‘The bears are watching a movie’


‘A getting-into-school back-to-school story’

Out on my walk today, dodging double-wide strollers and long-legged schoolgirls clutching Starbucks pumpkin-spice lattes, I felt a bit of a nip in the air. I’m a person who really hates to see summer end (see last week’s ‘The days are long, but the season is short’ for a nostalgic riff), but even I was getting tired of walking through what felt like hot dog breath — at 6 in the morning.

I was going to write about houseguests. And I still might, though The Child has cautioned me that some of my subjects might recognize themselves. But then again, she also told me that ‘this is my blog and I can write whatever I want’.

But all those schoolgirls — and the nip — reminded me of the story of how The Child got into nursery school. So I decided to tell that one instead. (Besides, I have to go to the dentist in about an hour, and this is a quick story.)

See, here in New York City (and in other Big Cities, too), getting into nursery school is a Very Big Deal. Apparently, if you don’t get your 3-year-old into the ‘right’ one, he or she will miss her (let’s stick with the feminine pronoun, since The Child is a girl) chance to grow up to be a Captain of Industry or a Supreme Court Justice. (Which is the job aspiration to have, not ‘President’; see my ‘Now Let’s play Supreme Court Justice’ for reasons why).

There are books written about getting your child into nursery school. Seriously. Someone tried to loan me one. You should have seen my face as I politely refused.

See, sometimes what you don’t know can’t hurt you. And this was one of those cases. When The Dude and I were on the hunt for a nursery school for our Precious One, we were blissfully unaware of how difficult it was.

We did have our own criteria. The most important of which was not ‘Do rich and famous people’s kids go there?’ or ‘Does the CEO of Morgan-Stanley’s kid go there?’ or even ‘Will my kid get into Harvard if she goes there?’ It was ‘Is it close to where I live so I can drop her off on the way to work?’

So we visit this school. It was close, it wasn’t very big, and the Headmistress (yes, that’s what they call her) greeted every child at the door with a handshake. We liked all of this, especially the close-to-where-we-live part.

Smallish, polite, and full of cute kids -- even to this day! -- we liked this school

Smallish, polite, and full of cute kids — even to this day! — we liked this school. And gosh, it liked us back

But, um. You can’t just go ‘Hey, I like you, Nursery School. Let’s sign right up!’ No. You have to apply. (This part is boring, and involves paperwork and letters of recommendation — honest, for a 3-year-old! — so I’ll skip it.)

And then, if you make it through that stuff, you have to interview. Again, I am not making this up.

So we show up at the appointed hour, The Child looking absolutely adorable in a little black (it’s New York, people) corduroy jumper with little silver stars printed all over it. Shoes to match. (I have them stowed away somewhere, they were so cute. But since I have to go to the dentist soon, I don’t have time to search for them to show you.)

The Dude and I were perched on the couch in the Headmistress’s office, ‘chatting’. While The Child was seated nearby on the floor with a Young Female Teacher, ‘playing’.

While we’re doing our best to wow Ms. Headmistress, we couldn’t help but notice what was going on just a few feet away.

We see Young Teacher hand The Child a round plastic container full of little bears. She tells Said Child that she can do whatever she wants with them.

What the bears that were in the plastic container looked like

What the bears that were in the plastic container looked like

The Child dumps the bears out of the container onto the beautiful Turkish carpet, arranges them into a semi-circle, and places the container smack-dab in front of them.

Young Teacher then goes ‘Tell me about your bears.’ (This ‘tell me about’ line is very big when you’re applying to nursery schools — and even later when you’re doing the same thing all over again to get into what they call ‘ongoing’ schools — as in ‘Tell me about your daughter’.)

We couldn’t help but overhear The Child explain that the bears were ‘watching a movie’. Good one, we think.

Young Teacher smiles, nods, then says to The Child ‘You can put the bears away now.’ To which she replies ‘The movie’s not over.’

Well. Needless to say, The Child got into the nursery school.

And, even if she did not grow up to be a Supreme Court Justice, at least she is not sleeping on our couch for a living.

