How far would you go to get your kid in a good preschool?
Brett Berk: No, this is not the name of a little-known John Hughes movie. It's a true story, one that came to me in response to an article I recently wrote about choosing a preschool for your child. The reader who provided the anecdote noted that the mom featured in my piece lived in a city (Chicago) that wasn't so competitive in terms of early childhood admissions practices -- she had a range of slots available to her -- and asked me, "What if you don't have a choice of schools, like she did?"
Living in a small, upscale, Northeastern suburb with only three options -- one of which was too far away for her driver's license-less nanny, one of which hung up on her when she called to ask about the length of the waiting list, and one of which was affiliated with a church to which she did not belong (because she was Jewish) -- this mom chose the path of least resistance: She joined the Methodists.
How does one go about converting to Methodism? Apparently it's similar to converting to the Method (as in, acting), or picking up some cheap AA-style recovery skills: you fake it until you make it. In this case, the mom simply showed up at church. She started attending Sunday services with her kids. She hit up a midnight Mass on Christmas. ("They know you're a Je-ew," her husband sang, inventing his own lyrics to "O Come All Ye Faithful." "They're all looking at yo-ou.") And she began teaching religious school. Say what? "I kind of gave things my own spin," she told me. "I rooted for Moses. I made up my own tunes to some of the hymns. And I didn't do so well on the pretending that Jesus was the savior part either." Minor details.
Did it work? Meaning, did her kids get into the school? Well, in a word, yes! "After I'd been teaching and attending services for a few weeks, I sidled up to the pastor one Sunday to chat, and he asked about my kids, and mentioned the church's preschool. I acted all surprised. 'Well, what a coincidence. I'm looking for a school for my older daughter.'" And the deal was done. How long did this charade last? "Let's see. The girls are three years apart, and preschool is for three years, so ... around eight years, I guess?" And after that? "Poof. I un-converted." Though the girls got really into Christmas, so they still have a tree each winter.
Is this fair? Faithful? Moral? And speaking of that, what's the moral of this story? I think it's something like, God Cheats, Why Shouldn't You? Or maybe, The Sins of the Mother, Something or Other. But perhaps you have your own theories. Let me know ... comment below.
|Brett Berk, M.S. Ed. has worked with young children and their families for over 20 years--as a classroom teacher, preschool director, and research consultant--and is the author of "The Gay Uncle's Guide to Parenting."|