Saturday I went to the open house at the Montessori preschool M went to. My plan was to look around, get a feel for the place now--what had changed, what hadn't, in the last three years--and go home and weigh my options. But as we sat there in the primary room, sitting on tiny wooden chairs at a tiny wooden table, the sun streaming in the window, E and Z happily stacking gradually-smaller cubes on top of each other, I began to feel lulled. I thought about Leprechauns--specifically the Leprechauns E and Z brought home from daycare last Thursday, which each had exactly the same colored hats and beards and suits and boots, as if they were colored by the same robot, and which also were cut out EXACTLY along the outline, in a way no three-year-old could ever muster (I have often remarked that the "teachers" at daycare get a lot of practice with their fine motor skills). And I thought about the dark, cramped preschool room, on the second floor of a converted garage with only two windows, with drab gray carpet and dingy white walls, where the TV holds the most prominent position in the room, and in the arsenal of childcare and kid-wrangling tactics.
After nearly two hours of stacking and building and chatting, we moved into the elementary room to get the price and registration information and found out that there were only barely two part-time slots still available. The price per week came out only slightly more than what we're already paying for daycare (but I neglected to consider before- and after-care). I made a quick call to C, wrote a post-dated check for September's tuition and snatched up the spots. Only later did I remember the things that were going to go in my "down-sides" column--the school closes on holidays and snow days, daycare does not; the school day goes from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (with a 7:40 early drop-off and 5:00 late pickup, at a cost, of course), while daycare runs from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; daycare is about half a mile from my house, making it equally convenient for either C or me to drop off or pick up the kids, while the preschool is on my way to work, making it my job to both pick up and drop off.
Other objections I had harbored seem less significant now--I was always bothered by the clutter and disorganization of the place (yes I am a total hypocrite)...it was very clean Saturday--of course they would clean up for an open house, but they also have two administrative assistants, so hopefully they handle organization. I knew at least five or six of the current and/or prospective parents who were milling around Saturday, which is at least four or five more than I knew after M went there for two years (yes I was a little self-absorbed with the business of twin pregnancy/birth/infancy).
I asked E and Z if they liked the school--E said yes, Z said no. When I asked which they would rather go to, school or daycare, they unanimously voted to "stay home."
Later that evening I felt a moment of panic--what if I made a mistake? What if, through a change in fortunes, we don't need daycare or preschool next year (of course if we have a change in fortune of that magnitude, we won't care too much about forfeiting our deposit). Now that a few days have gone by, I'm getting kind of excited at the prospect--if nothing more than for a change. But also because I think it would be easy to underestimate E and Z's need for intellectual stimulation because their language skills don't come close to what M's had been...I've had a nagging feeling I was short-changing them (conflicting with a satisfaction that I was supporting their childhood and not pushing them), and now I think that everything will be just fine...no more long days at daycare in front of the TV. No more naps, making bedtime that much easier (and earlier). I'll miss out on a year of early morning swims, Pilates classes and solo grocery-runs, but it's only a year and I think our gains will outweigh our losses. Let's hope.
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