Next year Random Granddaughter is supposed to start kindergarten. The mommies were planning to enroll her in a public school. My daughter went to public schools and did fairly well. In kindergarten she had a male teacher; that was unusual, but we thought it was excellent start for her.

 In the case of RG, there are some complications. First, enrollment is shrinking in her school district and schools are being closed. Also, there are a lot of issues involving different schools and their style and “personality” as a school Parents often try to cherry pick a school for their child; they don’t always get the school they want.

 Mommy has some ideas about the public school where she wants to send RG, but she is by no means sure she would be able to send her there.

 Also, kindergarten is only half day; so the mommies would have to pay for a half day of child care. The public school will provide it, but it’s as expensive as almost any other arrangement.

 At this point, Mommy’s employer, the private school for very bright children (SVBC), suggested she consider sending RG to their kindergarten. This is a touchy issue: 1) they are very expensive; 2) we all have ambivalent feelings about the desirability of a child going to such a school (as paradoxical as it sounds with Mommy herself working there); 3) when RG applied for their preschool, she was rejected as a) not bright enough and b) too introverted. Although (as far as we know) RG was totally unaware of and unaffected by this experience, it was not a happy experience for the rest of the family.

 SVBC said in regard to #1: we can provide some financial aid and with the cost you will pay for child care the expense might not be as great in comparison to public school as the mommies fear. In case of #2, ambivalent means one sees both sides of an issue and is unsure. As for #3, well that comes next.

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My daughter had a bit of a rough ending to the year. She suffered some awful problems with her gums, apparently from not taking care of her teeth well enough. I am a bit mystified by this, in that she is a very conscientious person, including taking care of her health. A clue might be that she changed dentists. She had a very good dentist in downtown Seattle. My wife and I used him for a while, until we moved to the island and switched. (Over the last few years, my wife and I have had good luck with dentists; which is a bit of an oxymoron, but I may write a post about our not-bad dentists one of these days.)

My daughter switched to a dentist closer to where she lived, and I think something about the switch led to her dental health going amiss. The end result was that she had to undergo an exquisitely painful process of having her gums scraped. They only did this for the upper part of her mouth; she has to do it again for the lower part of her mouth.

Along with this, she was waiting for a bus on an icy sidewalk during the last storm, lost her footing, and fell on her tailbone. She didn’t break her tailbone, but the pain was about as bad as if she had, and she had to go through several days of therapy to get to the point of moving around without being in agony.

Besides those unhappy experiences, there were a couple of painful economic events as well. My daughter has been working for a financial organization that handles investments for people, partly through a mutual fund, and partly through some handling of wealthy people’s investments on a more personalized basis. (Her work mostly involved the computer/accounting end of things rather than the investing end.)

My daughter has been a bit ambivalent about this job. She tells me that the company is very ethical and above-board in its business dealings. On the other hand, as with almost any job, she’s had to work with people she would not choose to have anything to do with if an employer didn’t force them to be in the same room day after day.. Also, the general atmosphere is one of we keep things running smoothly and comfortably for the upper classes. My daughter is an idealistic person who longs to contribute to making the world a better place.

On the other hand, she is not averse to improving her financial well-being in the process while she works at a place that serves rich people. (In a way, this is may also true of Mommy’s job as well.).

Last year, she got a “profit-share” of the company’s profits that helped out quite a bit. On top of that she got a Christmas bonus of several thousand dollars. As I’ve been mentioning to people, we are in the 2nd Great Depression (though for some reason nobody in the government or the press wants to admit it). My daughter’s company has not been involved in any great scandals or fiascos, but like almost everybody else in this country, they are not flourishing. There was no profit share and no Christmas bonus this year. I think my daughter had (perhaps unconsciously) been counting on this financial windfall coming again this year.

I unhelpfully told her not to hurt herself in 2009. I didn’t offer any financial advice, but we have told Mama and Mommy that we will loan them money if things get even nastier.

[Keep in mind the following was written back in April. Shortly, I will explain how circumstances have changed.]

Mama (my daughter) applied for graduate school at the University of Washington a couple of years ago to study medical statistics. She was rejected because she was competing with math majors who had stronger math backgrounds. Mama studied calculus by distance learning and applied again. This time she was accepted.

