My husband camped out on Tuesday night in low-30 degree weather, not to buy some Justin Timberlake concert tickets, but to register our 2 1/2 year old daughter in to a preschool program beginning in the fall. At 12:45am, he put on three layers of clothing with a heavy winter coat, and packed up our iPad full of television shows, a huge fleece blanket and a Pilates mat (listen, sitting on concrete after an hour is rough) and was on his way.
The school system in New York City is crazy. I'm pretty sure that the majority of young preschool aged children in our neighborhood don't even go to preschool. And it's not because of money, although, that's a problem too. But it's because there are not enough preschools for the amount of children.
Back when Harper was a little over a year old, I started researching preschools in our neighborhood and only came up with a few that were even worth applying to. Yes, I was researching preschools TWO FULL YEARS before she was even able to go. We actually applied for a 2's program on a whim and didn't even get in. During the application process, I had to fill out a "mission statement" like I had done 15 years earlier to apply to college. It was like college all over again. The same anxious feeling I had while I awaited an acceptance letter or a rejection. As I wrote this ridiculous mission statement, I thought to myself, "She is the PERFECT candidate to get in to this preschool!!" The question they wanted me to answer was something along the lines of "How would your child benefit from being involved in such a diverse neighborhood educational environment such as 'so and so' Preschool?". EASY QUESTION!! I wrote about how my father actually GREW UP in the neighborhood we live in (yes, he totally did), and the benefits of having our child learn in an environment in which her Poppy grew up would be amazing! Well, obviously... our answer wasn't good enough. Because a few months later, I got an email (yes, a fucking email... the assholes couldn't even put a 44 cent stamp on an envelope to mail the rejection letter after I paid a $50 application fee) saying our 2 year old didn't get in. They had never even laid eyes on her. So how are they making their decisions? All we put on the application was our address and what we each did for a living. Which, I work in a counsel's office for a well known private university in the city and my husband is a designer and photographer for an advertising agency. Why didn't she get in? When I called to ask this question, they had no answer to give me. They gave me some bullshit response about how the timing was off. Yeah, WHAT?
I know people in Brooklyn that are applying to preschools that cost $33,000 a year. I'm really, REALLY, not kidding. $33,000 for a 3 year old to go to preschool. What's even crazier is that these schools are EXTREMELY competitive. You would think anyone who could afford $33,000 a year to put their child in a preschool would just get in automatically, right? NOPE! Most children don't even get in!!
The preschool we really had our heart set on had a "first come, first served" policy and they didn't begin taking applications until the day after Labor Day for the following year. I knew this an entire year in advance. They specifically stated on their website that they wouldn't even take calls regarding the following year until the day after Labor Day. So in 2011, I marked on my calendar that I needed to apply to this specific preschool the day after Labor Day in 2012. At 9am on Tuesday, September 4th, I was calling and getting information on how to apply. My application and fee was in by noon. And then we waited. We got a call that we had a spot! Next step was to go to an open house to see if the preschool was a right fit for us. We went and loved the director. Next step was to take our daughter to an "open play" where they swear they aren't evaluated, but rather observed to see if they are a good fit for the type of program the preschool provides. Then, our daughter was IN! The step after that was to decide if you wanted the morning program or the afternoon program. Since our daughter takes naps from 1:30pm-3:00pm each day, we knew the morning program would be best. And since most 3 year olds take naps at the same time, EVERYONE wants the morning program. They have 40 children who are "IN" for the academic year - 20 students are in 3 classes in the morning. The other 20 students are in 3 classes in the afternoon. So what this school does is they have a morning where registration takes place and it's "first come, first served". So yes, registration began at 7am. My husband was out there at 1am to register our daughter for preschool. And what's even more shocking is that he was number 15 in line!
When my husband got home in the morning, the first thing I said to lighten the mood was, "I'm sure everyone was soooo jealous that you had a pilates mat! I mean, we were thinking! You were totally prepared!" He busted out laughing and said...."Are you kidding? PEOPLE. HAD. FUCKING. TENTS!" He then explained that other people had full body sleeping bags where the only thing exposed was their face. And I seriously thought my pilates mat was good thinking. Who was I kidding?
But she's in! She's in to start preschool in the fall. She's in the morning program. We. Are. In.
And my husband spend the entire day sleeping yesterday. Beats losing sleep in a few months when she isn't in a program at all.