Finding the right pre-school for your child is the first step in your journey of micro-managing every educational aspect of your kid’s life. When they’re 3 you’re interviewing child care directors and pursuing the nap to art time ratio. When they’re 16 you’re super ticked that the SAT exam Procter won’t let you into the testing room with your teenager. What’s up with that? It’s a potentially life changing test and if ever a kid needed his mom holding his hand, offering him sips of Red Bull and dabbing his furrowed, studious brow with a cloth than this is it.
Sure, sometimes all that parental devotion can backfire. Back in April my son was looking for a summer job and had applied on-line for a part-time job at the local Walgreens. He didn’t know his social security number so he left the job application open on his computer and asked me to type in the number while he was at school. I got his social security card out of the safe deposit box and was sitting down to input it when I noticed there was a test Walgreens wanted you to take as part of the application process. What the hell, I thought, how hard can a freaking Walgreens test be for a stock boy position? Yeah, that’s right, I took the test and clicked submit. My son gets home from school, checks his e-mail and finds out that his application to Walgreens has been denied because he FAILED the test. Ouch! I, a college graduate, had flunked, from what I could tell was, a basic literacy test. My children have used this information to viciously mock me all summer. It’s gotten so bad I’ve had to alter my driving so I never pass the Walgreens with my kids in the car. The taunting is too much. Jerks – Walgreens and my children.
Enough about Walgreens and back to maternal obsessive compulsive disorders. Since I’m well acquainted with this affliction I was very concerned about my twenty something friend Nikki when she confided to me that she had not been taking her second child, 2-year-old Lilly to the most coveted preschool in the city – The Duchy Day Academy . This is the school that you almost have to be a double legacy to get into. No one cares if you attended back in the day. You have to have a family tree where every branch shows that most of your relatives illustrious educational journey began at Duchy Day.
The place is impressive, I’ll give it that. It’s got fancy columns out front, black and white marble floors in the entry and what I’m guessing are antiques in the foyer. It looks like a Chanel boutique I went into once. I had ducked in because I really needed to use the restroom and they were not very forthcoming with letting me partake of their facilitates. It’s not like I just walked right in and asked where’s the ladies room was. I did the slow stroll through the store and then inquired. I told the severe looking woman with her hair in one of those low buns that she didn’t need to look so put out I only had to go number 1 for God’s sake. I could tell from the looks everyone working there was giving me that I was “so not Chanel boutique material” and you know what I’m okay with that. I wanted to run out of there screaming “Target rules bitches!”
I knew Nikki’s mother-in-law was hell-bent on all her grandchildren attending Duchy Day and had pulled some major strings to get Nikki’s little girl enrolled. Here’s the deal, Nikki hails from not just the wrong side of the tracks, but more like the wrong side of the tracks adjacent. She was 18 and working in the college law library when she meet her future husband. As Nikki’s mom tells the story – her little girl F#*$ed Up and she means it literally and figuratively. Nikki got pregnant and then married – up, way up the social ladder. Fortunately, for the first four years of her marriage, Nikki’s husband did some kind of clerking for a Federal Judge and they lived far, far away from her mother-in-law. Two years ago they moved back so her husband could work in the family law firm and Nikki’s been trying to dodge her MIL’s “good” intentions ever since.
When Nikki broke down in my kitchen with the tearful confession that she had been skipping the Monday/Wednesday Mommy and Me classes at Duchy Day I was worried for her. First, I knew if her MIL found out all hell would break loose and secondly Nikki is one of those gentle souls with an always happy attitude. For her to be ducking out of Duchy Day something was wrong. I handed her a dish towel to wipe her eyes and asked what her was going down at the D.D. That made her eyes fill with tears again and she said in a whisper that the other moms were making her feel like something was wrong with her daughter Lilly.
“Okay, dry those eyes girlfriend,” I said, “I’m a seasoned mom and there is nothing, nothing at all wrong with Lilly except that she’s too beautiful for words.”
That got a smile from her and she sniffled and said, “Thank you, but maybe there is something wrong. They all make comments because she can’t sit still and never wants to do what she’s supposed to. Like in circle time when every other kid is sitting in their mom’s lap Lilly is up wandering and she talks through story time and when we do something called cognitive motor skills which is really just playing with blocks Lilly is off playing with anything, but the blocks.”
