Somehow I missed the parenting memo that tells you -- because, what, you're supposed to be born knowing this? -- that you're supposed to start scoping and registering your kid in preschool approximately eight years before she is conceived.

So when I started calling around and taking tours of preschools early this summer in hopes of getting Nora started in the fall, I was taken by surprise by the pitying looks from school directors who informed me that they were all booked up for fall, and had been since Christmas.

(SIDE RANT: How completely stupid is it to have to sign up for preschool nearly a year in advance of when you want your kid to start it? That's half the kid's lifetime, for Pete's sake. I'm supposed to judge her needs and likes and dislikes as a two-and-a-half year old when she is barely one and not even walking yet? I'm supposed to assess her learning style from how she drools on her toys, is that it? Ridiculous. Like so much of parenting in our culture, but don't get me started.)

I'm nothing if not persistent, so I kept right on calling and touring, and finally settled on a preschool program that I really liked, based both on my tour and on the probably much more realistic, but still glowing, recommendations of several friends who had sent their kids there. But, the teacher who gave me a tour cautioned, they might be full, seeing as how registration had started back in winter. I'd have to wait until the director got back from vacation in a week to find out if there was a spot.

I'm persistent, yes, but I'm definitely not patient. So that was a long week.

It was a week of revising hopes and putting plans on hold, and a week of reassessing whether putting our kid in preschool, even if just two half-days a week, was what we really wanted to do. But our decision held up upon reassessment. We're not trying to make our kid learn algebra, but we *would* like her to learn things like standing in line, sharing with others, and dealing with authority figures other than mom and dad. Most of all, we just want her to be around other kids a little more -- something she seems to love and to learn from. We try to do playdates (I hate that word, but it's handy) as often as possible, but they're infrequent. And while we see other kids at the playground or the library's story time, the contact is fleeting. So preschool will be good for her, we truly believe.

And you know what? It'll be good for me, too. Doing freelance work from home has helped keep our family afloat in lean times, but it's stifling both personally and professionally. Having 7-8 hours a week to work during the day (as opposed to during naptime and late into the night after bedtime) will give me some of my life back. I might be able to read books and watch TV and have conversations with my husband like regular people do, instead of spending every spare minute of every single day working until I can't keep my eyes open anymore. And maybe sometimes I can spare an hour or so of those new hours to go have coffee with a friend, of all things. Just the thought of it makes me feel a little more alive than I have in, well, about two-and-a-half years.

So it was a long week of waiting for word of openings at our hoped-for preschool, but it was good news in the end: an opening exactly where and when we needed it. So Nora starts preschool just after Labor Day. And now, I suspect, I'll find out about lots of other parenting memos I missed when it comes to things like labeling juice cups, deciphering "what I did today" stories, and dealing with how your heart aches when you drop that big kid off at school for the first time.