The Craziness of a New York Education

When looking for private schools in New York, the three-hour interview for a toddler to enter a pre-k 3 (that’s pre-kindergarten for three-year olds) class isn’t even the craziest part of the process.  Actually, that bears repeating.  The application process begins a year in advance, so that’s a three-hour interview for two-year olds to enter a class for three-year olds a year later.  Let the craziness begin.

First, there’s the parent essays.

What is your child’s greatest accomplishment?”  Not pooping her pants?  Talking?  Walking without face planting?

What are your child’s occupational aspirations?”  Seriously?  She’s two.  Her idea of a work day consists of nap time and finger painting.

What does your child want to study in college?”  Hey, she still a year away from her first day of pre-pre-kindergarten, and she hasn’t even had her first day of school, but let’s skip right to college questions.

I have no idea how I managed to write the required essays (paragraphs, with an “s”, as in, several paragraphs on the supposed academic credentials of a two-year old) for each those questions, but I filled in the questionnaire and sent it in.

On the big day, after the teachers called the students in, Mommy and I sat with a small group of parents when the Director of something or other with an overly fancy title appeared.

Director:  Good morning, parents.  I wanted to thank everyone for coming, but I don’t want anyone to get their hopes up.  As I’m sure everyone already knows, this year we have over 5,000 applicants for just fifty spots.

That’s… a lower acceptance rate than Harvard.  For pre-kindergarten.  Makes… sense.

Director:  Blah, blah, blah.  Tuition this for this year is $42,000.  Blah, blah, blah.

Holy…  This pre-kindergarten class is more expensive than Harvard.

Four hours later, the teachers brought you back to the waiting room.

Me:  How was it, Cookie?

Cookie:  It was fun, Daddy.

Me:  What did they ask you, Cookie?

Cookie:  They asked me to read a book.*  Then a different teacher came to ask me questions in Chinese.

Me:  Did you answer in Chinese?

Cookie:  Yep.  Then another teacher asked me questions in Korean, and another in Spanish.

Me:  What did they ask?

Cookie:  Silly questions.  Then they asked me to count to twenty and look at shapes and colors.

A week later, we received a happy phone call.  I’m proud of you, Cookie.  You were one of the fifty.

Me: Wonderful, so what will you teach in this class?

Director:  Letters, numbers, colors: the Common Core

Me:  But, with that many applicants, you’ve presumably selected only kids who can already read.

Director:  Yes, and I think your daughter will fit right in.

Me: So you’re still going to teach letters to kids who can read?  You’re not going to teach them anything they don’t already know?

College tuition for glorified day care?  No, thank-you.


* Fortunately, it was Good Night Moon.  You have that book memorized, Cookie.

Baby Trafficking

One Saturday morning, when you were two, we went on a shopping trip to Buy Buy Baby (While it’s a nice store, this isn’t meant to be a plug.  The name had hilarious consequences).

Cookie sitting in the stroller: I want a baby of my own.  Then I get to push her in a stroller.

Mommy: Do you know babies are a lot of work?

Cookie: Really?

Mommy: Yep.  You have to change their diapers and give them baths.

Cookie: Oh.

Mommy: Then you have to cook special foods and spend hours feeding them when they won’t eat.

Cookie:  OH.

Mommy: Then when they throw up, you have to clean up the vomit from the baby, the floor, the walls.  The throw-up goes everywhere.

Cookie: OH.

Mommy: And then they wake up in the middle of the night, and you don’t get to sleep.

Cookie: I don’t want to have a baby.

Cookie suddenly crying: I don’t want to go to Buy Buy Baby.

Please understand that this was a big shock to Mommy and me since you rarely cried when you were little, and full on water works were extraordinary.

Mommy: Why?

Cookie crying: I don’t want to go buy a baby!  I don’t want a baby!

Mommy: Buy Buy Baby is short for Buy Buy Baby Stuff.  You can’t buy a baby at Buy Buy Baby.

Cookie inconsolably crying: I don’t want to go to Buy Buy Baby.

Mommy:  Buy Buy Baby doesn’t sell babies.  It’s illegal to sell babies.

Cookie in the middle of sobbing: What’s illegal?

It’s a good thing I was pushing the stroller as you couldn’t see me behind you, Cookie.  I didn’t want to seem insensitive cracking up in the middle of your crisis.

A few minutes later, when we entered the store, you had the most suspicious face a two year old could summon.  And no, there were no babies for sale.

Food Critic

Cookie:  Daddy, I want California rolls for dinner.

Me: Ok.

Cookie:  I don’t want [neighborhood sushi place we frequent often].  I don’t want [another sushi place we frequent often].  I want Plaza Food Hall.

Yeah.  That’s Todd English’s Food Hall at The Plaza (that Plaza), as demanded by you, Cookie, at age two.  Most toddlers aren’t really speaking yet, and you’re picking restaurants, expensive ones at that (ok, not quite Masa or even Morimoto, but you’re getting there).  To your credit, you were able to discern and prefer real Alaskan snow crab from the imitation stuff usually found in Californian rolls, but yeesh.

Musical Taste

Cookie:  Dad, stop.  I want to eat at this restaurant.  I like the music.

That’s not quite what I expected to hear from my two-year old as we walked down the street, but I’ve learned to just accept and adapt.  Besides, Miles Davis? Good choice, kiddo.

I’m not sure where you obtained your musical tastes.  Like every other read-the-same-book-extra-IQ-points-maybe-bandwagon-parent, Mommy played Bach and Mozart for you non-stop (from womb speakers to your crib mobile to your toddler sleep radio).  Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with Bach or Mozart, but their exquisite pieces are not the ones coded into the cheap plastic speakers mass marketed to the bandwagon parents.  Even pedestrian Mozart sonatas, however, is preferable to the mindless swill that is labeled as kid music, badly sung by costumed dinosaurs, and tolerated by parents for their supposed educational value.  I’m not sure how kids can tolerate such endless torture (apparently some of these songs are being used as actual torture), and I am very thankful that you are not one of those kids who demands endless repetition.

Miles Davis aside, given what music was fed to you your short life thus far, I was very shocked and proud one Saturday afternoon.  We were sitting at the bar in a burger restaurant on one of our Daddy-Daughter Days (also known as Mommy’s day off).  You suddenly put down the burger and turned towards me with a very serious face.

Cookie:  Daddy, I like this song.  It’s now my favorite.

Pink Floyd’s The Wall. I can’t fault your taste, but that’s not a song I was going to introduce to you at two.

Now I just have to figure out how keep you from being zombiefied by the latest boy-troop tripe.