Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Camp and PreK

Modeling Nastya's (our former nanny comes back to babysit!) sunglasses. 

Calliope (and her bestie, Eleanor) started camp at Kaleidoscope last week. There were some tears the first day -- apparently she cried every half hour during the first day, and refused to eat -- but mostly it's been smooth sailing since then. She seems to like it. They rode the school van to Prospect Park one day to play in the sprinklers at Vanderbilt Playground one day, and I'm still hearing, a week later, about this van. They did tie dye one day, and she seemed to like that although had no really clue what they were doing. She likes the toys there. And especially, being there with Eleanor.

Ready for her first day of camp
Too cool for school. Literally.
She insisted on the fancy lacy sweater despite it being 80 degrees out at 8 am.

We signed the girls up for this camp because doing so allowed us to designate them as "already enrolled students" when signing up for PreK spots through NYC's Department of Education website. Since the DOE decided, in its infinite wisdom, to take responsibility for admissions for all publicly funded PreK's in NYC halfway through the admissions process, we had to rank our choices. We would only get one offer letter. So we wanted to make sure our first choice was a sure thing. The school where I work is a long shot, at best, so I ranked it below Kaleidoscope.

Camp seems fine, though we don't hear much from the teachers.

Meanwhile, I got the impression that if I pulled some strings at work, I might be able to get Calliope into the PreK program at my school, BNS. But it would require asking a teacher to take a 19th child , my child, in her classroom. I agonized, because my school is amazing, but ultimately decided that it wasn't worth the logistical hassle of commuting with Calliope. We would have to leave the house at 7:15 am every day to get to BNS on time... but she could leave the house at 8:30 or even 8:45 every day to be on time to Kaleidoscope. And the nanny would be the one getting her dressed and ready, instead of me. A lot less stress, since she's definitely more cooperative with the nanny.

And then one of the PreK teachers actually offered to take Calliope as a 19th student, as a personal favor, because she was "grateful for all I've done for her students over the years." Wow. What an amazing offer! I was humbled. And agonized all over again. And finally, regretfully, declined. Partly because I asked Calliope what she thought. She considered the idea for a moment, and then asked, "Can Ellie (Eleanor) get a spot at your school too?"

"No, my love. Only you."

"Then I want to stay at Kaleidoscope."

Even though she's only three, it helped me to hear her say that. So I thanked the teacher and reassured Amy, Eleanor's mother, that our plans hadn't changed. We had been investigating afterschool care at that point, you see, and had interviewed two babysitters,

And then, last Friday, the principal and the parent-coordinator called me into their office and said, "We have a PreK spot for Calliope."


I should explain that getting a PreK spot at BNS is pretty much like winning the lottery. Siblings get first dibs, and this year, there were 39 siblings for 36 spots. Even for kindergarten, when I tell parents of young children where I work, they gasp and ask if I can help get their child into my school. (No, I have nothing to do with admissions.) It's an amazing public school. Admissions is by lottery. It's racially and economically diverse. It's based on a Reggio Emilia approach to education, play based and project driven. Children love coming to school here. The teachers are devoted and loving and, when I finally started attending the biannual staff parties last year, incredibly nice people.

And something about getting an offer, and having this issue come up a third time... it felt like a sign. My friend Barbara reminded me of the joke about the guy sitting on his roof as the flood waters rising and three times, someone comes to rescue him, and three times he says, "No, God will take care of me." And so he drowns and when he arrives in the afterlife, reproaches God, "why didn't you save me?" And God says, "Three times I sent someone to rescue you!"

And so I allowed myself to think about how happy it would make me to see Calliope's little face in the hallway at work, to visit her classroom, to be able to talk to her teacher whenever I had concerns (Kaleidoscope has not yet offered any way to reach her teachers, and her director checks email only every few days), to know that she could play on a multifaceted NYC public playground instead of the rooftop play space at Kaleidoscope (not much available for my climber), to know that her brain was being stretched in all the right ways (with carefully designed play based curricula... which allows the children to decide what they want to study)... I also thought about how easy, relatively, motherhood has been for me. The nanny comes in the morning and I leave. She dresses and feeds and combs and tidies, too. Playschool was in my apartment, so I never commuted with a child. And now I would have to cajole Calliope out of bed and into her clothes and into the bathroom, all before 7:15 am, and all while also juggling a nursing infant.

I agonized. I called everyone I knew who might have relevant experience. I polled all my friends. And Monday morning, I walked into the principal's office, cuddling my roly poly baby (she's come to work these last two days as Calliope is sick again with fever, and I didn't want to overburden the nanny, and there's no kids here anyway), and took a deep breath and accepted the offer.

And felt giddy butterflies in my stomach. Which made me feel like I made the right decision.

Even while I'm already wondering if waking Calliope at 6:30 am is enough time to get her out of the house, or if it really needs to be 6:15. And if I can get her to bed by 6:30 pm, and if I can possibly pull that off. or if she will successfully nap at school and thus be able to go to sleep a bit later. And planning out laminated schedules where she can check off her tasks as she accomplishes them each day. And wondering when I will be able to lavish attention on my sweet baby, whose infancy is rushing by. I'm hoping that by devoting time to Calliope during our commute (do I hire a babysitter to watch her from 2:30, when she finishes school, or do I keep her with me and skip my lunch break so I can leave an hour earlier but never have personal time to get things done?), I can focus on Amelie when I get home.

My biggest fear is that I will be constantly stressed and anxious and thus, nagging Calliope. I'm scared of damaging our relationship. I'm afraid that the positives of this school could easily be outweighed by the stress on our relationship.

Please, if you have suggestions, let me hear them!


  1. I think you'll both settle into a routine and it'll be fine. But it could take a while, so just be prepared. I have to wake J almost every school day. She's NOT a morning person, and neither am I! I may switch to a different position that starts even earlier than I start now, and I'm agonizing over how to handle that, too. I'm sure it'll be fine once you guys adjust. Enjoy the summer, though!!

    1. Good advice, trying to remember that it may take a while.

  2. A tough decision to have made. Elena would LOVE to come to work with me every day...but I think the novelty would wear off pretty quickly. Since I leave for work before she even wakes up, my Mom does mornings with her & they have a pretty good system. My mom created a check list & it's Elena's job to make sure the check everything off the list. Elena loves being in charge & having the illusion that she is in control of the morning.

    1. Of course she doesn't it's an illusion ;)

    2. That's a fun idea! I will try it!