Perhaps if RG studies for a year, and then apply for SVBC kindergarten, like Mama, she will be accepted on her second application.

RD still has her calculus books. RG sometimes has trouble getting to sleep. However, I am sure the calculus lesson she will get instead of a “bedtime story” will probably help her achieve slumber. And who knows, perhaps Bunny, or one of the other of her alternates, has an unexpected flair for calculus.

Also, even with the discount given to a teacher, SVBC is very expensive.

Maybe, like Mama, RG will just have to go to a public kindergarten and take her lumps with the other proles.

As Mommy (my daughter’s Out of Law partner) teaches in a private School for Very Bright Children (SVBC), I asked her what happens when teachers wants to enroll one of their own children in the school. Do such children have to pass the same test? I assumed it would be very difficult for the school to reject such a child. Mommy rolled her eyes a bit.

I assumed this meant that they gave children of teachers every benefit of the doubt.

Do they drool on themselves in public? No? Bright children-they’re in.

After the rejection of Random Granddaughter, my respect for SVBC has gone up.

Or down.

I’m not sure.

As Random Granddaughter has moved beyond the “crèche level” (I’m guessing this means toilet trained and weaned), she is now a pre-schooler and has to pass an IQ test. How do they evaluate the intelligence of a four-year-old? I wondered.

The school asked Mommy to bring RG into the preschool and they observed how she interacted with the other children and participated in the school activities.

At the time, I regarded RG as a very sociable child. I had observed her having a very good time in crowds and at parties. I have observed her being the life of a party. I have seen her charm complete strangers. However, I had also observed being very shy and very cautious about new situations and experiences. [After I wrote this section, I learned that RG is really an introvert.]

For all I knew, just like David, she may already have had  “alternate personalities” in her little (well, big for a four-year-old) body. Though as far as I can tell, she has had nothing but a loving environment since birth and no traumatic experiences.

She might beg to differ, and point out how she has been tortured on a daily basis by parents’ and grandparents’ insistence that she try out different foods, eat dinner before desert, and say “Please” and “Thank you” in complete sentences. Not to mention cleaning up her toys after she is done playing with them, holding an adult’s hand when crossing the street, and wearing her helmet when riding her scooter.

For example, “Bunny” (her favorite stuffed animal) often orders the dollies and other stuffed animals around in a threatening way. Probably Bunny forces them to take a bit of everything when RG serves them lunch. Who knows what the Bunny alternate personality might do as an adult? Work for a Playboy club?

In any case, RG visited the SVBC and took her test. She was struck by a burst of shyness, did not interact much with the other children and did not participate in the activities.

The admission committee told Mommy that she had not passed. However, they realized the unfamiliar venue was likely to cause “text anxiety”, so they sent a team of two teachers to observe RG at her own preschool where she could be monitored in a more familiar environment.

The observers told Mommy that a) RG did not seem like a bright enough child for SVBC and b) the pre-school was not a very good pre-school. The observers told Mommy she should get RG out of it as soon as possible. (Mommy had already come to conclusion b) on her own and had already decided to make alternate pre-school arrangements.)

A friend of the mommies is a certificated Montessori teacher and the mother of a small child. She started a small preschool in her home. The mommies enrolled RG in this school. Every indication is that she loves it and is flourishing. However, next fall, it will be time for RG to start kindergarten. RG is very conscious of this transition and takes great offense if anyone calls her current education institution “pre-school.” She firmly corrects the offender that she is in ‘Pre-K.”

I can see that I have spread vast confusion through my incoherent story-telling. I will try to make things worse.

In the United States, most government supported schools (kindergarten through high school) are known as “public schools” and are free. Some people, not happy with the public schools, send their children to private schools and pay fees. Private schools include Catholic Schools (generally known as “parochial schools”) and some Protestant schools often called “Christian schools). These schools appeal most to people who want religion mixed in with their children’s education. Other private schools vary from very liberal (similar, I suspect to the famous “Summerhill” in England) to very strict, to very academic-stressing (often aiming to get a child into an exclusive college/university) after high school.

My knowledge of public education in England, Australia, and who knows where is severely lacking. I have the impression however, that the term “public school” has an entire different meaning in England, and means a fairly exclusive and expensive “private school” in American terms.

