Back at the beginning of January we vaguely started talking about preschool options for Juliette – she’s been really happy at her current school, but it’s a small, humble space and we thought this coming Fall would be a good time to introduce her to a new environment and expand her horizons a bit. Sure, the next school year wouldn’t start for another eight months, but we wanted to be ahead of the game and take some time to weigh our options. Turns out we almost missed the game, as open houses and preschool fairs and application deadlines all happen in January and February! We were quickly swept up in the frenzy and after much research, decided to apply to a couple of programs. One place in particular really piqued my interest – after speaking with their director and touring their school, I eagerly texted Shane: “Such a great space! Art rooms and music lessons! Super-thoughtful teaching! Organic meals! I WANT IN!” We moved forward with the application process, excited and hopeful despite our knowledge that the Seattle preschool circuit is very (very) competitive.
Last Friday a letter came in the mail with the preschool’s name in the upper left corner. I had a brief flashback to the way my heart fluttered when I was eighteen years old, tearing open letters from the colleges I had applied to. I pulled out a single piece of paper (never a good sign!) and then my heart sank. “We’re sorry, but…”
The past week has been a flurry of unhappy, unseemly emotions as that letter has hung heavy in my mind. I’ve lost sleep and shed tears and probably driven Shane bat-shit crazy as I’ve processed the rejection, surprising even myself at how completely nuts I’ve been.
There were twinges of guilt and shame that Shane and I can’t give Juliette the best of the best. Did I really do all that I could to get her in? Was it my essay? I must not have adequately conveyed her joyous, fun-loving character! And maybe I should have offered more of myself to the school? I could have volunteered to take time off of work a couple of times a month to teach art classes or help with playground duty or disinfect Legos or something! Have I failed her in some way?
There was also a bit of self-righteous indignation, as my ultra-protective mama bear instinct wondered how they could turn down a chance to engage with my sweet, bright child. Screw them, with their high-falutin’ speak of philosophy and pedagogy! They don’t know what they’re missing!
There were about three hours of irrational fear, where I wondered if Juliette would be academically challenged for years to come if we don’t get her into a high-end top-notch preschool.
There was a whole lot of sadness that she won’t be going to school with her best friend next year, as he incidentally did secure a spot in the coveted program. It’s been so much fun to see N and J share a class for the past year – his is the first name from Juliette’s lips every evening when we ask her who she played with that day. La Verne and I have made something of a game of corroborating their toddler tales, texting each other things like “N said he put chips in Juliette’s hair today? Tell her he’s sorry!”. Since the time they were born, N and J’s lives have been gradually knit closer and closer together, and in a lot of ways, they’ve brought us parents right along with them. Now it feels like we’re taking a step back – I’m certain we’ll all remain close, but dang, the classmates gig was awfully sweet!
And, for the love of God, when did our baby become preschool-age, anyway? That parental passage-of-time melancholy is thick these days as we’ve watched our girl grow more independent, as our conversations about preschool have led into conversations about kindergarten (should she start elementary school in 2018 or 2019?) and then into conversations about high school graduation and even leaving home (if she starts kindergarten in 2018, she might move out when she’s 17!). Things are changing all too fast – several of the buddies Juliette and I hang out with on Friday mornings are heading off to their own Friday preschool programs next year and I’m longing for the days when we were all just a bunch of new moms on maternity leave, watching our babies crawl around together. I let Juliette nap in my lap a couple of days ago, because man, it felt so good to hold her so close.
I’m slowly finding my way toward acceptance – it looks like an exciting transition just isn’t in the cards for us this year. Juliette will stay at her current school and I’m daily reminding myself that she’ll be fine. She’ll be in a place that’s safe, where she’s known and loved. Her current school might not serve organic veggies at snack time, but the cook adores Juliette and gave her the friendliest, longest embrace when Juliette handed her a homemade card at Christmastime. They might not have a formal “anti-bias curriculum”, but she’ll be surrounded by teachers and students from a variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. And as I watched Juliette interact with several of her classmates on a field trip to the library last week, I sensed how very much at home those kids feel in one another’s company, how easily they put their arms around each other and how happily they danced when the librarian cranked up the music. Yes, she’ll be fine.
Which I suppose means I will be, too.