Manhattan's Elite's Competition to Place Their Children in the Best Nursery Schools
In the uptown Manhattan, the affluent do not only compete in the business world, or to see who has most designer labels, they also compete when it comes to their children’s education. I’m not talking about college students or even parents of teens trying to get their progeny into elite prep schools, I’m talking about parents assuring that their two or three year olds enter the best nurseries in Manhattan. This is not child’s plays, these parents will do almost anything or at least, almost anything to assure that their precious baby gets into the right nursery.
This whole fuss about getting children into the right nurseries reminds me of a scene in the hit movie, Baby Boom, starring Diane Keaton back in the competitive eighties. In this scene we see J.C. Wiatt (played by Diane Keaton) in a park by the sandbox with her newly adopted daughter Elizabeth, who is only two. In the park there are a couple of mothers discussing their children’s weekly schedule and the dialog goes as follows:
Mother 1: How about a week from Wednesday for Jr. Symphony?
Mother2: No, no, no Cole has drama on Wednesday.
Mother 1: Ben has to play the French Horn on Monday, Gymboree on Tuesday, Computer Readiness on Thursday. What about Friday? After violin, but before his shrink.
Mother 2: Perfect.
Mother 3: (Comes to the park with her son and meets up with mothers 2&3) Cosby go play in the sandbox.
Mother 2: What is wrong with you? You look awful.
Mother 3: We heard from Dalton, Cosby didn’t get in.
Mother 1 & 2: (in unison) Oh no!
Mother 3: I’m so upset, if she doesn’t get into the right preschool, she’s not going to get into the right kindergarten, if she doesn’t get into the right kindergarten, I can forget about a good prep school and any hope of an Ivy League College.
Mother 1: Honey, that is devastating.
Mother 3: I just don’t understand it. Her resume was perfect, her references were impeccable. Dennis is going to kill me.
J.C.: Excuse me, I heard you talking about preschools, and I was wondering, what age do they actually start? I forget.
Mother 1: It depends, 2 ½ or 3.
J. C.: All the good schools, are they hard to get into?
Mother 2: Ha, ha, ha, are you kidding. I had Alexis registered at the Preschool for the Performing Arts, since birth.
Mother 1: (Patting her pregnant stomach) He’s already on the waiting list for Dalton.
J.C.: So if you are not on the waiting list or something by now.
Mother 2: You can forget it honey.
Ben (Child of mother number 1) Mom
Mother 1: Hi honey.
Ben: Does the sky look like St Bay of Mercy?
Mother 1: Gee it does, oh Ben that is a terrific observation. Go play honey.
J.C: They teach Susanne in preschool.
Mother 1: No, Ben is a graduate of the center.
Mother 2: Oh, that’s an idea for you.
J.C.: The center? What’s that?
Mother 1: It’s a week long intensive training program that literally teaches you how to multiply your child’s intelligence. When we first went there, Ben could barely speak. By the time we left, he was residing the Raven.
Mother 2: What kind of classes do you have your daughter in now?
J.C.: Oh, none.
Mother 2: Not even a Mommy and me.
Mother 1: Gymboree.
Mother 2: Not reading readiness?
J.C.: Nothing, the child can’t even hold a cup.
Mother 2: The other babies are way ahead of her.
Mother 3: And I thought I had problems.
As you read, from this scene in Baby Boom, the affluent mothers of uptown Manhattan are stressed out when it comes to putting their precious child in the right nursery, an issue that goes as far back, as the eighties.
You can’t help but wonder are these affluent Manhattan couples, just being concerned parents, or are they a bunch of ego maniacs trying to make sure their progeny has an early start in the rat race. In the documentary Nursery University, you also can’t help but wonder what makes many of these parents tick. Is it love that drives them, or that they are simply a competitive bunch.
