Sep 24, 200912:00 AM
Joie d'Eve

Living, loving, laughing, and learning in the new New Orleans

Preschool Blues

My daughter isn't even 3 yet, but I am already consumed by panic over where she will attend preschool and elementary school.

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I have a picture in my mind’s eye of myself just a few weeks after my daughter was born. I was more exhausted than I’d ever been in my life, my bloodshot eyes ringed in dark circles. My skin was breaking out from the hormone crash, and I hadn’t been able to put the baby down long enough to shower, so my hair was hanging limp and greasy around my face. I was still carrying extra weight from the pregnancy, I was hobbling a little bit from the C-section, and I was discovering stretch marks in new places almost every single day. I was wearing sweatpants and monkey slippers pretty much round the clock, and I’d run out of nursing pads and hadn’t had time to get to the store, so I had baby socks jammed into my nursing bra. At that moment, I truly believed that I would never, ever have my life or my body back. I thought I would never again feel attractive or sexy or youthful. The idea of ever again being able to take a nice, long bath –– let alone take the time to blow-dry my hair or put on eyeliner –– seemed ridiculously unattainable. “Well, that’s it,” I thought in a sleep-deprived, hormonally addled fugue. “I’m just someone’s mom now.”

Of course, a few months passed, and the baby started to sleep, and things improved immeasurably. My life has never again been the same –– for better and for worse –– but most days, I do feel like I’m more than just Ruby’s mom.

But not this past Saturday. This past Saturday, I was consumed by the mommy of all mommy worries –– preschool in New Orleans –– and I was in full-on mommy anxiety mode all day.

Ruby head-butted me awake at an alarmingly early hour, as is her custom, and as I was making our morning beverages of choice (chocolate milk for her and about 87 cups of coffee for me), my husband, Jamie, said: “Did you see the story on the front page of the Times-Picayune? It was all about the nightmare of getting your kid into preschool in New Orleans.”

“What?!” I yelped. “Did it mention the Montessori preschools that will put you into Tier 1 to get into Audubon? Shit! I haven’t mailed in the Montessori application yet, and now that it’s in the paper, they’ll be deluged! She’ll never get in! Oh, I knew I should’ve mailed it off as soon as I got it! Where the hell did I put that application? Oh, my God, if she doesn’t get into a good school, we’re screwed. I don’t want to do Catholic school, and we can’t afford Newman, and Lusher is impossible to get into and oh, my God …”

Jamie sat me down on the sofa, took away my coffee and forced me to breathe. “She will be fine,” he told me. “She will be fine. We will be fine. It’s going to be fine.”

And, I mean, I know it will. I never meant to be one of those intense New York City-type moms who is convinced her precious little snowflake will be doomed to a life of mediocrity if he or she doesn’t get into the right preschool. I know, on some level, how absurd it must sound. And then again, it’s not necessarily absurd at all. Jamie grew up in a great school district and just went to the public school down the street. And as much as I don’t want to be an elitist snob, I’m not comfortable just sending my daughter to the neighborhood school here in New Orleans. I’ve worked in the public schools here, and they are … well … flawed. They are definitely flawed. And with all of the charter schools that cropped up in the wake of Katrina, the system here just doesn’t work the way it does in other cities.

We went to a birthday party for one of Ruby’s daycare friends later that day, and the article about preschools was all that anyone could talk about.

“I went to Lusher,” one mother said to me. “I wish that counted for something.”

“God, me, too,” I said. “Why doesn’t it? Being a legacy counts at Harvard. Why not Lusher?”

“I think it’s easier to get into Harvard than Lusher these days,” she said, and we giggled and then sighed and toasted each other with our juice boxes.

One family had just moved into the very tiny, very specific Lusher district, and we all looked at them with unbridled envy. “Well, I guess you don’t have to worry,” we said and turned our backs on them and went back to hyperventilating.

We discussed Audubon’s lottery system, the rules for siblings at various schools, Hynes and its uniforms, the merits of religious education, whether we should have them tested to see if they were gifted, how we just wanted our kids to be kids, how we wanted our kids to learn to read and add and spell and know that George Washington was the first president, how we wanted our kids to be safe and to be surrounded by other kids with likeminded parents, how we wanted them to have kind and caring teachers with perfect grammar and endless patience.

“Why don’t we all just send them to Morris F.X. Jeff?” said one parent. “All of these kids at the party –– let’s just send them all together and be pioneers!”

“Not with my child,” said another. “I’ll be a pioneer in a neighborhood, and I’ll take a chance at a new restaurant, but I’m not gambling with my kid’s education.”

“Let’s do a home-school co-op!” someone else suggested.

“I think I’d rather shoot myself in the face than home-school my kid,” was the reply.

“Yeah, not with my math skills,” said another.

The conversation paused. We all sighed and sipped at our drinks and looked around for our children.

“We’ll figure something out,” the host said. “It’ll be OK.”

And it will.

