Thursday 15 March 2018

Invisable Rainbows

Life in Pieces almost immediately became my new favorite show when it debuted a few years ago. The pilot aired a few months after Kate was born and featured a couple in their mid 30s who just gave birth to their firstborn. The doctor came by during her rounds the next morning and asked the new mother how she was doing. Before she could answer, her husband replied that his neck was sore from sleeping on the partner bed in the hospital suite. That is exactly what Husband did when my parents arrived to see me and Kate and my dad asked, "How are YOU doing?" As Husband started to complain about his neck, my Dad cut him off to clarify that he was directing the question to me "the one who was sliced opened and had a small human pulled out of her" Thanks for the graphic recall Dad, I'll need to remember that the next time I need Husband to shut up. On a side note; I've generally regarding L+D tours to be rather useless. Maybe it's because of my own familiarity with the rooms and I feel they merely existed to promote the millions spent on making the suite seeming more like a hotel and less like a hospital, but the experience really was akin to stay at any other hotel with an en suite. However, if they explain how to move the arms on the sofa so it does stretch out like a full bed, and no other support person has to complain about a sore neck, then maybe it is time well spent.

Anyway, as we watched the first season of Life in Pieces (which follows the lives of a baby boomer couple and their three adult children) we were drawn to the couple who were new parents as many of their experiences were following ours. Then came the "invisible rainbows" episode, which we would later discover, absolutely nails the Pre-School Panic. Jen and Greg were attending an extravagant totally over the top 6 month birth party for a child in their neighborhood. The party was complete with a bounce house, tables Full of fancy baked goods and gifts bags, clowns, balloons and a stuffed animal petting zoo. You know, because real animals carry E.coli. But don't worry, there were plenty of hand sanitizer stations, so kids will know what to do if they should ever touch a real animal. Oh, and to make it really authentic; there was hired help to clean up their "poop" (chocolate covered raisins).
It soon became clear that the real guest of honor at this party was Marta, the headmaster of an exclusive private pre-school. "You know those kids you had every advantage and we hated them?" Jen asked Greg "Don't you want that for Lark? [their daughter]" Greg soon learned just how competetive these schools are when we was chatting with two parents whose kids attend Marta's superstar pre-school. One mother describes that she married a woman and that only moved them up a few places on the wait list, but she does love her partner, or at least loves having orgasms. When the tiger moms start pressuring Greg about what other pre-schools they are considering, Greg panics and conjures a pre-school called Invisible Rainbows. Don't bother googling it, because they are so exclusive that they don't even have a website. In fact, they don't even have an address as it's a pop-up preschool...just like a rainbow...

Word of this new hot exclusive pre-school spreads like wildfire at this party. Just as Greg and Jen spot Marta standing alone and are ready "to pounce on her like a fake tiger at a stuffed zoo", she approaches them to express her concerns about the director at Invisable Rainbows. "She cannot be trusted," Marta warns and further elaborates "the only thing invisable there are the iPads. We offer a 1.5 iPad per student ratio" (not a selling point to me, by the way). This was the tipping point for Jen to decided that the pre-school down the road from them would be good enough and Greg adds, "the people there aren't full of chocolate covered raisins" as he stuffs a handful in his mouth.

This episode prompted us to have the discussion about Kate's schooling. We love where we live, but there aren't very good schools in our area and we had tentatively planned to move to a location with better schools. At least for now, we decided to stay where we are and look toward private schools for Kate, which kills me a little bit as I'm a proud product of public school education (my elementary school was actually rated as one of the best in the country). We figured that we had a couple of years to figure this out before she enters Kindergarden, as her current Day Care/Pre-School provides services until Kindergarden. As I mentioned in a previous post, we've been really happy with her current program. They provided great infant care and Kate seems to be thriving in the toddler and twos programs. They work on letters each week, discussed the solar system in the month of January, she has music classes, goes to soccer and will start swim lesions next week. They've previously offered Spanish and yoga classes, although I haven't seen any sign up sheets recently. I recently passed on an open house to look at other pre-schools as I was happy with our status quo.

My eyes were opened the day after Valentine's Day, when I received an email in the middle of the day announcing the abrupt departure of one of the most tenured Pre-school teachers. I figured there was some back story to explain why she was let go, but I didn't think too much of it, until I started getting texts from some parents who had older kids in the Pre-school and were particularily fond of the departed teacher. The director held a parent meeting a few nights later. The take away that I took home is that it sounds like the dismissed teacher was going through burn-out. Parents with the older kids remembered her as a very dedicated and loving teacher and newer parents saw the concerns that the director had with her. I spoke with a mom whose son just recently moved into the Pre-school program and she commented that when she dropped off her son in the morning, the fired teacher was spending time on her phone. Not the worst thing in the world, but it doesn't impress you either. There seemed to be a collective opinion that the quality of care seems to drop off at the Pre-school level.
I'm trying to be optimistic. As the director announced that they are looking to hire two new pre-school teachers, I'm seeing it as an opportunity; maybe they'll be awesome and will re-establish our facility as a top notch Pre-school. However, I also thought it would be prudent to start looking at other schools, especially if they are not successful in replacing the teachers, we'll be competing with everyone else for spaces at other schools. My Father worked sort of as a handyman for a Montessori school and had been promoting the Montessori method pretty much since Kate was born. Husband was a bit resistant, I think, just because he saw my father being intrusive, but I was able to get him to agree to take a tour with me.

