Let's talk daycare and preschool for a little bit, shall we? Claire has been in the same daycare since she was 3 months old.
The facility is across the street from my office, offers a discount because of where I work and is unbelievably convenient for me to pick up and drop off. Our old house was on that side of town and it was also on the way to work for Chris. It was a great first daycare for Claire AND us.
There were always THINGS about the facility that irked me. The director always seemed more interested in pacifying me rather than giving me a solid, actionable answer. She and her staff seemed to alternately panic about illness ("Your kid is kind of hot. AIEEE! Take her home!") or be completely nonplussed ("Swine Flu? Yeah, we plan to...sanitize toys? If someone gets it? It's just the flu -- no big deal!"). The name of the school had a misspelled word in it, I think to make them "unique," but I couldn't shake the feeling that it was an error I was giving them too much credit for.
Their policies and procedures seemed contrived at times. After one year you get 5 days of "vacation" free. I asked for it and was told I had to give 30 days notice and take it all in the same calendar week. Really?
They give the kids crap for snacks and encourage parents to bring in all kinds of HFCS-laced monstrosities for birthdays (every week it seems). The "teachers" are kind, but too-young and sometimes a bit flip for me. They don't really seem on the up-and-up. They told me she was behind on her vaccinations but failed to understand that combination vaccines take care of more than one disease.
Keep in mind that I collected all of these anecdotes over 18 months; one offense last year wasn't enough for me to leave, but now? Ugh, now I'm annoyed and I feel like I have to double check them constantly on administrative topics.
As an infant it was an ideal place for her. But as a toddler, my viewpoint changed dramatically. I didn't want her eating CHEETOS for afternoon snack when I'd packed blueberries. And yet, there she was, with fake powdered cheese all over her face one day. I cringed when I saw the garish cupcakes and store-bought brick of fake rice-krispie treats another parent had brought in for a birthday.
When the receptionist told me that she had hand foot and mouth disease (Oh? You're a doctor AND a receptionist? That's incredible!) and that I needed to keep her home for DAYS, even though CDC policy on the virus in a group childcare setting said she absolutely DID NOT, I was annoyed for days.
She even had the gall to say, "CDC?"
I literally said, in my most "holy crap, you are an idiot" voice,
"THE UNITED STATES CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL? SURELY YOU HAVE HEARD OF IT AND ARE FAMILIAR WITH THEIR POLICIES ON THE TOPIC SINCE THAT IS YOUR MOTHER FUCKING JOB."
(Okay, maybe I didn't say "mother fucking". But I was thinking it and my tone said it for me.)
I thought about, and shopped for, another solution many times. In the end I always came back to the killer rate, the location close to my office, the fact that I seemed to be able to mitigate the unhealthy snacks most days (I know that I can't shield her from Cheetos and crappy baked good forever) and even though the director might be kind of dim, it isn't hurting Claire, it was just annoying the crap out of me. She isn't being HARMED by staying there during the day. On the contrary, many days she REFUSED TO LEAVE and Tantrum Claire greeted me with "NO, NO, NO! NO GO HOME! WANT TO PLAY!"
(I'm happy to see you too, Claire.)
When we moved last March, the location was no longer desirable, so they only had the rate working for them at this point. I was the only one who could pick up/drop off. While this hasn't been SO difficult (after all, I do go to work every day) it would be better if she was closer to the house so we could have more flexibility.
I wondered if I was being too picky about the whole thing. Too snobby? Unrealistic, perhaps? Eh, maybe. My threshold for stupid is low. But it doesn't change the fact that I want what I want.
I started shopping the preschools and daycare facilities near the new house. To my absolute HORROR, they all cost at least 20% more. ALL OF THEM, without exception, with plenty costing 30% and 40% more. Moving 20 miles to a legit suburb with a grocery store down the street means that daycare costs an ASTRONOMICAL amount here.
I was not prepared for that. I reconsidered the situation. Two months went by. I continued to be alternately annoyed and fine. They introduced Claire to Froot Loops. I made a face.
And that brings us to last week when I was doing some casual Googling with a new set of keywords. I found what looked like a promising place, just around the corner. We took a tour and it was HEAVEN. Just like the Belinda Carlisle song: HEAVEN ON EARTH. It was that amazing.
The lunches are catered in by a local company, locally sourced and nothing is fried. They'll allow me to pack a lunch for her. (Weirdly enough, that has been a challenge to find; a lot of places are playing the Allergy Card and telling me that it's too risky to allow parents to bring in lunch because of The Kids With Peanut and Wheat and Egg and Milk Allergies. I understand that, but, uh, what you're feeding them is not healthy, you idiots. It's basically school lunch from the Sysco truck and we know how messed up THAT is. I was tempted to tell them that my child is allergic to HFCS and corn products in general, and see what they did what that information.)
The school we looked at has a blanket no-sugary snacks policy. There's a library with a ton of books and tiny sofas with wee ottomans. There's an indoor gym with a parachute, hula hoops and a PE teacher. There's a music room that has a Julliard graduate teaching kids how to, I don't know, ding a triangle or something while she plays the BABY GRAND PIANO. (I wonder if she thinks this is a good use of her education?)
The kids take Spanish and Mandarin Chinese language lessons twice a week. (This is hysterical to me since it's the dictionary definition of a Snobtastic Preschool. It's something you'd read in The Nanny Diaries. Chinese and Spanish for a 21-month-old! Heeeee!) There's a garden outside that the kids dig around in. They have extra classes that rotate every few weeks; dance, karate, origami (no, wait, I made that last one up -- but you believed it, DIDN'T YOU?!). They do BABY YOGA every day at 3p, which makes me laugh because it's so obviously stupid and a parent marketing trick and yet I'm strangely attracted to it.
BABY YOGA! YES! I AM INTERESTED! SIGN US UP!
It's bright, cheery and happy and less than one mile from our house. The director claims to be a germaphobe and I love that.
BUT. There is a huge BUT. (You knew that was coming, right?)
It's a full 33% more expensive than where she is now. A THIRD. How is this even possible?!?! It was nice, but the kids weren't like, eating off of solid gold plates or anything. (Maybe they're paying that music teacher more than I think.)
It's also a Montessori school, and I'm not quite sure what I think about that. I'm still forming an opinion and I'd love yours if you have one. (Either way, good or bad, please pipe up if you have thoughts.)
So, I'm back where I started. Again. I like the piano-yoga-chinese-origami school but it's too expensive. I'm more okay with the price at more run-of-the-mill facilities in the area (even though they're 20% more) but I have really, really strong feelings about that food they give them. I hate it. I think it's unhealthy. I don't want her to eat that every day.
Preschool. Nobody told me it would be so full of drama.