The day my daughter was born, my mom told me: “Remember this every single moment of every single day: It’s all a phase. The bad stuff will end. The good stuff will end. Endure it when you have to, and enjoy it when you can.”

The haze of achy sleep deprivation and leaking breasts and nonstop crying (hers and mine) gave way to a really cute crawling-and-babbling phase, which gave way to a very annoying pull-everything-off-of-every-shelf-in-the-house phase. We’ve gotten through weaning and potty-training and reflux and night terrors, and I have faith that somehow, some way, we will get past preschool.

Tips, suggestions, reassurance, commiserations and donations of wine and/or Xanax all are welcome.

 
 

Reader Comments:
Sep 25, 2009 05:54 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Ruby is a genius, so I'm sure she will get in anywhere. Also, I love Gigi's advice.
Love,
the creepy girl who sits next to you (not Morgan)

Sep 25, 2009 08:29 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Oddly enough there are other private schools that are affordable other than the typicals- Newman, Sacred Heart, Stuart Prep, & Country Day. When my husband and I were faced with the same issue we chose to send our daughter to my alum out in River Ridge, John CurtisCHristian School. Although it's a ride down Earhardt to get there every morning, she's getting an incredible education including Spanish, Computers, Art, Music, & Christian Religion on top of the regular subjects like English, Sience, Math, History, and Reading. The Curtis Pre-K class does have homework for at least 1/2 hour M-TH, but my kid was also reading at the end of the year in Pre-K. Believe it or not, Curtis is not just a jock school, and is one of the most affordable private schools in the Metro New Orleans area. It's well worth a tour with your daughter, especially if you're looking for a family style environment with loads of positive reinforcement that will encourage your child to grow and challenge her mind.

Sep 26, 2009 07:20 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I don't think you should rule out a catholic parochial school. You do not have to be in the regional area of the church parish to get in. There are many in Orleans and Jefferson parishes. Most are very good to excellent. I am a teacher and have taught in public, private an parochial. The parochial schools have come a very long way and have much to offer educationally, spiritually and emotionally. They are not the schools they were 15 or even 10 years ago. Many are very culturally diverse. I teach in one of those in Mid-City. Keep an open mind. (I also have a 3 year old granddaughter, but she lives in Florida. I know where I would send her if she lived here.)

Sep 27, 2009 12:10 am
 Posted by  Aaron

You've captured your stream of thought panic attack perfectly, Eve. Hold strong, get that little smartie in a good school.

Sep 27, 2009 06:08 pm
 Posted by  Bill H.

I am so sorry that you have all this angst. I went to Robert E. Lee school on Carrollton Ave., (now called something else), Fortier High School, and got into Harvard, and I was the only person from a public school who took the spring College Boards in 1953. For a year, in between college, I also was a deckhand on a New Orleans tugboat that hauled crude oil from collection stations below New Orleans to refineries at Destrehan, Norco, and Baton Rouge. Which work was the more valuable? The girl who was the Fortier valedictorian in my class became the woman who was the last president of Radcliffe College. Her mother and my mother were stalwarts in the New Orleans League of Women Voters. Ever heard of that? For (epithet)'s sake, relax a little bit.

Sep 28, 2009 12:44 pm
 Posted by  burgundy

I LIKE BILL H.`S COMMENT! GREAT !

Sep 28, 2009 01:45 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Ruby will be great at any school...Good luck with finding a school and keep me posted. I am glad she enjoyed the chocolate milk this time :O)

Sep 30, 2009 09:56 am
 Posted by  Eve Kidd Crawford

Thanks, everyone, both for the suggestions and -- in Bill H.'s case -- the perspective. I definitely needed both!

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Joie d'Eve

Living, loving, laughing, and learning in the new New Orleans

about

Eve is further proof, if any is needed, that New Orleans girls can never escape the city. After living here since the age of 3 and graduating from Ben Franklin High School, Eve moved to Columbia, Mo., where she received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Missouri School of Journalism and became truly, unhealthily obsessed with grammar.

She had originally intended to strike out to New York City and work in the cutthroat magazine industry there, but after Katrina, Eve felt a strong pull to return home, to her roots, her family, her waterlogged and struggling city – and a much more forgiving work atmosphere that would allow her to skip a routine of everyday makeup and size 0 designer label business suits and enjoy the occasional cocktail or three with an absurdly fattening lunch. She moved back home in January 2008 and lives in Mid-City with her two daughters, Ruby and Georgia; her stepson, Elliot; and her husband, Robert Peyton.

Eve blogs about the joys and struggles of living in post-Katrina New Orleans, the unique problems and delights of raising a child in such a diverse and challenging city – including her experiences with the public education system – and her always entertaining and extremely colorful family.

Eve has won numerous writing awards, including the Pirates Alley Faulkner Society Gold Medal, the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence award for column-writing and Press Club of New Orleans awards for her Editor’s Note in New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles and for this blog, most recently winning the award for "Best Feature Affiliated Blog."

She welcomes comments, advice, empty flattery, recipes, drink invitations and – most especially – grammatical or linguistic debates.

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