Tokyo Daddy Issues: Tomorrow’s World Leaders, Finger Painting Today

finger-painting

There is another preschool in the same building our daughter’s preschool is in. The other day my wife made an interesting observation about that other school: None of the kids are being picked up by their parents, but by personal drivers. That gave me enormous peace of mind. We are doing all the dropping off and picking up ourselves. So are the other parents in our school. That has to mean we are not elitist snobs after all. Those parents and kids in the other school are. We are still comparatively working-class. Down to earth. Keeping it real. Punk rock. Okay, punk rock might be stretching it.

I had some reservations about sending our daughter Hana to a semi-fancy international preschool. First of all, “international” means “English,” and we had originally decided to keep English away from her as long as possible, as she already has to juggle Japanese and German. Secondly, those schools always promise to forge the world’s future leaders, decision makers, movers and shakers. I think, however, that for now just a little bit of finger painting and nap time will be perfectly fine for Hana, thank you.

Of course, there are also financial aspects to consider. Are we loaded? Certainly not. Is that semi-fancy preschool somewhat pricy? It is indeed. But will my wife and I ever have time again to spend money on ourselves? Not in the foreseeable future. So we might as well invest everything in Hana becoming a future world leader and ask her for our money back later.

We had considered going with public daycare. Unfortunately, public daycare wouldn’t consider going with us. The Japanese system awards points for every hardship parents have to suffer. The kids whose parents have amassed most suffering points win entry into public daycare facilities. A single mom working two jobs? Your chances are pretty good. As they should be. With only a very limited number of slots available, this is probably a decent system. Alas, it doesn’t work for us. My wife has a proper, verifiable eight-to-five job, but I am just a writer. And as every writer knows, that’s not a real job. Not when explaining yourself to bureaucrats, or your parents.

Before Hana was born, I had been fantasizing about another scenario that didn’t include any preschool or daycare at all. I had read an interview with a fellow writer, in which she claimed that she only started writing seriously after her son was born. That kid was sleeping all day, and she just didn’t know what else to do with her time. I thought: Great, that’s exactly how we will do it! Unfortunately, I was never able to sell Hana on the idea of sleeping all day. Or sleeping very much at all. Not when she was three months old, and certainly not now that she is three years old.

My concerns about that semi-fancy international preschool have proven unfounded (except maybe for my financial concerns). Hana picked up English easily; she was able to say “No!” in three languages in no time. She loves the school. Once she threw a tantrum when we passed by the building on the weekend and she realized we were not there to drop her off. The regimen isn’t too strict. There are monthly learning goals, but they are rarely more challenging than “Do your best trying to put on your shoes by yourselves.” Future leaders in the making.

Sometimes they learn about different countries and present their findings to parents during special events. Last week we had Madagascar Day. Hana’s main takeaway was the word “Madagascar,” which she now uses frequently, and mostly randomly. I took away that Madagascar’s schools have a three-month summer break. The place seems lovely, but I guess we won’t be moving there anytime soon. I can’t afford three consecutive months of not getting any writing done at all.

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