Today was one of those days where you can kind of stop and see your life, in a pause, a quiet moment, something that feels like an anchor, even if you’ve never held an anchor. Because who really is in the practice of hanging out with nautical equipment? Aside from those dirty sailors who go from port to port (Yes, that was an Austin Powers reference. You’ll get no apologies out of me.).
It happened over mangoes. My mother and I stopped by my grandmother’s home in Delray Beach. My grandmother is actually in Vermont with Aunt Georgette for the summer; so we were there to collect mail from a neighbor, turn off air conditioning, “upkeep.” I’ve spent winters of my life in this house, back when Papoo was still alive, working on mink coats in his makeshift studio—the garage. We opened the garage door, and immediately I was there, back when I’d fall asleep in a bedroom with Lea, the muffled sounds of a Danielle Steel made-for-TV movie with Joan Collins making it hard to sleep. I wanted to stay awake, to be included, to be older.
And I remembered Papoo, toiling beneath a task light, working on the insides of skins. I never understood what he was doing exactly, but he’d move his arms in a swooping motion, as if he were stripping down wood, leveling it. It almost looked as if he was pulling nails with the back of a hammer, yanking each one out in one long sweeping motion. Maybe they were staples. I still don’t know what a furrier does exactly.
My mother and I were in the yard, standing where a banana tree used to be. The grapefruit tree was replaced with an avocado tree, and right there, within arms reach was a lush mango tree, dripping with sappy mangoes. It was, in a word, glorious. I turned to my mother, offering up three words: Mango margaritas, baby.
It would not be a stretch, at all, to say that I’m passionate about food and about memories. Both can nourish you, make you ill, give you everything you need. It’s something I never learned in school. And THAT is what I needed to feel. Then and there, it was grounding, a reminder that some things can’t necessarily be taught. And everything is still okay.
Moi, in preschool (Attended a Montessori school where I learned—and swiftly forgot— French, hence the “Moi”)
Earlier in the day, I’d toured preschools. Made a spreadsheet of pros and cons. Seriously, 18 kids with only 1 teacher plus an assistant aide? Is that normal for pre-K? That’s a 9:1 ratio, no? Teachers have their masters degree, create the lesson plan, and then there’s the assistant, but 18 kids is like a football team… with 7 extra players on the bench! How much one-on-one time do they get? The ratio should be closer to 6:1, and it’s a lot to reconcile. 18 kids in a SMALL classroom. So, I spent the morning in a panic. Which school?
This is PRESCHOOL, so calm down. They will be smart, passionate children full of joy and curiosity no matter where they attend school because I am their mother. And, they’re already there. So much of a child’s success in school has to do with parenting anyway. Still, it’s a decision.
No, lie. What do I do? I read research. Forbes articles. I read about the top schools in the country, look for similarities (6:1 ratio was there, just sayin’), read about the application process at NYC’s Trinity, about how you need to be accepted for an interview, that not all applicants are even granted a tour or interview.
I knew it was cutthroat. Knew that parents worked on entrance essays, describing why their family would add to the diversity of the school, how involved they are as parents, how eager and committed. And the kids are subject to testing. FCATs, ERB Testing, and moreover, parents are prepping their children for the tests in hopes that the studying will prepare the kids (FOR KINDERGARTEN), so they’ll outperform those children who haven’t been exposed to the styles of the test… granting them entrance into gifted programs within public schools, and into competitive private schools in the practice of turning away more students than they accept. Holy shitballs. I bit off all my nails.
But you have to take a step back and remember a few things. I didn’t go to private school for kindergarten, or for any of high school, and I turned out okay. Phil, too, attended public school. We plan to send them to public school… but again, I’m getting ahead of myself. Because at the end of the day, children will thrive if they learn good habits and feel good, feel confident about who they are, knowing that they can achieve anything so long as they believe they can. What can’t be taught, but what can be contagious though, is passion. Kindness. Warmth and empathy. All I want for my children is for them to be happy and to feel good, really good, about who they are. I don’t know that a preschool can give them that. But I can.