“Oh my God,” I laugh, “Is that all? That’s nothing. My son and I got kicked out of Kindermusik when he was 2 and a half. Who puts drums. cymbals and tambourines in front of a 2-year-old boy and his mother and then tells them no touching? I couldn’t help myself those tambourines were cool. They even had feathers attached to the shaky things.”
“You touched them?”
“Well, we both did. We couldn’t help it. There we were in a circle with the instruments laid out in the middle and the instructor was blabbing on and on and one thing led to another and I grabbed the tambourine, Will grabbed the cymbals and started beating the drum with his left foot and then the next thing I know we’re being asked to leave Kindermusick – forever. Their lose by the way because we sounded pretty good.”
Nikki laughs and that makes me feel better until she says, “Well, I wished the Duchy Academy would kick us out because I never want to go back.”
“Oh come on sweetie it can’t be that bad. Is it whispering or are they just giving you one of those “My kid is better than your kid looks”?
“All of the above and more. No one wants to sit by us in circle time and I’ve noticed the other mothers directing their children away from playing with Lilly, like she’s not good enough for them. You know, I’m used to people treating me like trash or being condescending because I got pregnant at 18, but what I’ll never get used to ever is people treating my kids that way.”
“Then you’ve got to fight back.”
“What do you mean?’
If you just give in and leave Duchy Day then these women have won. You’ve got to lay down the law now and let everyone know not to mess with you or your kids. You can’t just throw in the towel when Lilly is 2. It’s a marathon not a sprint this whole motherhood thing.”
“But I’m scared.”
“I’ve think I’ve got a plan if you’re up for it.”
“Do I have to do it by myself?”
“No, this particular plan I’m thinking of involves me and you.”
“Will I get arrested?”
“NO! God, you sound like my husband now. It’s fool proof – almost.”
“Okay, I’m in, but now I’m just not scared, I’m terrified.”
‘No worries and for this plan to work you’ll need to call me Dr. Snarky. “
One week later
It’s early on Wednesday morning and I’m in the kitchen eating Greek yogurt and strawberries. My husband walks in en route to get a cup of coffee and stops as soon as he sees me. He stares at me. I stare back at him. We don’t speak. He resumes his walk to the coffee maker, pours himself a cup and as he sips his coffee continues to give me the eye. Finally, he gives in, sighs and says, “You know it’s illegal to practice medicine without a license?”
I keep spooning my yogurt into my mouth, pause, and say, “Yes, I’m well aware of that fact.”
“You know it’s potentially illegal to pretend you’re a doctor?”
“Hmm, interesting,” I say in a very bored tone.
“Just checking because if you get arrested I’m in meetings straight from about 9 to 4 and I will be unavailable to bail you out.”
“Thank you, but I have no plans to go to jail on this very pretty summer morning.”
He starts collecting up his keys, sunglasses, wallet and briefcase and says, “Then I have no plans to ask you why you have on green scrubs and a white lab coat that says Dr. Miller.”
He then walks over kisses me on the forehead and says, “Have a good day Doctor” and begins to walk out the door for work, stops, turns around says, “If you really need me send a text. The police do allow that you know, a text instead of a phone call.”
“Good to know and don’t worry about this morning I’m not even a M.D. I’m a Ph.D.”
“Oh really, a Ph.D. In what, if I maybe so bold as to inquire?”
“For this morning and this morning only I have a Ph.D. in Childhood Psychology with an emphasis in early childhood development and I’m doing, what could be, groundbreaking research in the area of gifted toddlers.”
“Stop! Don’t tell me anymore I want to be able to pass the polygraph when the cops ask me if, at any time, I knew of or aided you in your plans.”
“I guess that means your don’t want to know that I’m going with Nikki to the Duchy Day Academy to conduct my research.”
“Oh God, no – Duchy Day? I have clients with kids that attend Duchy Day. Now, I’m worried. Text me as soon as your done doing whatever you’re going to do so I know the kids aren’t home alone with their mother in lock up.”
“Relax. This is no big deal. Now go to work so I can start thinking like a Ph.D.”
“I’m serious. Text me, Dr. Miller.”
Okay, okay, I will. Now off you go. I’ve got stuff to do.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of. Good luck!”