My daughter went to a private “pre-school” and then went to public “government-run” schools from kindergarten through high school. She skipped the last year of high school and attended one of the United World Colleges, a chain of two-year colleges around the world and nominally head by Prince Charles. She then went for four years to Oberlin, an expensive private (non-government) college in Ohio, where she met, roomed-with- and became sweeties with “Mommy,” the birth mother of Random Granddaughter.

(David Rochester also went to Oberlin College, where he had a horrible time and left without finishing college. I suspect this is more a failure of Oberlin than a fault in David, but he knows how to evaluate this better than I. When I first “met” David, it startled us both a bit that we had this Oberlin connection in common.)

I went to public school in Los Angeles, California, junior high school in Brea, California, and then my father got a job for a defense contractor involved with the earliest days of the computer industry, causing our family to move around the United States. I went to high school in Brea for a few weeks. We went from California to New Jersey, where I enrolled in a high school in Suffern, in Rockland County, New York and a suburb of New York City. We then moved to Woodstock, New York (long before it became famous as the epicenter of the hippie movement where I attended high school in Kingston, New York. (Yes, this is all crazy and part of the reason I am a crazy person.)

We then moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where I went to high school for a few weeks. We then moved to Verona, Wisconsin (a tiny suburb of Madison), where I attended high school for a while. Finally we moved to Spring Valley, New York, also in Rockland County.

I graduated from there, went to the University of California at Berkeley, where I promptly flunked out, in large part because my emotional maturity at the time was about six years old. I then went to Pierce Junior College in Los Angeles, met my wife to be, go married transferred to San Fernando Valley State College, our daughter was born, I graduated, went to graduate school at the University of Washington in Seattle, dropped out, dropped into a special program to train teachers for working in minority area, got a Mickey Mouse Masters in Education and a teaching certificate. I then lost my teaching job, moved or Portland, where I never met David Rochester (though for all I knew he lived next door to me unbeknownst).

After they graduated from Oberlin, my daughter and her partner lived with us in Portland.
Then my daughter decided to go to graduate school at Cornell to get a doctorate in horticulture, specializing in rescuing the American chestnut tree. After she enrolled, she decided she hated Cornell, hated graduate school, and hated chestnuts. However, she is a very conscientious and self-disciplined person, so she completed a Master’s degree in horticulture at Cornell, but left without completing a doctorate.

My daughter decided to move to Seattle for various reasons that didn’t work out as she planned. Eventually, my wife and I left Portland, and joined them in Seattle. We bought a duplex together and lived together for a while, and then for various amicable reasons went separate ways. First my daughter and her partner planned to build a B&B on another island. They also planned for Mommy (daughter’s partner) to have a baby. Mommy lost two babies before they were born. After serious medical efforts and bed stay for almost the entire pregnancy, Random Granddaughter was born. At this point, partly because they had suffered considerable expenses because of the pregnancy problems and also because having a baby refocused their attention from starting a business to becoming parents, they decided to stay in Seattle, where they bought a house. In the meantime, my wife and I moved to an island.

My daughter had intended to go back to working as a medical research lab assistant (as she had done in Portland before going to Cornell) but it didn’t work out. Her partner worked as a nanny in Portland. In Seattle she became a Montessori pre-school teacher, and then got a certificate to become a grade school teacher in public schools However, after a year of substitute teaching in public schools, she got a teaching job at an expensive, exclusive private school that specializes in teaching very high-IQ students. I call this school the “School for Very Bright Children” (SVBC).

After Random Granddaughter was born, she went to a crèche at SVBC. She was then moved to a pre-school at a private Jewish Community Center. She then was moved to a private Montessori school. She was then moved to a small Montessori school in a private home. Next year she will go to kindergarten. However, those plans are very much up in the air.

