it's patterned after, the organic lunch package that's brought in fresh daily that you can order for your child for an extra monthly fee. Finally we sit down on the fashionably matched furniture so I can get in a question or two. Since I'm thinking of starting in September, and Cash will be three by then, he'll be in the 3-4 class that is only full-time (9am-3pm), she informs me. "Only full time?" I ask. "Full days, five days a week? There are no part-time options?" I had felt certain there would be. Apparently that is only for younger children. "So what if I put him in for the rest of this year? Are there any openings?" She discusses the three day a week option, and I ask for possibly two. She strongly discourages it, even though we look at her chart of students and realize there is an opening on two days. She's actually really pushing full-time and all of it's benefits. "But I stay at home," I explain. Truthfully, I just want like three hours, maybe twice a week. I don't want an excuse for a parent. I just want some social interaction for my somewhat reserved child, some exposure to structured settings, someone with charts and pictures and materials that better explain seasons and our senses, and....
"And here's the price list," she says. Choke. There's a $700 registration fee per year, a $200 fee per semester for materials, and for full time it's $990...a month. Plus there's a sign warning of the $35 fee you'll be charged if you're more than 10 minutes late picking up your child. Even talking her down to two mornings a week for three hours was $450 a month.
Wow. Maybe it's the intimidation of the place. Maybe it's the heavily scented woman with the accent I don't fully pick up on. Maybe it's the fact that it somehow just seems wrong to pay 8 times what a year of my college tuition cost me, but I just want out. And I want to keep Cash with me. And I don't really want him to ever go to school. I never understood that before when people were so sad to see their kids go off to school. I always thought it would be a welcome break. But not like this. Not from people who think I should just shell out money and they'll take my kid off my hands so I have more time to go look for items of clothing that say "Juicy" across the butt.
So we leave, and I think I'll stop and look at the Jewish place that is only a block away, and that I also know people personally who take their children there. A Jewish school - they must have some good values I can more closely relate to, right? So we go in there. My first question is, "Now, is this a day care or a school?" "This is a school," she tells me. As she's getting out information to hand me, she says, "The hours are 7:30am to 6:00pm. It is a full-time program." "Wait," I say. "Only full time? 7:30-6:00 five days a week?" "Yes," she says. "Oh, I'm really only looking for a couple of days a week..." I trail off, still grasping the enormous amount of time that two and three year-old children are expected to spend in this place (that so far seems dimly lit and somewhat unimpressive). That is more time than they're even with their parents in any given week. "Well," she says as she stops shuffling for papers, and looks up at me, "this is not the place for you." And those words resonate in my heart. This is not the place for you. The same phrase that enters my head almost daily that I've been trying to beat back ever since we moved to Miami.
And I leave, gritting my teeth, wondering why we didn't end up in a place like Iowa, or Utah. Somewhere where the nice lady down the street does preschool out of her house a couple mornings a week and probably charges you $100 or less a month. Somewhere where I don't feel this same frustration welling up inside of me when I get lost trying to figure out which of the 17 high-rises I'm trying to find so I can go visit a friend, where I will valet park my car and take my stroller and my kids and sign in with security and get buzzed in and travel up to the 30th floor just to hang out. Whatever happened to just walking down the street or driving a few blocks to park in someone's driveway?
I know, I know, it was just a downer of a moment, and I really am enjoying it here. Sometimes I just long for the simple life, you know? I think a lot of my resentment is also towards the people that must surround me here. Who are these people that do this to their kids? And then I remember the kind of people. Like the nice couple in our building with the cute little boy Cash's age. I had high hopes when we first moved in that we could be friends with them. But then I noticed I only saw them around at nights. She was the one who told me about the Jewish school. Then we saw them in the pool with their little boy while we were there one Saturday. That was a nice family afternoon, I thought. They must both have to work, but at least they're good parents when they're home. Then a nanny came down and took the boy away so the parents could relax by the pool. The wife told me I should really send Cash over to play sometime (I can tell by her comments she feels very sorry for me with all of my children by myself all the time), and that it would be no trouble because she has now got this nanny to come on the weekends. Of course, I think, recognizing her mentality. If you spend the whole week working, how can you be expected to work all weekend taking care of your child? When would you ever relax?
Anyhow, I realize now why all of my close friends here just don't send their kids to preschool. It's just a different world here. It's a business. It's not to enhance your time at home being a child, but to replace it. But I'm still torn because I loved preschool growing up. I think I had two years of it. I think it's great stimulation, great interaction, and different from what I can give at home. Besides the fact that I've never taken an early childhood education class in my life so I have no confidence in that area and I just don't have the energy or the structure to my life to get supplies and lessons together and a dedicated time so I can do it well.
I know friends in New York who have very successfully done co-op preschools. Our playgroup here has tried to do a little preschool, and while it's been fun, I have to smile and say we use the term "preschool" rather loosely. All the moms and all their kids come, the kids sit and listen...or not, and it's a whole range of ages, which is hard to cater to. I think one time there were 12 infant seats, gabbing moms, nursing moms, kids all over and someone trying to teach a lesson all in one small living room. I'm not sure it's really soaking in.
But really, Cash is only TWO years old, why do I even have to be worrying about this yet? But even 6 months ago even our doctor here was asking if he was in school yet. They all go so early here! And for such an intense amount of time! Whatever just happened to playing in the sandbox??