Sunday, March 24, 2013

Pre-School Stress, Part II

In the town where we live, we have what is called a Magnet system for the public elementary schools. Each school has its own specialty. (Environmental studies or global studies, for example.) There are seven elementary schools. Each spring, parents whose children are entering Kindergarten in the fall get to tour the schools, rank them in order of preference, and in theory get one of their top two or three choices. This all started in the 1970's as a way of integrating all of the schools and making sure each one is as good as the next, since our town is so socioeconomically diverse. This is the second in a series blog posts I wrote for a local website last year, as My Director and I went through the process:

It's taken me two weeks to collect my thoughts and decide what I took out of the first round of school tours, and what I wanted to share. That's right. I said "first round." Since my wife and I both work, we were only able to tour the schools at night. So we'll be taking a day off to visit our favorites while school is in session. Because we're gluttons for punishment.


You see, no one told us how exhausting the tours were. For five nonconsecutive nights we came home from work, shoved some dinner down our throats, kissed Peanut goodbye and headed to a different school. Just getting out the door was no easy task for two working parents who have been going non-stop since before the sun is up. When all you want to do is relax and play with your child and then put her to bed and pass out on the couch and let the warm glow of the television transport you to dreamland. Instead there we were, right on time every night. Listening to the principals. Following the PTA representatives from library to classroom to gymnasium. Asking questions. And wondering, "Would she like it here?"

And that's really what our decision is going to come down to. What's best for her. But the road from here to there is paved with uncertainty. Doubt. I've really never experienced anything like this. We question every decision, every conclusion, we make. For example, one night we love a school because of the principal. The next night, we love a school despite its principal. So were we foolish the first time? Or the second time? At both? Or neither? Serenity now!

We might like the magnet program at one school, then not like it at another. But we like both schools. How is that possible? It's maddening. I even convinced myself this weekend that a school that's near the bottom of our list should maybe be higher because a bunch of the parents from Peanut's daycare really liked it. "Are we missing something?" I asked My Director. "We totally weren't feeling (that school). And they all love it."

That brings me to the whole "hot school" theory that everyone talks about. Every year, there is supposedly a hot school that everyone falls in love with for some reason. Was this the "hot school?" If so, shouldn't we be glad that we don't like and thus don't have to "fight" for it? Or are my second thoughts justified? I just don't know.

Always the voice of reason, My Director talked me down from the ledge and said we're sticking to our list. But then again, the voice of reason herself has had her moments. She had the nerve to bring up middle schools, and which elementary schools feed into which ones. Because now we're supposed to be able to predict the future too, and know what a place is going to be like six years from now.

Once again, we are talking about elementary schools here. Kindergarten for crying out loud.

I'm currently training for my third half-marathon. In doing so I'm dealing with all of the obstacles that come with it: Injury, illness, weather, fatigue, time commitments, etc. It is a daily struggle both physically and mentally. But I am being completely honest when I say this school process is more exhausting and stressful. 

And for no other reason than we make it that way. That's right. It's our fault. The parents. It's all we talk about. At dance class. At birthday parties. At daycare pickup. On the phone with our parents and as we run into our neighbors on the block. It's the only thing we're capable of discussing. It's insane. And once again wherever she ends up will be fine.

As I stood there eating a slice of pizza at the birthday party of one of Peanut's classmates this weekend, one of the other dads approached me. Of course, we immediately and almost instinctively started talking about schools. Once we had given our ranks, our likes and our dislikes about each, he said, "When do we find out where they're going."

"Not until July."

"July?!"

Yeah... July. It's not the choosing. It's the unknown. As Tom Petty said, the waiting is the hardest part. We have three more months of wondering and worrying. And I said in my last blog post that I wasn't going to get emotional. How am I doing with that?

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