Oh. Before I go. A quick note on what I was wearing during this interview. No, not a black corduroy jumper with little stars on it. (I wish.) But, since I was fully employed at the time, and since I knew I would be dropping The Child off on my way to work in the World of Advertising, I decided that dressing like an Upper East Side Mommy in a plaid skirt, velvet headband, and one of those jackets that look like a tea cozy would be rather a case of bait-and-switch.

So I dressed in what was, for the Ad Biz in the mid-Nineties, my ‘uniform’: black leather jacket, black boots, white tee shirt, and jeans. They were my best jeans, but they were, in fact, bluejeans. Levis, as I recall.

Later, when The Child was ‘in’, and Ms. Headmistress and I were Best Buds, I asked her what she thought about my outfit. She told me it was one of the things she liked best about me.

So there, Upper East Side Mommies.

New York City. September 2016


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14 thoughts on “‘The bears are watching a movie’

  1. I’ve never understood those jackets.

    I know that’s not the point of your post, but I clicked the link and immediately recognized the thing and… I mean, there are warmer options that don’t look so… And it’s not that I’m against quilted jackets entirely—I do own one. It’s specifically for “I’m going to be out in the snow today, and this is warm and waterproof, for when I fall down.” And it fits properly, unlike those things.

    Or maybe I’m just bitter about people who can wear velvet headbands without getting static-y hair and flyaways.

    • Ah, but that actually was the point of the post, you Clever Clever Girl (!) How we non-quilted-jacket-types actually rule the world. Or at least get our kids into fancy-schmancy schools without benefit of headbands xo

  2. My goodness! You see this stuff on films but I just presumed it was to get into incredibly posh private schools that would go from preschool to college, not that you went through that process for pre school only! I’d love to know about the people that were turned down and the reasons why! Your outfit sounds so cool and the head obviously made the right choice. Thanks for joining the #weekendblogshare

    • Yes, we had to go thru this for pre-school AND for elementary school. High school too! Fortunately, The Child managed her college applications on her own. She didn’t even show us! Thanks for the nice compliments. I still wear that leather jacket! I too wish I knew why people get/got turned down. They never ever tell (!)

  3. So, what they showed us about raising children in NYC as a competitive sport in “Baby Boom” and “The Nanny Diaries” has some basis in fact! Scary!? ? ? ? ?
    Actually, those are two of my favorite films. Have the bears watched those movies, or would it be too scary for them and your daughter?

    • I’ll have to check those movies’ ratings, won’t I? To see if ‘bear-ental guidance’ is suggested (!) Thank you for reading, and for commenting. Stop by any time for more strange-but-true adventures of the New York Parenting kind xo

  4. The child is probably totally unaware of what this process is and what it means to her life. Meanwhile, the parents are sweating it. We had to go through that with private school for our teenage son. I left out the parts about what trouble he was in that led us to a search for a private school. I would have loved your outfit, Alice, and copied it immediately.

    • Gosh, I certainly hope she was unaware of its importance, since it was certainly stressful! And we had to do the whole thing over again for ‘ongoing’ (i.e., ‘elementary’) school. Thank goodness she managed her get-into-college deal on her own. Thanks for the comment on the outfit — it really was pretty cool (!)

  5. Ok, Alice. Good luck at the dentist today; may all that daily regimen pay off for at least one more appointment.

    This NYC pre-school nonsense was going on in SF back about the time we were getting started with the Child’s West Coast peers in our lives. We were probably never good candidates to raising kids in the City (a proper pronoun when referring to our town) but we challenged ourselves before we made that decision. Strangely, one of the attractions was one of the private schools over there. Our little ones would not have been dressed in black (this was SF of old) and would have dazzled all their watchers and reviewers on the fancy turkish rug. The Headmistress would have had to accept our straight-ahead wardrobe, but maybe we would have picked up some extra points from any of the many Jerry Garcia ties I used to wear.

    I’ll say it again, it’s a strong person who can document their days with their little ones now that they are no longer little.

    • Thanks, Bruce! I have a sweaty-palm fear of the dentist. On my way, gulp, in a sec. But first, wanted to thank you not only for commenting, but for sharing your wardrobe memories! I wish I could see one of your Jerry Garcia ties (!) And yes, it is very hard to dredge up those memories. Sigh.

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