Nursery University

If you want to feel much better about your search for a pre-school for a child (or if you are like me and absorb whatever emotion is being portrayed on TV, and want to feel your blood pressure increase), put this movie in your Netflix queue.  It’s called Nursery University and it’s about the insanity of trying to get children into the “right” pre-schools in New York City.

It’s like watching people apply for college.  There are admissions counselors.  There are thin and thick envelopes, the width of which is supposed to indicate whether Little Precious was accepted.  There are parents who exercise whatever tenuous connections they have to effect the best result for their child.

It’s mind-blowing.

And it makes me very, very happy to not live in NYC.

Compared with NYC, we have it relatively easy where we live because we don’t really have an intense quality hierarchy around here.  Some schools are more desireable than others, but it usually has to do with the class size, cost, and teaching approach as opposed to the belief that a particular school is a springboard to getting Johnny into Cornell.

There is a wait list every year for my kids’ pre-school because the classes are small and the cost is low.  It’s a Quaker school, which around here gives it an aura of quality, and the school gets good buzz from parents in general.  But after an initial slew of phone calls (see below), getting in required nothing more than filling out an application and paying a deposit.  Moreover, if that hadn’t worked out, there were plenty of other schools around here that Ginger could have attended.

Now granted, for Ginger’s first year, I had to put her in the less desireable (for us) afternoon class because the morning class was full.  Despite having to mess with Fred’s nap schedule big time on school days, however, it was fine, and as an existing student entitled to early enrollment, I managed to get Ginger into the more desireable (for us) morning class for three-year-olds this year.  I also managed to get Fred into the morning program for his age thanks to Ginger’s status as an existing student.  Early enrollment for existing students has also managed to snag us the desireable (for us) classes next year as well.

Now, with all of this said, I did have my own moment of crazy.  I hadn’t really decided whether to send Ginger to pre-school last year, when she was all of two.  I know jack squat about school in general (not exactly a desireable quality in someone raising a child, but I’m sort of winging it here, folks).  But I was at play group one day and heard that a couple others in the group had enrolled their kids in pre-school. 

Suddenly I had visions of Ginger having to take remedial classes in high school because we didn’t put her in school until she was 3.

Thus began the mad rush on my part.

It was as though a switch flipped and I went from being non-chalant to borderline panicked that I had to enroll Ginger somehwere, anywhere, just to have her keep up with other kids.  The hard part was that it was April or so when I had this epiphany, so many classes were full.  This didn’t mean she couldn’t get into school – as I said above, we had other choices – it just meant she might not get into the school that we liked.

So naturally, and just because we apparently like to make our lives difficult, we decided we wanted her in the school that was going to be among the tougher to get into.  I called and called and called, but no one returned my calls, and I went from borderline panicky to downright panicky.  Suddenly, I just HAD to get Ginger into this school (this would be the crazy in all of this).  About a month after my first call, the head of the school called me back, explained that she had been traveling, and told me there was a slot left in an afternoon class, if we wanted one.

YES!  I practically shouted into the phone.

Thankfully things worked out, but the entire episode was a tiny window into what it must be like for parents in NYC trying to get their little ones into school.  I’d like to think that I could keep my head about me as to something so seemingly trivial as pre-school, particularly when other options were available, but apparently I couldn’t even make it through my rinky-dink system without having a partial meltdown.

Someone is going to have to tie me down when my kids apply to college.

Anyway, watch Nursery University and feel better about your own situation.  And be prepared to pick your jaw up off the floor a few times before the movie ends.


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