I’m starting to realize in the complexities of parenting and making the best decisions for my daughter that while I’m becoming her preschool personality expert, I’m becoming totally frustrated with all the things she ‘can’t’ have. … like these schools, here.

This is what my daycare ad would read should I ever post one:

Title: Mommy seeks Mary Poppins- in Preschool form.

Body: Mother prefers Montessori style of education with manipulatives and real-world examples of learning. Classroom must be bright, covered from floor to ceiling in children’s art work and have potties low enough to cause severe back strain or failure in ordinarily-sized adults. Adorable character backpacks should be hung neatly on the wall and giggles should erupt from outside the large, glass, doors leading to the abnormally safe and (awesome!) playground. Hot lunch should be offered with the price of tuition and music and Spanish as well. Dance, Water-slides, Theatre, Riding Ponies, Field-trips,  trucks that deliver frozen treats made entirely of vegetables and parental pedicures are also included free, for small, inquisitive girls whose hair is the color of sunshine and orange sorbet.  Children should be silent but deadly: shown so immersed in their work that while the teacher quietly reads a book in the background their minds are in Netherland, or spaceships full of marshmallows. Mother, seeks school that will teach Love, Respect, How to not pee in our pants after getting off the potty, Honesty, Imagination and Manners, (not in that order.) Mother would like this for the low price of under $200/weekly as rent, utilities, her spotty internet connection and love for staples such as milk, bread and peanut butter M&Ms take up most of her pay. ThankYou.

I’m totally willing to negotiate on say… the pony rides, but I think I’m being a … tad, optimistic. I toured a preschool earlier today that offered everything short of pony rides and a free BMW for each enrolled child, and it had a very A La Carte feel to it. I’ll break it down:

Bringing your kid in the door and having her fed breakfast, (if there by 7:45am,) and two snacks: $215 weekly. (Price includes sporadic music and Spanish classes.) Two-Hundred and Fifteen Freaking Dollars. <Panting> Doable… This means I cut out our habit of enjoying electricity or showers.. but doable.

Then? They pull out pictures of little 3-4 year old girls dressed in puffy ballet tutus with humongous, baby-teethed smiles enough to make me think, “I’m gonna take them all home! Look! I’m adopting 14-16 four year olds!” …$40.00 a month. …<pulse escalates.> …Doable… if I sell my body on friday nights at a swankier strip club after going on the crash diet of bananas, rice and hope and again… we live in a hut.

Then? They point to the chart that looks like a preschooler’s dream: FIELD TRIPS. Weekly Field Trips to exotic places such as, the Theatre, (I say this with my most distinctive, English accent,) and to the WaterPark, (Which sounds dirty if you say it in English,) and the Circus for all I know.. then freaking MOON because it’s an extra $40.00/a month. Well, super. I can imagine the conversation now:

Ava: Mommy! We’re going to see ‘Wizard’DA’BOZ!’ (She says it like that- it’s adorable.) I know we can’t afford to heat, cool or cook food, but I get to go the theatre with my little friends! (Amazing vocabulary this three and a half year old has, I tell you…)

Me: “Baby, it’s unaffordable for me to send you on field trips without me when I can’t even afford to take you myself. I prefer to eat food and to be able to keep you one more week while I talk Child Protective Services into not taking you away.”

Ava: /WAIL.

The crazy Montessori lady then points back to the dance pictures because she saw the glimmer in my eyes- my precious child who manages to trip going UP the stairs is going to morph into a perfect, pig-tailed, ballet, butterfly. Costumes for recitals, $50.00 every 6 months. Because you CANNOT have her in dance without the tutus, honestly. Tutus…my peoples… to cover smallish-preschooler, butts. I can’t even handle it. She’ll march around stage and command a presence while reciting the Abc’s- (but screwing up at Q… it always happens.) Wait! This school will fix what I can’t at three and a half!

Did you know how important computers are to today’s developing child? Apparently, if they don’t start now? Even with a mom who relishes her geekery- Ava is doomed to failure- hacking her pointer fingers at the keys and saying a few of the lines from Rainman or not so politely explaining to everyone at the tender age of 21, that she has to go, “POOPY!” while I bawl in the corner at not having spent that $25.00 in monthly classes so she can do the same thing while sitting at home, (with supervision.)

I’ve omitted the French Immersion, or ‘TUMBLE TIME!” Gymnastics, or gold-plated utensils they can eat with, (I made that up.) But seriously. They probably bring in Elephants and a petting zoo made entirely of diamonds and endangered animals on the weekends for the most-loved-and spendy-of children, too.

Then she points out they are Nut Free and that when the children bring their own lunch she really prefers they include all the food groups. That’s great, because sending my child to this school will certainly only allow me to send her cardboard cut-out pieces of fruit, and sandwiches and maybe… a glass for school water. Hot lunches? $2.25 a day. (I asked if she could have Evian water on the side, but it wasn’t appreciated.) I think I failed my preschool tour interview.

This expenditure could cost me…. ($25.00/computers, $50.00/ballettutu, $4o.00/Dancercuteness, $215/wk tuition, and about $45/mo in Hot lunches for a grand total of $1020.00 a month. ONE THOUSAND, TWENTY DOLLARS A MONTH. …for preschool. (This is the CHEAPEST I’ve been able to find with an all-day program.) In HICKTOWN Minnesota which city offers such luxuries as a new Target, and four trailer parks.

So this is my choice as a parent: Keep my child where she’s at, (with the list of rules and regulations, how I can dress her, what she can do- when I am to pick her up because she’s not open all day, cry daily when I pick her up because I’m so terrified of the teacher’s strict regulations) or bring her to what’s now created in my mind to be the “KIDZ SHAK” of misplaced preschoolers running amok in a home environment while the daycare mommy sits in the corner with her crackpipe, legs spread-eagle talking on the phone to her pimp, Dante- The Recklessly, Horrible.

6 months ago? I was lamenting over paying $170/weekly for daycare. That to me? Was a splurge. Because I wanted her in a stricter environment, (Iwasdumb,) and because I wanted her to excel- beyond anything I could give her while I was gone during the day. Fact is: Ava adores her daycare- that’s why I’ve put up with that crazy lady’s rules, (No button pants, no snaps, no dressy clothes, no non-pull-on-pants, SHE MUST COME IN UNDERWEAR NOT PULLUPS NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES SHE HAS PEED ON YOU OR THE CARSEAT!) It’s sweet, really. I wait for my daily glare at her jeans everytime I leave.

Guilt trips as a parent are as frequent as finding ground cheerios in the carpet underneath my kitchen table. Single parentdom has it’s own set of horrors: I’m already somewhat guilty that I couldn’t manage to give her a father as a Christmas present, (he totally would have beat last year’s My Little Pony failure,)  so with only one income and countless possibilities for self-esteem-demise, it’s plain to see why I’d want to bring her to the Winona State of Preschools. (The precocious Goddard Academy, (A la Preschool Harvard,) is down the street- I learned what they charge and had to go home to change my clothing. When I heard about the private- Jonathon Montessori and learned their rates, I only slightly lapsed into a mommy-guilt-”whycan’tIaffordthis?” coma until I woke up to the screaming of Ava saying she wanted more milk- Chocolate, thankyouverymuch.) Those are Juliard- for $1500.00 a month, I can settle for Winona State…. right?

I think I’m going to have to become a stripper. Maybe Dante has an opening…