And with that he was out the door and I was able to finish my yogurt in peace. I didn’t know what my husband was so worried about. I had everything very well thought out. The best part of this whole plan was my outfit. I’ve never worn scrubs before and they were having a tremendously bad influence on me. I was having serious thoughts of crossing over to the dark side – as in good-bye track pants and hello scrubs. The only thing holding me back was that my husband puts up with a lot from me and I’m afraid if I go full on scrubs that might be just the thing that makes him reconsider the whole “until death do us part” thing.
I got the scrubs courtesy of my two doors down neighbors. They are both M.D.’s. Valerie is a medical researcher at the local university and her husband Bob is a family practice doctor. A couple of Halloween’s ago I borrowed one of her lab coats. Yesterday I went over to ask if she would loan me one of her coats again and she volunteered to throw in some scrubs. Valerie is pushing 60 and is probably a size 18 so the scrubs she gave me are deliciously roomy. The great thing about Valerie is she never even asked why I needed them. She just smiled and said, “Are you up to something?” and I smiled back and said, “Yeah, a little something” and she winked at me and said, “Have fun.” Now, that’s a good neighbor. And these scrubs are amazing. It’s like wearing the most comfortable pair of p.j.’s you’ve ever owned. I’m wallowing in cozy. The lab coat’s not bad either. Just having it on makes feel incredibly smart and superior to the lowly humans who only hold Bachelors of Arts degrees. Which means I now feel superior to myself.
As for my idea for helping Nikki feel better about pre-school, it’s a pretty simple one and I’m not ashamed to admit one I’ve, kind of, used before. (Yes, Your Kid Is a Genius Now Leave Me Alone). I’m going this morning to the Mommy and Me class pretending that Nikki’s child, Lilly, is part of an ongoing study on profoundly gifted toddlers. I, in my role as Dr. Miller the lead researcher, will be shadowing Lilly at pre-school as part of the study. This gives me the chance to blab in pseudo scientific terms what a genius Lilly is to the other mothers. I’m not just doing this for sweet Lilly and Nikki I’m doing this for every mom who has sat in a preschool story time circle and was made to think her child was different and not in a good way.
I had already cleared my visit with the director of Duchy Day. All it took was one phone call telling her how the Duchy Day Academy was known through the early childcare research community for it’s excellence. She couldn’t have been more excited to welcome me into the classroom. I had arranged with Nikki to follow her usual pre-school routine. I planned to arrive a couple of minutes after class had started so I could be introduced and then rave about the genius that is baby Lilly. I looked official in my scrubs and lab coat get up. I had also ponytailed my hair and was wearing some reading glasses (Costco) that had a bit of a Harry Potter vibe. To make me look more official I had my son take his I pad and put some research looking stuff on it so I could pretend to be recording data. At ten minutes after 10 I walked into Duchy Day, was greeted by the Director, and then given an escort to the Mommy and Me classroom where the Director introduced the esteemed Dr. Miller.
“So sorry for the interruption,” the director said, “This is Dr. MIller, a clinical scientist who is conducting long-term research of gifted children and our Lilly is one of the pre-schoolers her team is following. This morning Dr. Miller is going to sit and observe Lilly and she’s asked that all of you pretend like she’s not even here.”
I smile really big and say, “Thank you all for letting me share your morning. I’m very excited about seeing Lilly in her preschool environment. She’s one of five profoundly gifted 2 year olds in the nation my team is following. I’m going to sit right over there and try to stay out of your way.”
As I had expected the term “profoundly gifted” had gotten the seven other mothers in the classroom’s attention. All of them couldn’t take their eyes off of Lilly who was gnawing on a block. I sat down and started typing crap on my son’s I Pad like Lilly eating a wooden block like a rat chows down on cheese shows extreme giftedness. One mom in some ridiculous maxi dress (Seriously, a maxi dress for sitting on the floor at preschool?) and goofy Ugg wedge sandals scooted close to me and asked, “What’s the criteria for determining a gifted two-year old? I would think that a child would have to be older before you could find that out.”
I looked over to the teacher and said,”Oh, I so didn’t want my presence to disrupt your class. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it. Our usual routine is to let the children have some free play time for the first 15 minutes so if you want to answer the question feel free.”
