Tuesday, June 2, 2009
I'll give you a moment to stop laughing. (Or crying.)
And calm down. I don't know this little pint-sized prepster to the left. Though he does look suspiciously like a few of the frat guys with whom I went to college. You know - the ones who lived in casually rumpled button downs and creased khakis and sported that stiff side part that screamed: I'm kind of somebody.
Anyway, the rumor is that getting one's two-year-old into a Manhattan preschool these days is statistically as or more difficult than securing admission to an Ivy League school. So, what does this mean?
Parental panic of epic proportions.
A wonderful new documentary Nursery University offers an anxiety-inducing and eye-opening behind-the scenes-tour of the Manhattan preschool admissions process. It follows a handful of diverse families from that fateful and frenzied Tuesday after Labor Day through the March madness of acceptances and rejections and wait-lists to the final decisions about where the itty-bitty intellectuals will do very important things like paint popsicle sticks and build blocks. The film gives us a compelling peek inside select City schools including Mandell, Epiphany, City & Country, and Chelsea Day.
Personally, I loved the film. Why?
Because the subject matter was eerily familiar. The rainbow classrooms and highly-insecure/highly-invested moms and dads (yup, including Husband and me). The tours and toddler interviews, the application essays and yes, early admissions! Not only did I just go through this nutty nursery process for Toddler, but I actually recognized many of the nervous parental "extras" in some of the scenes.
Because it was an endearingly honest portrayal of a socially and economically complex system where some families founder and some flourish.
And, most of all, because the film, like the very process it illuminates, underscores just how rabidly we parents care about our babies. (Because, let's be honest here. They are babies.) Because this is not just about crafting kids' resumes before they can hold a pencil. This is not just about flashing ahead to a fabulously promising future for our progeny. This is not just about breeding sweater-vest-sporting itty-bitty Ivy Leaguers. No.
And maybe I am a bit spoiled or jaded or sheltered or too loyal to my hometown. Or, most likely, all of these things. But I think that if you look closely at this film and the families it follows, it is as much about the precious and precarious present moment we have no choice but to occupy and wanting what's best for our babies. And going for it. Even if that entails weathering a wonderfully wacky process.