Parenting feels like one conundrum after another. Sometimes I feel like I must be the first person in the world to ever attempt to do what I’m doing. Obviously we’re the only family in the universe with no family nearby, two jobs and a medium to long commute, right?
This month’s stress-fest involves preschool. Grey will be four in October. He has known his ABCs for literally years now. He can read many simple words (20? more depending on context?) In fact, showing his roots, the child already deeply associates literacy and potty training. He has a stack of books that he can read next to the porcelain throne. And by “He can read” I really mean “He can read”. He doesn’t actually read every single printed word, but he knows the stories well enough and there are enough context clues that he can read these stories out loud 98% correctly. He uses the actual spellings when he can’t remember a word. He also uses funny voices. There’s one book that has yelling, and has drawn both his father and I at a run when we here the screaming from upstairs. Anyway, that’s my way of saying: the kid is ready for preschool. Unfortunately, he’ll get two years of preschool since Massachusetts schools have a pretty hard September 1st cutoff for starting kindergarten. He’ll be almost six by the time he starts “real school” where “real school” = school I pay for with taxes instead of tuition.
So I started the hunt for a preschool. It was gruelling. It involved calling about 12 entities and getting put on hold a lot. It involved explaining that no, I was not a resident of the town. It involved standing in the foyer of the YMCA for 40 minutes waiting for someone to talk to me about preschools before realizing that being made to wait 40 minutes was everything I needed to know about that preschool. It involved articulating what I wanted. THAT involved figuring out what I wanted.
Finally, though, I think I’ve settled on a great spot. This is a preschool here in the town I work in (which, for the record, is about 30 minutes from the town I live in and heavily Hispanic immigrant populated). They have a neat curriculum. They have nice facilities. All the kids seemed happy. Their staff had a little more turnover than I wanted, but Grey has lots of stability in his life and can deal with turnover. They have rhyme time and science experiments and a playground and nap time and good handwashing procedures and teeny tiny toilets in most of the classrooms. Also, they have hours I can hack. (Pickup isn’t mandatory until 6.)
Originally I’d been planning on sending him to preschool in the mornings and to Abuela’s with his brother in the afternoons. There were a few thoughts behind this. First it was cheaper (let’s be honest here). Second he would get most of the curriculum instruction. Third, he’s still got another year of preschool to go (I want a way to promote him). Fourth, he has a really strong relationship with Abuela and I’d like to keep that present as long as possible. Fifth, I’d like Grey and Thane to spend time together.
I discovered in my investigations that there are actually school bus services you can hire to pick up your preschooler from preschool and drop them off where they need to go. This seems both awesome and alien.
But then I started doing the math. With the part time preschool, the bus service and paying Abuela for the afternoons … well, I might be better off doing full day preschool.
But all the things above still apply!
Finally, I’ve personally settled on three day preschool — Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesday and Thursday he’ll spend at daycare. (I can always change this if it doesn’t work.)
All good, right?
Well, there are two parts of this that are going to suck. First of all, there’s my commute. This means I have TWO dropoffs. And preschool is further out than daycare. Add a minimum of 15 minutes each way to my commute, or half an hour a day, or two and a half hours a week, or pretty much as much time as I get for myself a week.
The second one is no better. I have a fantastic deal with daycare. I pay Abuela $100/week ($20/day) for Grey and $150/week for Thane (including all food for Grey). That comes to a cool $1000/month for the best deal you’ll hear about anywhere that doesn’t involve grandparents. Well, each day of preschool costs $39 (also including food). So ($39 x 3) Grey preschool + ($20 x 2) Grey daycare + ($30 x 5) Thane daycare = $300/week = $1200/month = as much as we paid in rent for our first apartment.
But what can you do? It still makes plenty of economic sense for me to go to work, by the way. And even if I stayed home, I’d want Grey to be getting socialization and going to a preschool, so even if I was a SAHM we’d be trying to send him to preschool.
I didn’t have time to spend money anyway. And hey, what good is it to contribute to a college fund if you aren’t willing to cough up for preschool, right? Right.
They’re worth it.