My boys go to two different schools. Not entirely uncommon since one is in preschool and the other in kindergarten, but these two schools feel like two different worlds entirely.
The preschool is attached to a private K-8 school. We’d thought about sending the Oldest Kidlet there for kindergarten, but it just wasn’t feasible for a lot of reasons. So instead, the Oldest Kidlet goes to the public school right around the corner.
Now, the preschool. I became accustomed to the fact that I was poor compared to most of the people whose children (yes, children) went to the private school. Mom or Dad would drop them off in their luxury cars, and then mill around and talk. They would cluster in groups- the parents who had multiple children and had been there awhile, the Booster club parents, and the rich as all hell parents.
All regarded me with a little disdain.
Last year at Back to School night, I was dropped off by my father in law (at the time, TheBoy and I were sharing his Saturn, which he needed to take to work) and found a spot on the bleachers in the school gym. I entertained myself with Twitter on my phone, the lone parent with their phone out. I looked around and realized that I was the youngest parent in there. Nobody else looked 30 or younger. I later learned there are a couple of parents my age, but I guess they skipped Back to School night. (This year, I wasn’t the only parent killing time on a smartphone, but I still seemed like the youngest parent)
Not only that, I stuck out like a sore thumb with my distressed jeans and pixel pirate t-shirt. Passing an exceptionally tall 8th grader, I realized that I looked like a student.
Nobody at the preschool asked my age. It was on my paperwork after all. But I got looks from the other parents. Looks I’d become used to getting when I was pregnant. People assumed I was barely out of my teens and a mom. Great. Ageism all over again.
I befriended a few parents from OK’s preschool class over the year so that I had someone to talk to during the class programs, and that was about it. If they wanted to look down on my modest minivan, then that was fine. If they didn’t like my knee high boots and skinny jeans, that was fine too.
So I steeled myself for something similar when OK started kindergarten. And I felt as though I’d gone through the looking glass. My year old minivan was eyed, to be sure, but with looks of envy. I am definitely not the youngest parent in the kindergarten class. And one mom told me she was surprised I was so nice- she thought I’d be bitchy because I was a stay at home mom, and she had to work at Carl’s Jr (the implication that we have more money). Which completely blew my mind. Someone thought I’d be looking down at them.
I do still get odd looks for the skinny jeans, and haven’t yet sprung the boots on them- but that’s to be expected. That’s less about social standing, and everything to do with pant size. I’m used to that.
It’s odd, traveling between these two worlds, but it’s not entirely new. I used to work at an ad agency, and would show up in my Old Navy business casual wear, and from little boutique discount places. The higher ups would be carrying their Coach bags, and talk about their fabulous vacations to places I knew TheBoy and I couldn’t afford. We lived in a not-so-great neighborhood, and they lived in fabulous apartment complexes.
I feel like I’m visiting when I’m at the private school. I feel welcomed at the public school.
But of course, it isn’t about me in the end. The boys are blissfully unaware that some people have more money than others. In the end it’s about going to school, having fun and making friends- which really is all I could ask for.