Yes, these parents love their children, but one can't help but wonder. What is it that drives them to spend twenty thousand a year on a high power nursery, not to mention, the many thousands of dollars more, they will have to spend on a psychiatrists to help their neurotic child, who even at the tender age of two or three, have to live with the stress level of a brain surgeon. Unfortunately, this whole scenario reminds me of the Japanese, who put so much pressure on their children to succeed, that some have committed suicide, because they just didn’t get high enough grades.
Why would any loving parent want to raise their children in a dangerous place like Manhattan? New York is not the safest place for rearing children. If a parent has twenty thousand dollars a year to spend on educating their two year old, they could easily spend the money on computer equipment, a nice library for their child filled with all kinds of children's books, along with other quality children's media, and educational materials from the best educators in the country, even the world. These affluent parents could also take part of the money and hire a private teacher, or better yet, try being a full time mother, who willing to give that child the love, and warmth only a mother can give, as well as teaching them their ABC’s. There is no reason why a devoted mother can’t home-school a two year old.
Nursery University, does a fantastic job of demonstrating how obsessed many of these Manhattan couples are. One couple in the movie applies to almost twelve preschools. During the admission period, their whole existence revolved around getting their daughter into the right preschool.
The morning after Labor Day weekend all these parents are literally balled and chained to their phones. The sheer volume of calls these preschools get from interested parents is astounding. After a chosen few, actually get their hands on an application, stress time now officially begins. This is supply and demand at its most extreme. It’s kind of comical watching these high powered professionals having to pander to all the demands of the nursery school's admissions directors. Believe or not, in an indirect way, these parents are at the mercy of those who run the nursery that they have chosen for their child. Kind of reminds me of the old saying "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."
The preparations alone cost a bundle. The parents are forced to become super critical of their dear children, and they judge them by adult standards. The children have resumes written on them, as well as profiles. If they find that the child has any habits that are typical of most children, and they feel that it could be impediment to their precious child’s future, they spend a fortune on professionals to have that habit corrected. The demand for these schools is so high that even after a long and stressful process. The children that will attend, are chosen through a lottery process.
After the selections are complete, the parents wait anxiously for their child’s acceptance letter. One set of parents had their child accepted in every school they had applied to. The scene is comical in a sense. Here you have a table full of acceptance letters and a couple of beaming parents telling their little angel to choose which acceptance letter she likes best, like they don’t already have a first choice school in mind. Another mother gets the bad news that her child wasn’t accepted by any of the schools and therefore decides to move away from the area. Another couple opts for a more creative solution. They send their child to a local playgroup run by a parent’s cooperative, that way they can also avoid paying the excessive costs of tuition.
This type of situation creates problems for some of the locals of Greenwich Village. One couple says they feel like townies, which are being driven out of their community by these rich Manhattan couples. Due to the demand in nursery education, it is impossible to find a reasonably priced nursery school. Therefore, parents, who don’t have the twenty thousand to spend on their child’s preschool education, find that they have to either risk the child’s future, or move. In certain cases, some parents may be fortunate enough to obtain a scholarship for their baby. These couples go through all the hassles that most parents face when their children have to go to college and the child isn't even five yet.
These problems seem to be unique to the Manhattan area. I live in another area of the country and I see nurseries in my area, that offer fantastic programs and they even offer parents rebates for just enrolling their children. Most of these programs are just as good, or even better than the ones offered in the Manhattan area.The solution is very simple, if you don’t have to stay in Manhattan. Move to an area that is more child friendly, and make sure that their child related resources are more plentiful.
As to whether, your son or daughter makes it into an Ivy League University, that depends more on your child’s character, than on any educational system. You can inspire your children to strive for good character, by setting a good example for your children and teaching them good values. It is also of value, that you spend time with your children, and that you make an effort not to ignore them, like many of those parents with heavy social engagements are prone to do. By practicing these virtues, there is a better chance that your child will succeed and even be happy. You want to give your child the best. Give them the gift of your time.
If you would like more information on the documentary Nursery University, here are some links for your convenience.