It's not just the socializing and the learning, which is obviously a major component of sending your kid to preschool. Sitting outside today and watching B. play with the neighbors it just made so much sense...kids have such a particular type of play that grownups can't duplicate (at least without being paid, going nuts or being a grandparent). Why is it funny to shriek, run around the courtyard, flop down and then repeat six times? Why take the hat off the doll where it belongs and try it on every single toy around? This type of stuff just doesn't mesh well with my practical (boring?) side. I do art, I do books, I do outings. But I don't really do silly fun. It's just not me.
I agonized forever before sending B. to preschool and still not even sure we settled on the right one. (More about that later.) But I am happy we sent him to preschool instead of having a babysitter around while I work. Kids definitely need lots of other kids around...especially once they get close to 3. (Suddenly it makes so much more sense why a lot of Santa Monica preschools won't accept kids until 2.9 months).
Of course if you have tons of kids available for playdates or lots of children of your own, this is all moot. But here in SoCal the playgrounds are empty except for infants and very young toddlers during the day.
As for the dreaded preschool wait list. I feel so bad for the parents who agonize over their applications. We did and then ended up being accepted at all 3 preschools we applied to. I think the economy probably has a lot to do with it (preschool is effing expensive!) plus it's a mythology the directors need to maintain so they can keep the upper hand in the relationship that lets them charge ridiculous application fees and insist that you attend their parenting workshops.
I don't happen to like our preschool director because she seems to be shifting kids around like chess pieces to fill her classes. I also wish our school had more parental/family involvement. So I've been touring preschools again trying to figure out if it's worth the transition trauma to send B. somewhere else. We'll probably stay put but it does give me a whole different perspective going on these tours with a kid who's already happily enrolled at school and seeing wide-eyed parents going through the system for the first time and taking this all so earnestly. Don't worry, I want to say to them, your kids will pretty much be happy wherever you send them as long as there are books, toys, paint and other kids around. You'll be the one with issues.