Preschool sign up is ridiculously competitive in my
town. The main program is affordable and there aren't that many
morning slots, so people take it seriously. This is usually my
husband's territory (I have the babies, he signs them up for
preschool - that's just our arrangement), but he couldn't go this
year so it was on me.
I showed up three hours early, thinking that would be
sufficient to secure a morning class. Incorrect. Parents had camped
out at midnight in seven degree weather and stayed out there for 10
hours to ensure the teacher/time that they wanted. What? This is
preschool -- not the last chopper out of Saigon.
All of this just seems nuts to me. And I said as much as I
assumed my number 91 spot. It became clear that the line was split
between the first 40 or so Type A parents and the rest of us
slackers who had slept in our own warm beds. My line-mates and I
were tsking the process (when you're the player, you gotta blame
the game) while the Type A's were smugly enjoying their primo
spots. Of course they'd worked (and frozen) for it, but it was
I made friends with those around me, my kind of parents
whose children are not yet fluent in Mandarin. I joked, "You know,
I just don't love my kids enough to sleep outside in the cold for
Preschool. For Prince tickets, maybe." My newfound friends laughed.
Two women near the front of the line whipped around and seared me
with their laser eyes. I fought the urge to moon them. Comments
were getting louder. Tensions mounted as morning slots closed. It
was all very Sharks and Jets.
And all this for something as low stakes as Preschool!
Will one teacher over another really set them up for life or,
conversely, ruin it? Doubtful. And what happens when they get to
high school? I already know the answer to this, but I am not ready
for it. I am just not built for this super intense brand of
parenting. (To wit, as I write this, my three-year-old is lying
upside down on a bean bag chair, using orange peels as eyeballs and
farting. My 1 ½-year-old, nicknamed "John Belushi", is wearing a
Lego bucket as a hat and running in circles. That's just how we
roll around here.)
As silly as it was, this was first taste of this crazy
competitive parent world. I wasn't into it. Look, I love my boys
more than life but I don't want to schedule every part of their
day. I want them to play, to learn how to be bored, to not have
nervous breakdowns by 4th grade.
Ultimately, I got an afternoon slot. My four-year-old will
be fine, but it will wreak havoc on my 1 ½-year-old's nap schedule.
Eh, we'll figure it out. And maybe, due to the not-so-natural
selection of the whole process, the afternoon parents will be a
pretty chill group. We slackers and our offspring -- together at
Rebecca Little, a native Chicagoan, loves discovering new ways to keep her two very active boys entertained lest they resort to spackling heirloom furniture or flushing toy trains down the toilet - not that those are real examples. Follow her at PinwheelChicago.com.
See more of Rebecca's stories here.
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