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The Talk Of The Town

After touring the schools, we THINK we know which ones we like best. Or do we?

It's taken me two weeks to collect my thoughts and decide what I took away from the first round of school tours. That's right. I said "first round." Since my wife and I both work, we were only able to tour the schools at night. So we'll be taking a day off next week to visit our favorites while school is in session. Because we're gluttons for punishment.

You see, no one told us how exhausting the tours would be. For five nights spread over a week and a half, my wife and I came home from work, inhaled dinner, kissed our daughter goodbye and headed to a school. Just getting out the door was no easy task for two working parents who have been going non-stop since before the sun is up. Especially when all you want to do is relax and play with your child, put her to bed and then pass out on the couch in front of the television. Instead, there we were, right on time every night. Listening to the principals. Following the PTA representatives from library to classroom to gymnasium. Asking questions. And wondering, "Would she like it here?" 

And that's really what our decision is going to come down to. What's best for her. But the road from here to there is paved with doubt. I've really never experienced anything like this. We question every decision we make, every conclusion we reach. For example, one night we love a school because of the principal. The next night, we love a school despite its principal. So were we foolish the first time? Or the second time? At both? Or neither? Serenity now!

We might like the magnet program at one school, then not like it at another. But we like both schools. How is that possible? It's maddening. I even convinced myself this weekend that a school that's near the bottom of our list should maybe be higher because a bunch of the parents we know and admire from our daughter's daycare really liked it. "Are we missing something?" I asked my wife. "We totally weren't feeling (that school). And they all love it."

That brings me to the whole "hot school" theory that everyone talks about. Is the one we don't like the "hot school?" If so, shouldn't we be glad? Or are my second thoughts justified? This is the constant mental tug-of-war you play during this process. Over Kindergarten.

Always the voice of reason, my wife talked me down from the ledge and said we're sticking to our list. But then again, the voice of reason herself has had her moments too. She had the nerve to bring up middle schools, and which elementary schools feed into which ones. Because now we're supposed to be able to predict the future too, and know what a place is going to be like six years from now.

I'm currently training for my third half-marathon. In doing so I'm dealing with all of the obstacles that come with it: injury, illness, weather, fatigue, personal commitments, etc. It is a daily struggle both physically and emotionally. But I am being completely honest when I say that this school selection process is more exhausting and stressful. 

And for no other reason than we make it that way. That's right. It's our fault. The parents. It's all we talk about. At dance class. At birthday parties. At daycare pickup. On the phone with our parents and as we run into our neighbors on our way to the park. It's the only thing we're capable of talking about. It's insane. And once again, wherever she ends up will be fine.

As I stood there eating a slice of pizza at the birthday party of one of my daughter's classmates this weekend, one of the other dads approached me. Of course, we instantly started talking about schools. Once we had given our ranks, our likes and our dislikes about each, he said, "When do we find out where they're going?"

"Not until July." 

"July?!"

Yeah... July. It's not the choosing. It's the unknown. As Tom Petty said, the waiting is the hardest part. We have three more months of wondering and making ourselves worry over something we really have no control over. (that I wasn't going to get emotional.)

How am I doing with that?

This is the second in a series on Montclair school selection. More to come after we submit our choices...

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Jessica Wolf April 16, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Principals come and go. As do teachers. And programs. The cirriculum is virtually the same in all the schools. You're right to view this as an insane process that we parents bring on ourselves. It's good practice for when you shephard your daughter through college selection. (What does vary and will probably remain so is individual start times and availability of bus service. It almost seems most sane to make your choices from there!) Good luck. Don't stress. Many families don't receive their first choices, yet there are scant few who, in the end, don't love their elementary school.
chris April 16, 2012 at 08:17 PM
remember what I said, try to get a gauge for which is THE hot school and don't put it first!!!! and secondly, go with gut. we didn't listen to our friends who all picked the same school because we knew it wasn't right for our kids. you gotta pick what feels right to you (and pray it's not the hot school) I am so glad that madness is behind us. GOOD luck!
Justin Mannato April 16, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Everything you say is spot on, Jessica. For college this makes sense. But like we both said, we pretty much bring this upon ourselves.
Justin Mannato April 16, 2012 at 10:20 PM
We're pretty sure we're not interested in the "hot school." And without giving anything away and making our first choices THE hot school, we're pretty confident we'll get one of our top two. And we're not listening to our friends and following them. We all have our own opinions. I was being a little overdramatic for humor's sake.

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