Expectation Setting 101

Posted: October 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Discoveries, Husbandry, Miss Kate, Money, Parenting | 3 Comments »

Last week I tried on a Vera Wang wedding gown.

No, no, I’m not getting married, or remarried, or even renewing my vows. I’m happily hitched, thanks. And, I haven’t actually tried on any dresses recently. The Vera Wang wedding gown is my favorite metaphor to describe venturing into territory you can’t afford.

Back when I actually was on the market for a nuptial frock, I acted prudently. One of the benefits of holding out to meet your second husband (and skipping over the first), is that nearly all your friends have gotten married before you. So you learn from their mistakes.

I don’t even remember now who it was who told me, “Don’t—I repeat DO NOT—try on a Vera Wang gown. You will look stunning. You will fall in love with it. And it will be impossible to go back to the dresses that are in your price range.”

What you have there is good advice.

Shopping for real estate gives one another good opportunity to learn this lesson. Pop into the open house for a multimillion dollar fabulously-renovated Victorian (with garage!) and you will be ruined—RUINED, I say!—when your agent shows you the $750,000 ranch-style fixer that’s in your budget.

Alas, time goes on, and without vigilance we slip up. For me, it was at an EBISA event. No, not a sushi restaurant, EBISA the East Bay Independent School Association. They host a fair where all the local private schools have booths and gleaming 4-color info packets and engaging teachers and smiling students. All the ingredients to reel you, if you happen to be me, in.

I’d spent the night before sitting up in bed scouring some materials Mark brought back from a similar event at Kate’s preschool.

“This one doesn’t even talk about the teachers,” I bellowed from the bed to the bathroom, where he was brushing his teeth.

“I have no idea where this school even IS,” I mutter, flipping through the pages as Mark pulls off his t-shirt to climb in bed. “You’d think they’d at least include the school’s address here somewhere.”

But one place totally drew me in. Quotes from alumni discussing how the school shaped them to become thoughtful, caring adults. An interview with a long-time teacher who was retiring, and her words about the school being like family. There were the requisite pics of happy diverse students in creative classroom settings. And an unexpected section about their commitment to service-based learning. An academic backbone and a heart.

“Oh my God, this one!” I say to Mark, slapping his back as he attempted to sleep. “I LOVE this school. And… Oh God.  It’s TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS a year for kindergarten.”

At the school fair the next night, I bee-lined for their table. I saw the head of the school, whom I recognized from their flyer, and two fresh-faced teachers who radiated enthusiasm.

“Okay, so I feel in love with this school last night, reading your folder in bed,” I proclaimed, surprising myself with my dramatic opening statement. But I got the attention of the head of the school. She laughed and put her hand on my arm. “Great!”

“It reminds me of the school I went to in Providence called Wheeler,” I said. And oddly, I suddenly felt the smallest bit choked up.

“Oh, Wheeler!” She said. “I know it! A wonderful school. In fact, for years I sat on the board there.”

That was it. It was like the cupid of expensive private schools came and shot me with his bow, a direct hit to my nostalgic heart. It was like it was meant to be.

I mean, I’m not one to look past those obvious signs in life. And this one was huge. Neon. Indisputable.

On the drive home I was giddy. Because of her late September birthday, Kate wouldn’t qualify for entry until fall of 2011. But I was so fired up, so ready to become part of their community, their family, the thought of having to wait seemed like torture.

But by the next morning, the real torture was the crushing reality of the school’s price tag. How could we ever swing $20k a year? And for 13 years in a row? And that’s not even taking into account Paige’s eventual tuition.

“I guess we could just pick which one of them goes there,” I told a friend later on the phone. “You know, like, ‘Sorry Paige. You need to stay back on the farm and work. Kate? Well, she had more potential for book-learnin’.'”

Later in the day I drummed up the idea that I could get a job there to get discounted or free tuition. I’m no teacher, but there must be other things I’m qualified for. Janitor? Crossing guard? Lunch lady?

I called My Frienda Brenda, a college chum who is currently kid-less. “So,” I tell her. “It’s totally depressing that in two years we may be spending $20,000 a year on school for Kate.” But really, once I sober up to the fact that we’ll likely never afford it, what’s more depressing is that we may not be.


3 Comments on “Expectation Setting 101”

  1. 1 Kayla Dawson said at 2:46 pm on October 17th, 2009:

    I love your blog. I am single mom with a three year old girl.

    This post gives me a lot to think about. I thank you for keeping your head on tight and helping the rest of us.

  2. 2 Megan (Wheeler) Tsuyuki said at 7:00 pm on October 17th, 2009:

    I have to admit, Wheeler is a good name. It served me well for quite a while ;-) Loved your blog. Our kids are in Montessori, Kai is 6 and doing GREAT. Mikayla is 3 and goes 5 days a week already because she loves it. Not quite as spendy as the school you found…. but the more I learn about the Montessori method, the more I love it and am so happy my kids are there. Just found this article to make me feel even better:

  3. 3 Kresta K.C. Venning said at 4:31 am on January 27th, 2010:

    i have just discovered your blog. fabulous.
    inspiring as i begin mine with a similar title thanks to independent evolution…

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