Monday, March 15, 2010
There are many ways to drive yourself crazy as a parent of young children, but in New York City, none seems quite as nutty and blown out of proportion as the pre-school process. For me and Phoebe, it began back in September. After doing some research and figuring out which schools were in our area, talking to other Moms and trying to get a sense of the process, I settled on 6 local schools to try. There seemed to be a lot of hype around certain schools like All Souls- who have a lottery system for applications and the 92nd Y where you had to be rich or famous, or both to get in.
The day after Labor Day is D-Day for applications. I had my Mom, my cousin and two of my own home phones at the ready to start calling. It reminded me of trying to get hot concert tickets, back in the day. Some schools had their applications online, some were just busy all day long. We managed to get through to all of our selected schools. Then came the applications. Most were brief information oriented forms. Some asked for pictures. All wanted at least $40 for the privledge to apply. One school, Epiphany, wanted $170 for their application. We decided to pass on that. Then came the interviews, the tours and the "playdates" for the kids. Nothing seemed to put parents into more of a panic than how their child performed at the playdate. Take a 2 year old at nap time to a place they've never been and anything can happen. One school, Temple Sharaay Tefila, I respected for the fact that they did not interview parents or children. They said it was pointless pressure for families to endure. I agree. All this hype and stress for the priviledge of paying from $13k to $20k for a part time program for your 3 year old. How insane is that? If you live in the suburbs, you sign up for your local school and you go. No big deal.
So after the tours, the meetings and the playdates, the waiting game begins. It takes until March for the schools to pick their families. Moms are all abuzz when the letters are going out. I haven't felt this level of stress and competition since my college admissions process. As it turns out, Phoebe got into our two favorite programs; Sharaay Tefila and the Harvard of Upper East Side Pre-schools, All Souls. She was wait-listed at two others ad declined at one. My heart was always with All Souls. I have been volunteering there at the Soup Kitchen for the last 6 years and Phoebe has had several classes in the building. I was truly impressed with their facility and the teachers and the philosophy. While they are housed in a Uitarian Church, their program is completely secular and diverse. But my decision would not be so easy. There was a possibility that I could get financial assistance from the Temple, and I would not be one to turn down free money. I tried to wrap my head around being a part of this reformed Temple, of having Phoebe's ciriculum revolve around Purim and Shavou'ot and Passover. She would take conversational Hebrew and attend Shabbat for Tots on Friday. Nothing wrong with all that. I am proud to be a Jew, if an atheist Jew, and I want Phoebe to understand and embrace her heritage, but al that will come. I was a bit overwhelmed by having to get so involved so soon.
In the end, the scholarship money did not come through, but Grammy and Grampy did. They are making it possible for Phoebe to start her school years off right. We accepted All Souls this week. She will start a 4 day a week, afternoon program in September. When people tell you your kids childhood will go fast, this is what they mean. She's not even 3 yet, and she's on her way. My little Phoeb-star is about to embark on a great school experience. I'm just along for the ride, trying not to get too crazy about it all