It wasn’t the first time I had heard it. It wasn’t the twelfth time I had heard it. I have heard it so much over the last week that it runs like a cartoon jingle through my mind while I wash the dishes and unexpectedly pops out of my mouth when my husband and I are discussing Nietzsche over a glass of port after the kids are in bed.* I recite it like a mantra twenty times while brushing my teeth, although I do suspect it has the opposite effect of an actual mantra.
Because I know it is true, I start making calls at 5 PM, which is surely not the ideal time to try to have a phone conversation around my house, but since Los Angeles is eight hours behind us… well, you do the math. I spend every spare minute during the day on the computer: researching preschools, sending emails, and creating a spreadsheet of relevant information and actions taken. I make note of places to call once they are open for business, and I call while the children are
injuring entertaining one another, later while J is bathing them, and even later, long after I ought to be in bed.
Because we know it is true, we have expanded our search to include neighborhoods we otherwise would not be considering. J wants to limit his commute. I want fresh air, mostly because we have kind of a lousy track record with lung disease in my family. (For the record, I think when your non-smoking mother dies of lung cancer in her thirties, you get a free pass on neuroses about air quality.) But, we also know the kids need to get into a preschool, and we know how tight that market is in Los Angeles.
So do the schools, which is why I have heard it before. And probably will again. Yet, something about the way she said it this time, something about her admonishing tone, well, it kinda rubbed me the wrong way.
“You’re going to have a really hard time finding any place that has room for a four-year-old.” Really? Is that so? Oh, I hadn’t realized that. Now, of course, I am aware, and will act accordingly. If you could just tell me what exactly I ought to do to act accordingly.
I know, I know: I was completely negligent. I should have signed the child up for your preschool when he was still just a gleam in my reproductive endocrinologist’s eye. Unfortunately, that was three houses, two states, and a country or two ago. I had no idea I would be moving to LA. And, your tone of voice has made crystal clear to me just what you think of parents who fail to enroll their children in preschool until they have a vague sense of where they will be living. But, now that I have been properly chastised, what precisely would you suggest I do?
Shall we stay in London, permanent expats held captive by the competitive preschool market? Or perhaps go to Philadelphia, as originally planned, despite the fact that J has already told the company we will move? Or, perhaps I should pack Zachary up and send him off to college, since I think UCLA is still accepting applications.
Now, other schools I have spoken to have been apologetic. Or, they have tried to be helpful. Or, sympathetic. Or, at the very least, they have restrained themselves from passing judgment, perhaps understanding that it is not Zachary’s fault his mother failed to foresee this move in 2003. A few schools have even told us that there are spots and that J can come visit the school when he is in LA in a few weeks. We have no idea what these schools are like, so I keep calling, trying to maximize his school-visiting efficiency by determining which schools may have spots, and that is why I found myself on the phone with the Judge Judy of the preschool world, who informed me, “You’re going to have a really hard time finding any place that has room for a four-year-old.”
I tried, I really did, to keep my tone light and joking, but I suspect some of my frustration may have seeped through.
“Well, I can’t keep him out of school till kindergarten, now can I? So I guess I’ll just have to keep calling schools.” And I got off as quickly as I could, because I was only in the Ls, and I wanted to make it through the Ms before getting ready for bed.
* Note: we have actually only twice ever discussed Nietzsche, and I am pretty sure it was long before we had children. But it sounds good, doesn’t it?