When Mommy (Out-of-Law-Partner) moved from being a Montessori pre-school teacher to a fully certificated elementary school teacher, her first full time job (after a year of public school substitute teaching) was at the very same School for Very Bright Children (which I will call SVBC)
As an infant, RG was enrolled in the school’s crèche. They did not require intelligence testing for infants. It was convenient in that Mommy could visit and nurse RG during her own lunch break.
As RG progressed from infancy to toddling, Mommy and Mama (Random Daughter) became dissatisfied with SVBC’s crèche/preschool and transferred her to pre-school #2. After a while, they became dissatisfied with pre-school #2 and transferred her to pre-school #3, conveniently only a few blocks away from Mommy and Mama’s house.
However, the Mommies became dissatisfied with pre-school #3. One of their criticisms was that discipline had become negative and sexist. Little boys tend to be a little more rambunctious than girls; Mommy had observed the school a few times and seen several boys were frequently put on “time outs” instead of being encouraged to play more constructively. The expectation seemed to be that boys would be “bad” and this prejudice became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The mommies began to consider sending RG back to SVBC again with the goal of putting her in a school where boys and girls each get to be…well boys and girls. RG may have two mommies, but they realize she may grow up to marry a guy (these things happen), and they hope that if that happens, she will give him a fair start in the battle/race we call wedlock.

About the time our daughter was attending first grade, it became apparent to her parents that she was a very bright little girl. We lived about a mile or two away from a private school for highly intelligent children. It was sort of the Harvard (or Yale or Princeton or Stanford, if you prefer) of private grade schools.
We considered sending our daughter to this school and began by having them test her to see if she was bright enough to be accepted.
The director of the school happily told us that Random Daughter qualified. “Your daughter is a very bright child,” she said. We complacently basked in the glory of being the parents of such a prodigy.
However, we never enrolled her in this school for two reasons:
First, it would have been expensive to send our child to this school (almost as expensive as sending her to one of those “Ivy League” colleges) and we were very poor at the time. Even with the financial aid they offered, it would have been very difficult for us.
Second, we moved. First, we moved closer to the high school where I taught. Then I was “RIF’d” (victim of a “Reduction in Force,” jargon for a layoff caused by the failure of a school budget election. I became angry–I have a bad temper–and looked for a job in Oregon and found one. (It turned out that if I had stayed in Washington I would have been rehired the next fall when they came up with money to hire the people they had first released.)
It would not have been convenient or even practical to send RD to that school, especially if she would have had to make a daily commute from Portland, Oregon to an area north of Seattle.
As a consequence, RD attended public schools for her entire grade school and high school career, though eventually she attended Oberlin, a moderately exclusive (though perhaps very dangerous, not to mention very expensive) private college. Among other consequences of attending Oberlin:
She roomed with and fell in love with another Oberlin student, who to this day is her Out of Law partner. (I guess that was the dangerous part. Would you want your daughter to marry “one of them?” Even more dangerous, after a week for the idea to settle in, Mrs. Random and I said, “Whatever.” I guess it RD picked dangerous parents as well as choosing to attend a dangerous college. Some children have little sense.)

This is a major denouement to my story about RG and her trip with Grandpa to the zoo.

To provide a little context for current events, I now need to go back into time to April when Random Granddaughter was rejected by Harvard. I first told this story in a private blog I operated for a while, but then stopped using. Mostly I was talking about unhappy events in my job, a job from which I retire at the end of January. However, I also talked about some touchy issues involving RG and her preschools and her rejection by Harvard.

Events seem to be changing, and as is frequently a case in my life, I am experiencing irony poisoning.

I will quote some excerpts from my other blog, posted in April of 2008. In my usual irritating fashion, it will take a little while to rejoin the present.

I begin with some ancient history regarding my daughter’s early schooling.

The retrospective prequel will take up five chapters:

Part 1: My daughter and the school for very bright children (SVBC).

Part 2: My daughter’s partner and the SVBC.

Part 3: RG’s Rejection by the SVBC.

Part 4: An ironic parallel with my daughter’s rejection by a graduate school followed by her acceptance after studying calculus through distance learning.

Then there will be two interludes:

Part 5: Dental torture inflicted on my daughter.

Part 6: The big West Coast snow storm of December 2008.

This will irritate you for about a week. At that point, I will tell you about the new circumstances (maybe) of RG’s educational career.

