I've been trying to figure out recently what I'm going to do about the voluntary pre-kindergarten (VPK) program here in Miami. Kindergarten here is a full day, and the government here will put money towards a pre-kindergarten program for you. For some schools it covers the whole cost, for others it covers part of the cost, and then there are some programs that don't participate. So it's been a real challenge trying to figure out a decent one that isn't so far from me, that we could afford, isn't in the ghetto, and come on, at least has like one other white kid.
So I had heard from multiple people about this United Way one that is about 15 minutes from me, and one day a friend of mine told me they were having their monthly tours the next afternoon. To my credit, I really did try to find someone to watch my kids, knowing how ridiculous it is to try to go anywhere with them by myself and how little they listen to anything I say. And the tour lady had told me not to bring strollers. But I couldn't find anyone, so whatever, they only have it once a month, the waiting list is usually at least a year, so I knew I needed to get going on it, and I'm getting used to just doing what you have to do.
So I show up. There's about 15 moms on the tour. I look around and say kind of jokingly, and somewhat apologetically, "Hmm, so nobody else had to bring kids with them I guess?" They all laugh a little, but are nice about it. Then as the tour starts, I notice - they're almost all pregnant. Oh, so this is when you sign your kids up for this school - while they're still in utero. So me showing up with three already birthed children...wow, I'm way behind.
My discouragement grows, but since they were talking so much about all the younger programs, at one point I try to ask, "So the VPK program goes from 9-12 right?" She say yes. Then after a moment, she turns back to me and adds in - "Yeah, but you can't just do 9-12, you have to do the whole day." Ugh. Discouragement growing even more. Why am I even here? I talked to the woman on the phone about the program and she didn't mention that before. Not to mention - my kids are a disaster. Multiple people have been trying to help me herd my kids along. They're not following. They're running up and down stairs. Disgruntled employees from far corners of the building come carrying in my kids wondering whose wayward children these are. We keep going on the tour. I'm halfway listening, halfway trying to control my wild children, who have taken their shoes off somewhere on the tour and everyone keeps pointing out that my kids are barefoot. I pull out some M&Ms (gasp - are those organic?!) to try to occupy them for a while. We go outside to the play area. Oh man, things really go downhill out here. Tour is still going, concerned parents and finicky mothers are asking ridiculous questions. I look over and my children have found the child-sized sink. The water goes on. I step over and turn it off. It goes back on. I turn it off. I can hear we're nearing the end so I venture back to the group to ask my final discouraged question: "So if all these people are getting their kids on the waiting list before they're even born, is there any chance my 4 year-old will even get in? I mean, they all just keep moving up to the next age level, right?" She gives me a yeah, you're kind of right look, but says, "Well, there's always a chance they could get in." Sigh. Why am I knocking myself out to be here? Especially when - oh my. I look over and the twins are dunking their heads under the running water, howling in delight as they fling their heads up out of the sink and send water spraying over the crowd. Repeatedly. They look wild. Seriously wild. Like two crazy guys at a wild keg party or something. They are sopping wet. I hurry over and yank them out of there (screaming in protest of course) and try to head back in to the building with the group - with my soppy, dirty, shoe-less, screaming little hooligans. With all the composed, signing-their-unborn-children-up, career women looking on. I am so not the picture of graceful motherhood. I am pretty much their worst fear - and the reason they all asked how soon after having their babies they could put them in the school (6 weeks).
I stopped and talked to the woman again when we were finished. "I'm a little discouraged," I told her. "I feel like you just cater to working mothers here. I feel like I'm trying to do something good and stay home with my children - I don't want to stick him in here all day. I just want to do 9-12 and get him a little exposure to school." She was sort of like, huh, that's an interesting idea. We haven't come up against that before. She said she guessed I could pull him out at noon if that's what I wanted - as long as I paid for the full day.
Sigh. I did end up getting him on the list. It caused even more shenanigans as I had to fill out the 4 page application form with the soggy spaz-cases running all over the building, but I figured I better try for something since I've been coming up with all dead ends. It really was a great facility. I think because they're United Way they get a ton of funding, and even though the VPK voucher doesn't cover all the cost we might even qualify for additional financing. So whatever, if he gets in at some point, maybe we'll do it. Maybe I'll find something else. Maybe I'll just keep him home one more year and be fine with it. Maybe I'll be more on top of it next time and get in there while I'm still pregnant.