Saturday, January 10, 2009

The First Test: Pre-freaking-school

So maybe you've seen that in the upper right corner of my blog, I've added a box for the ever-so-inspirational "mindfulness quote of the day". I'm trying to be more present in the moment and aware of the the little elements that make up the whole of each day. The operative word in that sentence is "trying." Succeeding in that endeavor seems to be a whole other realm of existence I've not yet approached. I'm more comfortable dwelling in what is referred to as "monkey mind" because my thoughts likes to leap and flip and swing from the proverbial vines that make up the content of my feeble little brain.

Thus far in my illustrious parenting career, my monkey mind hasn't posed that much of a problem. It comes in handy, actually, when keeping up with the attention span of a toddler, as I rarely focus and invest in any one activity to the point that I'm irritated when Ethan is done with that puzzle or truck after approximately a nano-second and moves on to the next thing.

My lack of focus, though, is definitely evidenced by the fact that more often than not, you can find more clothes in the laundry pile than folded neatly (give me a second to stop chuckling at "folded neatly" if) in their appropriate drawers, and last night's dinner dishes piled by the sink, crying out for some grease-fighting Dawn. But really, I can totally use the excuse that I'm playing with, entertaining, and enriching the brain of my beloved, equally monkey-minded toddler, right? And when push comes to shove (like a bout of croup last December) I totally snap into "take care of business" mode and can really pull off the mama-extraordinaire thing.


It's time to find a pre-school.

God help me.

Last year, after making the decision to move to Los Angeles, I heaved a sigh of relief which, in turn, sucked the air out of the room and then created it's own jet-stream. At least as the decision pertained to pre-school. A lot of our friends had decided to send their little ones to pre-school at two years old and were running around like certifiable lunatics (certifiable lunatics who I love dearly, just to be clear), visiting facilities, with lists of questions a mile long and fretting over minute details about curriculum and waiting lists and a bevy of other life-or-death issues pertaining to a year during which their toddlers will most likely throw wooden blocks at each other's heads and dine on a feasts of dirt and Elmer's glue.

I'm not mocking (well, maybe just a little bit); I do get the importance of pre-school, as it relates to socializing a child, and preparing them for the the routines and culture of academic life and basic knowledge that will be expected of them as they enter the halls of kindergarten and beyond. But I've rolled my eyes (only to myself) at more than one mother who has spoken as though the right choice in pre-schools is the end-all-be-all-if-my-child-doesn't-get-
into-X-preschool-how-will-s/he-ever-get-into-an-Ivy-league-college? I really just want Ethan to play and laugh and sing and learn how to share and not ingest too much non-food stuff.

So I chuckled to myself in utter relief when I learned of our moving, thrilled that I hadn't gotten sucked into searching for the PERFECT pre-school for Ethan in Arlington since he wouldn't be living there anyway. And since we'd hardly be settled in LA by the beginning of the new school year, I thought to myself, "well, at least that's something I won't have to even think about until next year. Ahhhhhhh."

Hrm. Getting a kid into a pre-school in September of '09 apparently means "next year" started about four months ago. I am suddenly bombarded by people on all sides asking where Ethan will be attending pre-school next year. "Am I on any wait lists?" "Have I toured all the best pre-schools in the area?" "Applications for the fall are due like tomorrow, don't you know that?" "My friend put her kid on the wait list for that place when she was only three months pregnant and they're still #500 on the list."

Oh, how the monkey mind reels. And an interesting thing happens when the monkey mind flips into over-drive. The rest of me grinds to a screeching halt. One would think that faced with this YOUMUSTDOTHISNOW!!!! stimulus assaulting me that I'd be a flurry of activity--phone calls, faxing, visiting schools, ordering vaccination records, pressing Husband on what we can and can't afford, blah blah blah.

But no. The fear of sucking at this--this first major responsibility as the facilitator of my child's education--is paralyzing. It wakes me up in a cold sweat some nights, just as the unpaid credit card bills used to do when I was in college. Where to even start? Google searches of "Studio City" "pre-schools" brings up countless and completely unidentifiable names and addresses and in some cases, websites. I want to print them out, throw them in the air and whichever one lands closest to me is the one Ethan will go to.

I have a friend whose brain works in an entirely different fashion. While I make notes on random slips of ripped paper, put them in my pants pocket, and then never see them again, she is Miss Excel. She has spread sheets on every reputable preschool in the entire area. Is it wrong that I have commandeered her hours of hard work to help me begin this search? This search that she started months and months ago, meeting with pre-school directors and touring facilities, making careful notes about the atmosphere as well as academic curricula of each location? Deargod, how I love this woman.

So on Monday, I am sending Ethan out with his sitter for the morning, and instead of going to the gym to attempt to treadmill my anxiety away, I am printing out her spread sheets, sitting down at the dining room table, and making as many phone calls, scheduling as many tours and jotting down as many notes as my monkey mind can possibly tolerate. There will be much deep breathing (and probably a few advil)

Perhaps I will be drinking by noon. But before I do, I will live in the painfully anxiety-ridden NOW of taking care of this next step in my child's life. Wish me luck.


Becca said...

Good luck! I agree with you that this shouldn't be so hard!

Sarah said...


Our open houses start next weekend-- this year THANK G-D, we are super high on the waiting lists (last year I totally dropped the ball because he was-- erm-- 2, and I didn't know he needed to be in school until I was shamed at Little Gym.)

Good luck! My pocketed strips of post its with scribbled numbers and dates and I are right there with you!

AJU5's Mom said...

Okay, this just makes me even more happy that we plan on home schooling. I don't have to worry about the whole preschool thing - which sounds way to complex for me!

Anonymous said...

But just remember - when preschool starts you'll actually have time to yourself for the first time in how long?????

I am similarly freaked about daycares (and similarly burying my head into the sand on it). You're giving me some inspiration to get my act in gear however!!

Love and miss you!

Anonymous said...

This sounds just like me. Hang in there!

Alice said...

Good luck! I know it's so stressful and absurd. Wait lists and reference letters for two year olds, it's just too much. Hang in there.