I felt the mommies should know about all the events of the day at the zoo. I wrote up a shorter version than I provided here to send as an email to Mommy and Mama. Before I finished and sent the email, the following events and actions occurred:

  1.  RG passed her swimming test for swimming in the deep end of the swimming pool.
  2. Her mommies set up an allowance and a financial education plan for her. I don’t know if it was their idea or they picked it up from someone, but it struck me as brilliant when they told me about it later. It runs like this
  3. RG gets an allowance of $3 a week. Her allowance is not based on “chores.” She is already fairly helpful and constructive about helping around the house, putting away her toys, setting the table, helping with fixing meals, etc.
  4. She gets a bank for her money. The bank is not called a piggy bank; I forget the term they used. The bank has three slots. Each week she puts $1 in each slot.The slots are labeled as follows:
    1. Spending. Money accumulated in this part of her bank would take care of RG’s urge to get stuffed animals at the zoo store, I presume. It will take her a while to collect enough cash to get an elephant, whale, or Tyrannosaurus Rex, I presume
    2. Sharing. RG will usually share a bit of her food if asked politely. This will move toward starting her own version of the Gates Foundation someday.
    3. Saving. I don’t know how impacted RG will be by having the Greater Depression strike when she was four years old, but she might as well start saving for the future by the time she is five.
  5. Each week RG will discuss with her mommies how she will use the money in each category. As far as investment, I have been thinking about setting up a Scottrade brokerage account that I will hold in her name.
  6. At present we have three accounts: my wife’s IRA, my IRA, and a joint account. I am considering setting up an account in Random Granddaughter’s name. With the amount that is left in our accounts after the stock market crash, RG’s portion of her “saving” account will be on about the same level as our other three accounts. I suspect her portfolio will quickly surpass ours.
  7. I will discuss with her companies that build fire trucks and ferries, as well as companies that run railroads. Up to now those three business sectors have been her main interest. Now that she has added pirates to her focus, investing will be a little more difficult. Perhaps she will be interested in starting a pirate company as an entrepreneur. Investing in pirate ships seems a little more difficult.
  8. On the other hand, her interest in pirates may only be an early sign that she will be an investment banker on Wall Street, or a captain of conventional American industry. Perhaps she will start the next Enron.
  9. RG had a discussion with her mommies about babies and mommies. I await the day when she explains the “birds and bees” to me. I have been hoping to learn about this all my life. I figure at 65 I am ready for this information.

When we got home, RG had a snack, and told me once again that she did not intend to take a nap. It was clear that the day’s events, and particularly Grandpa’s oppressive behavior, was preying on her mind.

She picked up a cell phone. She said, “I want to call Mama [Random Daughter].” I looked on the side of the refrigerator for the list of emergency numbers for babysitters to call. I handed the number to RG. She made a stab at dialing the number, but went amiss on a digit. I helped her dial the number correctly.

I said, “Be sure and tell Mama that you are not going to take a nap.” I figured that she was not going to tell Mama about her defiant scheme, but either RG is still especially honest or she is not quite sophisticated enough yet to concoct a really devastating plot against Grandpa. [I figure by the time she is five, police will arrive at my door with a warrant for my arrest for child abuse, bearing a copy of an affidavit signed by RG.]

She got through to Mama and I heard RG talking my daughter. I heard RG say to Momma, “I am not going to take a nap.” There was a long silence; then RG brought the cell phone to me.

“Mama wants to talk to you,” she said.

My daughter said to me, “I told RG that we can’t force her to sleep but we do want her to lie down and close her eyes for half an hour and rest. It’s 12:45. I want her to lie down until 1:15.”

After getting orders from Mama, RG went upstairs to her bedroom peacefully. I read her a story. I pointed at the clock and explained when she would be able to get up again. RG has trouble telling time on an analog clock, but she has a digital clock in her bedroom which she can read.

She calmly and firmly told me, “I am not going to take a nap.” I kissed her good not-nap and went downstairs to the living room, where I quietly sat down with a book.

After a while, it became very quiet upstairs. I guessed that a little girl had fallen asleep in spite of herself but I did not check go up to check on her; figuring it would be silly to make noise that might wake her or give her an excuse to demand to get up early.

RG slept peacefully for a couple of hours, but then she awoke and started screaming for Mommy. This is her usual shtick when I babysit her, and it is getting really old. I am weary of a granddaughter waking from her nap and screaming.

I got her up, calmed her down, and assured her Mommy would be home at 5 to take her to her swimming lesson. Once again, she told me that she had heard herself snoring and scared herself. (This has become such a well-rehearsed story now that I imagine she will still be telling it when she calls 911 at the age of 25.   “I heard myself snoring and I woke up,” she will tell the paramedics as they rush into her house.)

RG played with some toys until Mommy came home at 5. They set off for her swimming lesson; I set off for home on the island.