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?

23 responses to “Schooled

  1. oh, jeez. it’s as bad as in new york city.

    the insanity.

    it boggles the mind.

  2. When this is all settled, you won’t know what to do with your spare time.

    Hang in there.

  3. I just love the pretense, like preschools are ivy league.

    they paint, they take naps, they eat boogers. What the hell?

  4. Well, I know one school you probably crossed right off the list, spots or no spots.

    It must be nice to have such job security in the preschool world that one can afford to completely abandon professionalism and even common courtesy, don’t you agree?

    However, she does have such a gift for the obvious. She probably feels it’s a crime not to show it off. 😉

    Hang in.

  5. Laughing at your port and after bedtime discussion. Yeah, that is usally when I hear all about what is happening in college football before going to bed myself. The life of wives and mothers…

    I can’t find a preschool for my 3 year old, b/c – like you – I failed to sign him up on a psychic hunch that we would still be living here and I would get a fulltime job in Dec.

  6. It’s so nice the way people try to “help” each other sometimes.

  7. On the positive side, LA hasn’t go the worst air quality (Houston has). 😉

    Oh Emily. That preschool deal is hard enough but to get snot like that from an administrator? Ergh


    And AMEN to flutter’s comment.

    Using My Words

  8. Perhaps the proper approach is to out-snooty them, “I’m calling to see if your school has the credentials and status to be trusted with my exceptional child. Should we be willing to consider you, we will let you know. I should tell you, however, that very few schools have managed to meet our standards…”

  9. Good luck – I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you find the perfect school soon!


  10. What a pain in the ass. I can’t believe people take that tone with you about preschool (it’s the same one you hear when you’re stupidly IN THE WRONG LINE AT THE DMV YOU IDIOT! HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW WHICH POORLY LABELED LINE TO GET INTO?!?), and because I am in A Mood, if you’d like, I can call and bitch them out for you. Without bringing in your name, of course.

    Good luck, duder. That sucks.

  11. Oh. Wow. I have this to look forward to…

  12. I wonder if that lady actually has kids?

  13. So there are asshats in states other than Jersey huh? What a jerk.

    I’m sure you’ll find something…is it for this year or for September?

  14. Wow! Am I glad we live in a place where preschool is just preschool. The worst we might get is having to go on a short wait list for the school we really want. When did preschool become so all-fired important. I mean, really, it doesn’t actually determine what college you kids will get into, though some people like to think it will.

    I’m sorry you have to hear junk like that, and I’m sure you will find a school that works just fine. Personally, I like Megan’s idea.

  15. My sister lives close to UCLA and got her almost three-year-old into a nice little preschool there (and no, not several months ago either). If you drop me an email, I can give you the name if you think that you’d be relocating anywhere close.

    I’m so glad we live in a city where preschools are expensive, but not crazy competitive….yet.

  16. Thank God for Buffalo. While it is hardly as much fun living here as it must be in NYC or LA, it certainly has its advantages when it comes to things like cost of living, real estate prices, ease of traffic flow………and school openings. I am so sorry, Emily. How anxiety-producing. I’ve never known this sort of hell.

  17. All of my children went to preschool at churches. Lots of churches have preschool programs (and many have 2-12 also) – have you tried that? I was thrilled with the programs I was able to find for my kids. Good luck. Kellan

  18. Ugh. Irritating people are so damn irritating. And your job of calling a gazillion preschools sounds like no fun at all. I feel for you.

  19. Hope you’ll find a suitable one soon. Then you won’t have to spend all the time on the phone, doing research and such. They could be spent blogging instead! 😉

  20. I can’t even imagine this situation. I would not in any way be able to control myself. It is PRESCHOOL, for god’s sake. Incredible! Stories like these make me (almost) thankful that I live in a very small town. But even here, the most coveted preschool in town has a waiting list of TWO YEARS.

  21. It’s the same way around here. And the competition for kindergarten slots is even worse. Not fun at all.

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