Saturday, February 23, 2008

if you thought the comments section was hopping before, wait until you read this one

After leaving the school grounds today, for our sixth and last school visit in less than a week, I looked at Joe and said, "Well, I don't think we'll be going there."

Our visit was marred from the start, showing up after some extensive planning and conferring with the admissions office to be told that no, they did not in fact give school tours that day, and then promptly shuttled into a "parent interview" during which we were actually asked whether or not Cal would mind sitting alone in the admissions office waiting room for half an hour while Joe and I were questioned. After pointing out that Cal was, uh, TWO YEARS OLD, and probably wasn't in, shall we say, the sit-quietly-with-his-hands-folded-alone-in-a-waiting-room phase of his life yet, they conceded to interview Joe and me separately, so that one of us could stay with Cal. If the fact that a preschool admissions officer would not understand the inherent flaw in even presuming that we would leave our toddler alone in a wood-paneled office to amuse himself with old volumes of the school's yearbook doesn't count as starting off on the wrong foot, well, I guess I must need more feet, because I was not in a hopeful mood after that.

The parent interview was exactly what one would expect from an interview screening parents for a preschool spot. (This is the only school that actually interviewed us as parents, by the way. Luckily, I was already in interview mode, though my usual spiel about familiarity with ultrasound guided peripheral nerve blockade didn't quite come in handy.) I almost wished I had read more of the school's glossy brochure before showing up (I actually didn't even know there was an interview component to the day--and I was really unprepared for the talent and swimsuit competition), so I was floundering around a bit when I was asked why it was that we decided to apply to this school in the first place. (Real answer: we looked at where [Big Academic Hospital] was on the map, took out a compass, drew a 3 mile radius circle around it, and applied to every school inside the circle. But that doesn't sound really good to say in an interview, so I babble nonsensically for some time about progressive education models and their facilities. Which I'm not even sure is true on either count, because you know, there are NO TOURS ON SATURDAYS.) There were many questions, some pointed, and at one juncture, I joked to the interviewer that I felt like I was interviewing for med school. She smiled faintly. After limping out of the room, Joe and I exchanged glances, and both just sort of raised our eyebrows. What was that about?

The knock-out blow came with the "child-evaluation" portion of the program, though. This was held in the nursery school classroom, where all the kids being evaluated for the day were shepherded, accompanied by ONE PARENT (the were fairly inflexible about this--Joe ended up having to wait in the car for an hour), and observed while playing with trains and building with blocks and eating their own boogers. VERY RIGOROUS. Cal loved the toys in the classroom, of course, particularly the wooden train set and these magnetic tile thingies that even I had a hard time not playing with. He was definitely younger than most of the kids in his class (I am presuming, with Cal's July birthday--I didn't ask or anything, but the kids acted a bit older, and though he is very big for his age, these other kids were all larger than him) and he was just very intent on his playing. He barely talked to me when he was playing, and he definitely didn't talk to any of the teachers or the other kids. At certain points, the teachers approached him, tried to get him to have a conversation or tell a story or hold forth on Proust or whatnot, but he just wasn't having it. He would take a toy if offered, but really, he just wanted to push his train through the tunnel, you know? STOP INTERRUPTING ME, MEDDLING ADULT, I AM BUILDING. If he was doing this at home, I'd be like, score, and take the rare moment of free time to do such luxurious alone-time things as go to the bathroom or check my e-mail, but since we were in this evaluation session, I kind of felt obligated to draw him out. Though I have to admit, I didn't try very hard. I was just kind of over the whole thing.

At the 45 minute mark, the teacher flipped the light on and off (as they do) and gave us notice that it was time to clean up, and that's when the shit really hit the fan. Because while Cal doesn't mind cleaning up in general, he was not ready to stop playing at that moment. At all. AT ALL. So while all the other little children were cleaning up and putting away the boxes of dress-up clothes and whatnot, no doubt skipping their way happily holding their parent's hand, Cal was standing in the corner, screaming as loud as I've ever heard him scream, clinging to the train set for dear life. Honestly, I just felt bad for him. He's been away from home for a week, living in a hotel room, and he just wanted to play with the trains. I almost wished I hadn't brought him in the first place, except that he did have a fun hour and a half in the playroom, and for half an hour on the school playground beforehand. So I just sat him on my lap, talked some comforting mommy mumbo-jumbo to him, while all the other kids sat in a circle and sang songs and generally acted compliant.

And then it was over. Cal didn't want to leave, wasn't ready to say goodbye to all the blocks and books and fun stuff, so after some cajoling and some pointed throat-clearing from the teachers, we had to drag him out of the schoolroom screaming, I want to stay! I want to stay here! "Well, at least he enjoyed himself!" I joked to one of the teachers, holding on to my kicking, screaming two-year old and making a quick getaway to the car. Ah, the clean exit. So slick.

Though this was the most intense of all our school visits (unnecessarily so, some would argue--me for one) at least it was the last one. I'm sure it's a nice school and all, and I hope this doesn't come across as sour grapes, but we didn't really get a great vibe from our few hours there, and we don't really feel strongly about having Cal attend. Anyway, I'm sure this is just an example of how things work out for the best, because there's probably a snowball's chance in hell from the school's end that Cal will be landing one of those spots.

Tomorrow--back to New York! Ah, New York, the land where Houston is pronounced "HOUSE-tun," and where Dekalb is pronounced as it is spelled, de-KALB, instead of the way it is pronounced here, as though it does not contain the letter L: de-KAB. I'm sure this will be the surefire way that people will be able to identify me as an outsider. Well, that, and the fact that I will apparently be the only person in the city actually taking the MARTA.