One of the greatest challenges for an NYC parent: Preschool

NYC is notorious for being competitive…for everything—even preschool.

That’s right, we aren’t talking about college, Ivy League, Harvard…Nah. I’m talking about the institution where your kids go to play with blocks, take naps, and get milk and cookies.

Parents are rabid about getting their kids into the right preschool here. Public or private, it doesn’t matter. Every year hordes of parents are gearing up to wage war so that their kid can play with the best blocks in the city.

When we moved here, we had heard some stories but weren’t ready for the reality that was going to backhand us.

In March of last year, we applied for seven different public schools ranking from our dream school to a bunch of others that were ”good enough.” A couple of months later we got the results.

We didn’t get in. To any of them. Not one of them had space for our kid. It wasn’t like he was going to Harvard. But somehow it felt like that’s what we were trying to do.

We did the only thing parents could do when you get a letter like we got. We panicked. We also prayed, but mostly panicked.

We called our first choice to find out where we were on their list. We were somewhere in the seventies. That meant we were in the abyss of the list. Our dreams seemed to have drowned when we heard that.

We looked into private school. The costs we were seeing were around fifty thousand. That’s dollars, not yen. I refused to spend that amount on milk and cookies, no matter how gourmet they are.

A month or so later we got a note saying that our son got into another school that looked promising but was about an hour walk from our home. We would make it work if we had to, but we continued to panic and pray. In that order.

We had heard of various tactics that parents used to try to get their kids into the schools of their choice. Some called the school every day to ask them why their child wasn’t higher on the list. Others presented their demands in person, hoping that Luddite methods would yield better results. A few had friends on the PTA and they tried to leverage those connections. I didn’t hear of any of those methods working.

We wanted to try a different approach, one that was winsome, kind, and unassuming. So we did. And to our surprise, we received a response from our dream school but not admittance.

Around the same time, we received a letter from the Department of Ed saying that we got into a preschool only twenty five minutes away. That was a marked improvement. When September rolled around that’s where our son ended up attending.

It wasn’t bad. The commute was doable, the teachers seemed fine, and the families were nice. That was until our son started telling us that he was getting punched by a fellow classmate.

Then everything changed. A month and a half into the school year, we received an email from our dream school. They said they had a space for us and wanted to know if we were still interested. Oh, we were.

And the next day he transferred into Harvard, I mean, our dream preschool.

Even in one of the most competitive landscapes in the world, kindness can still win.

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