We looked at a school that is on my way to work. As in, it's so close that I could just slow down and kick her out the door and continue driving (kidding, of course). The school is very secure and features four classrooms with a playground courtyard in the middle. It looks like an actual school. The director let us peek in on a classroom, which looks much like a real Kindergarden classroom. The kids were engaged in circle time and seemed to be happy. After 15 minutes of chatting, she talking about putting our names on the wait list and explained how that process worked. Even after the brief encounter, Husband was totally impressed. "I want her in that school!' he declared. I agreed that it really would be an improvement from her current Pre-school and I started to fret that we were too late and wouldn't get in and went into full blown Pre-school panic mode.

I have to admit my privledge that not only is she currently enrolled in a good pre-school program, but I was able to find three other Montessori schools that are along my way to work, or near my office. I will whine a little bit that I had to exclude some schools even though they are only a few miles from our house, the traffic in our area is so bad that I would be looking at adding two extra hours of time in the car each day. Oh, and I excluded some others and the cost for one year is more than my college tuition (albeit that was in 1994, I shutter to think about what my University is charging today). I'm hoping that with these four school, we get accepted into one that will be the right fit for Kate. It has been a bit of a mind fuck and I feel like I've become one of those parents at the Life in Pieces party. I even confronted Husband about it. "We're obsessing about this school after the director didn't even ask about Kate, showed us one classroom and directed us right to her wait list" Maybe she figured that didn't need to sell it, thought Husband. I added that we may be so far down on the wait list that it was her polite way to avoid wasting our time and raising our hopes. (Co-worker confirmed to me that schools with Wait Lists, basically spend a few minutes with you, then lead you to the door)

There is so much emphasis on the development in the first five years, but there is a part of me that also says we shouldn't be putting so much pressure on this time as being a predictor of future success in life. Kate's Pediatrician, who is a truly brilliant man, recently revealed that he wasn't able to read until he was 6 years old. It also reminds me that Husband and I have to be Kate's primary teachers and her schools are meant to supplement. I'm probably going to question my decision over and over again should she get accepted into a Montessori or if we keep her in the current school. There is no such thing as a perfect school. It's an invisable rainbow. Life in  Pieces totally nailed it.


  1. That episode sounds hilarious. And funny for being not far off the truth. We decided to keep AJ part time at her daycare and call it pre school. I don’t care much about preschool though (never went to one myself). For me it’s more about socialization and friendships than academics. Kindergarten and elementary though, that’s a big deal. I’m not particularly worried about her doing well, but I wonder about the quality of the school and the curriculum and myself as a parent, to be honest. I’m a teacher and I do try not to judge parents, but I am disdainful if parents who treat school like a babysitter and don’t do the work to help their child succeed. So I definitely feel some pressure to be the active parent of a school age child, though I’m totally cool right now with dropping AJ off at daycare and letting her do whatever.

  2. There's a lot of pressure on us to feel like we are giving our kids the best opportunities. Even though it is "just" preschool, we still need to feel comfortable and confident in the care/education they are providing for the most precious little humans in our lives.

  3. Sounds about right. Every daycare/preschool has its share of pros and cons. We have had some turnover in our daycare, but have gotten some awesome teachers coming in. Some other parents have freaked out, but I'm of the mindset that my kids are safe, happy, and learning at their current school so why take them somewhere else and upend them if I don't have to? We have had a few friends move their kids elsewhere and it hasn't gone so well.

    As far as her school supplementing parents as primary teachers I'm not sure I agree with that. My kids spend more time with their teachers during the week than I spend with them so they are their primary teachers. I would rather make sure that I am getting quality time in with my kids after school and on the weekends...which doesn't include teaching them in the formal sense of the word.

  4. Your commentaries on TV shows just kill me. Now I want to watch that series.
    I hear you. I mean, I'm definitely not in panic, but it's more so because we can only send her to one we can afford. There is a Montessori school actually five min from me that I just discovered, but the tuition once she'd start preschool.... oof. I don't know.

  5. Your description of this TV show makes me want to check it out ASAP. We went to a similar birthday party recently and having coffee with the Mom a few weeks later, she revealed they had applied to all of the most exclusive pre-schools in Denver and her daughter was going to a gift pre-school (whatever that means at age 3).

    I find the stress related to school selection so hard not to get wrapped up in, but then I also feel completely helpful. My daughter loves her current school, but we've had quite a bit of turnover and right now her class is 16 boys and 4 girls, which feels a bit imbalanced to me. That said, all of the other schools even remotely nearby have waitlists for months - we've been on one for a Montessori school just 3 blocks from our house since B was born (She is 3 years, 3 months old). WTF! For now, I've chosen to take the approach that it will all just work out and that what matters most write now is good care and a happy and safe child.