“I’d love to answer that, but I must do it quickly since I need to really focus on observing Lilly. So to answer your question”, I say looking over at maxi/Ugg mom, “Yes, there are tests that you can do with a very young child to profile their level of intelligence.
Another mom, in a tennis skirt, who looked like she had never gotten it on with anything over an SPF 5, (Isn’t tanning a sign you can’t read?) butted in with a,”Pardon me, but I’m confused. I don’t see anything about Lilly that makes her so different from our kids.”
I do a small chuckle and say, “Well, you’re not a doctor are you?”
“Why yes I am. I’m a pediatrician.”
Holy crap! I look at Nikki and my eyes are saying WE. ARE. SCREWED! Plus I’m super ticked off. How could Nikki not share with me that there was a pediatrician in the freaking Mommy and Me class! Oh shit, shit, shit. Nikki is starting to get tears in her eyes. If she starts crying this will not end well at all. I have no choice, but to go my strong suit – full B.S. mode and hope it works.
“Really?” I say. Are you still practicing?”
“No. I practiced for just one year and then got pregnant and decided to be a full-time mommy. But maybe when my last kid starts high school in 12 years I’ll go back. “
That statement totally distracted me and has forced my brain, against it’s will, to do math. This woman had years and years of schooling and then practiced medicine for one year. Good Lord, talk about almost a zero rate of return on that educational investment. Where was her father? Because I can tell you what my dad would have done if one of his kids had pulled that – demanded a refund for all the college tuition he shelled out. This also tells me that she may be one of those people who are smart yet still dumb asses. I mean look at her. What doctor would tan? A smart/dumb ass doctor that’s who. I decide to go with that.
I look at her and say, “You should definitely return to medicine when you have the chance. I can tell by watching you with your son that you have a real gift.”
She smiles and says, “Thank you. You’re not the first person to say that.”
I then ask her is she’s familiar with the work of the German research team of Bergman and Bauer (Which I pulled right out of my dumb ass, thank you very much. I think the alliteration really made it sound believable.)
“No, I’m not. It’s been while since I was in school.”
“Well, they’ve done extraordinary work in profiling children like Lilly. Just look at her. I think it’s easy to tell a difference.”
After this statement 7 pairs of mom eyes immediately start watching Lilly. Nikki is watching me and I hope to God she’s praying.
“See how she puts the blocks in her mouth,” I say, “That demonstrates her ability to really want to learn about the spatial connectivity of the block. The other children play with them by stacking. Lilly is researching the block. Now look at her, she’s wandering off, away from the other kids, this show signs of heighten awareness, of an innate curiosity. Have you also noticed, in maybe other classes, how Lilly can’t sit still as long as the other children? It’s because she’s bored. Her intuitive intellect demands to be fed and if others aren’t feeding it, she’ll do it herself. She really is an amazing child. All of your kids, really all of us, can learn from her. It’s a very exciting time to be a clinical researcher in this field, very exciting.”
I then excuse myself from the moms, move closer to Lilly, immediately began typing more crap on the I Pad and act absorb in my work. The Q&A time needs to be over I was running low on B.S. I sit in the classroom for about 15 more minutes and then leave during story-time. I walk to my mini van which I parked as far away as possible from the school and take off. I’m still worried about Nikki and to calm my nerves I go to Target and enjoy walking around in my scrubs and lab coat until the pharmacist, apparently on break, tries to strike up a conversation with me as I get a Diet Coke from the snack bar. I tell him I’m on call and have to get back to hospital. Two hours later Nikki and Lilly come over to my house and yes, I’m still in those yummy scrubs. She’s ecstatic. The other moms bought the story and Lilly and Nikki got invited to three separate play-dates.
“Great!” I say, “When are you going?”
“I told them all no.”
“Why? I thought that’s what you wanted?”
“It is. I do want Lilly to have friends, but those moms they’re going to have work for it. I told them I’d have to check the dates against Lilly’s calendar of gifted and enrichment events.”
Now it was my turn to get a little teary eyed.
“Oh Nikki,” I said while hugging her, “You’ve made me so very, very, proud.”
**Many thanks for all of you who “liked” me on Facebook! May the Snark Be With You. For those that haven’t done the deed yet to stay up-to-date on new posts and take part in my not so deep thoughts click on this Facebook link - http://is.gd/iEgnJ (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page) or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.