Friday, November 11, 2011

Pit Me an Olive, Girl!

Is it just me or has this whole preschool thing gotten completely out of hand? Processing fees that are five - or ten - times what I paid to apply to graduate school? Tuitions that run more than I spent on a year of college?

My daughter is two. And while I do want the very best for her, I also think is it reasonable to stop and ponder what exactly these schools are going to teach her that is worth an annual outlay greater than I earned teaching philosophy to ungrateful eighteen year olds. And, more importantly, what is it that she actually needs to learn at this point - that is, besides how to use the big girl potty and not to pick her nose and eat it? (Two lessons, incidentally, that I am hoping we can teach her at home.)

Answers seem to include things like "working cooperatively" and "social responsibility" and "environmental stewardship," which all sound great in theory, but will really annoy the crap out of me when I'm getting a lecture about why not to kill the ants invading our bathroom.

What I'm most interested in having my kid learn right now are useful skills. Useful for me. I am interested in vocational training: things like doing dishes, dusting, pedicures. A bead sorting station and shoelace board may improve manual dexterity but unless they improve my daughter's ability to fold laundry or mix a martini by the time she's three, I'm not really all that impressed.

Of course, these schools are beautiful. Calm. They smell good. I would like to spend the day there. And if my freeloading toddler would get off her lazy tush and do some real work around here, or enroll in a freaking pageant or something, maybe we could afford for me to attend in the fall.

And that's kind of the point, because like most aspects of parenting today, it often seems that much of what we feel we should do for our kids seems actually to be more about us, not them. It is just much nicer to think about our children learning Swahili and molding the Venus de Milo out of bespoke (organic!) playdoh than pulling hair and eating paste in some regular old daycare - or worse, just playing alone at home (which I think used to be called "being a kid" back when our luddite parents left us in playpens and put us to sleep on our stomachs).

I'm not trying to judge; I'm pretty sure kids pull hair and eat paste no matter where they go to school. And I don't know where my daughter is going to end up. But I do find the costs of all forms of childcare a bit staggering (babysitters included!) in light of the fact that I'm pretty sure my kid could not tell the difference between the Motel 6 or Mandarin Oriental of preschools at this point. Or if she could, she wouldn't really care. She's too excited that they have sinks her height. They had her at "play kitchen."

All parents want the best for their kids. But when we find ourselves asking whether it would be creepy if we raided our daughter's therapy fund to pay for pre-kindergarten - what if we charged ourselves interest? - well, it just seems things have gone too far.

At the end of the day, I have to remind myself that I didn't even go to preschool. And I learned my alphabet in...wait for it...kindergarten. The horror! And I turned out okay. Or mostly okay. I mean, I can't speak Swahili but I do mix a mean martini.


  1. Amen! From the mother of a 3 1/2-year old who doesn't go to preschool and is the only kid I know his age who doesn't go. Instead he went to Mexico and is hopefully going back real soon!

  2. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Our ten-year-old daughter makes amazing coffee! We're waiting a bit before we teach her the martini (or Manhattan) basics :)