The preschool bus, part two
Some responses to the previous post came in various flavors of this is not something I obsess over, including I do not worry that my kid won’t be kindergarten ready. My reason for writing this out is so I can feel that way too, so I tend to agree that my anxiety is irrational. But seeing other people be not freaked out made me wonder where my own feelings come from. It’s not like I worry about everything. You might think so, but there are in fact whole domains that I do not freak out about…
I think the yet-to-be-determined Number 4 is shaping up to have something to do with my own educational history, including the things that were going on in my family when I started school, and my feelings about my capacity versus my performance. ANYHOW! Onward.
2. I’m afraid that if I don’t vigorously seek out the best possible education for her she will be disadvantaged. And that I might be prevented from doing this not because of good reasons, of which there are plenty, but because of my extreme discomfort with the drastic change in my socio-economic position. I have gone from working class to upper middle class, and it’s a source of endless weirdness for me, of psychic whiplash.
I recently had brunch with the Lady Professors, and got to hear about how LP 1’s kid totally “failed” his “interview” at Super Uppity Preschool (the entry point to Super Uppity Private School). LP1’s child is 6 months younger than Bun Bun, and she’s been in Rabid Panic Mode about preschool for about a year. Her third-place preschool is one I am squeamish about even thinking about visiting because it’s full of Richy Riches.
I had two reactions:
1. Her level of hysteria about the whole thing is insane. One of the joys of living in Mediocre City is that we don’t HAVE to get crazy proactive to secure decent education for our children. Why live in a place like this if you’re not going to take advantage? Why CREATE the same pressure that exists for actual reasons in places like Berkeley and Manhattan? Actually, are there even children in Manhattan anymore? Probably I mean Brooklyn. Actually, by now I probably mean New Jersey.
2. She’s doing the right thing. She’s investing every particle of her being in setting her kid up for the best possible life, and that’s what we SHOULD do. Her child is going to have shitloads of opportunities and mine will pump his gas. Which is going to be SO CUTE. I hope they get little greasy overalls with their names stitched on…
I voiced neither of those reactions, because either would have left her feeling judged and offended (well, not #1. What’s offensive about that?), and the same may be true for those of you reading about it. If you feel judged or offended, bear in mind that I’m writing about how to resolve my feelings on this subject, not about your choices. And this is basically a post about having options, which may aggravate people without options. I mean, what’s more obnoxious than watching someone dither endlessly over two equally delicious slices of pie?
The crux of the matter: Why is LP1’s natural instinct to research schools and set up interviews, while my natural instinct is to hide? Here’s what I’ve come up with:
1. In order to figure out whether my kids will be at a disadvantage relative to kids with more proactive parents, I’d have to figure out how to procure the best possible education for them. This is virtually impossible. The best I can do is create an insanely complex algorithm that, given the child’s temperament, history, caregiver parameters ranging from SES to parenting style, massive quantities of data about each available educational option, and some lemon zest as input would output a set of recommendations: Send them to schools X, Y, and Z, and they will be maximally emotionally/socially/academically competent…with a large margin of error. It’s not like I can just opt for whatever is most expensive. Private options are not inherently superior just by virtue of being private, nor are public options superior because they’re public. You can find research to both confirm and contradict your beliefs about education, whatever they are. In short, it would be a shitload of work to amass information, and the predictive value might be quite low.
2. I’m afraid of trying to get my kids into Uppity Schools and having Uppity Schools reject them. I fear that being told my kids aren’t good enough for X would change how I see them.
3. I’m afraid that getting picky about preschool will start me off on a path that will lead to private school for their entire educations. Having kids in private school is not compatible with my social identity. I’ve managed to retain my bitterness towards rich people so far, but having a nanny has made that really hard, and I’m not sure it could survive me telling people that my kids go to Baby Phillips Academy Andover. But accepting that I’m rich would lead to a ton of guilt and shame. Not sure I can handle that.
So what to with these emotions? Honestly, I HAVE NO IDEA. I look at those numbered items and I’m just like, yeah, that is what I’m afraid of. And I SHOULD BE.
But I do think I’ve learned something. I’m not the kind of person who can take LP1’s approach. Whatever the reasons, good or bad. It’s not me. I’m not doing it. I have already chosen not to do it. The Buns will go to a convenient and good preschool, even if it’s not The Best, or they won’t. They will go to our perfectly good local public school. That takes care of the next TEN YEARS.