Parents Losing Their Minds Over Preschool Applications Need to Get a Grip

In NYC, a number of family therapists have confirmed that the plots of at least five chick-lit books I've read over the years were apparently based in reality: parents are losing their shit competing for the top private schools in the city. Apparently parents are so desperate to make sure their preschool or kindergarten-aged kid doesn't have to endure—gasp!—public school, they're receiving psychiatric counseling to help them deal with the crushing mental strain of the admissions process.

According to The Post, parents are not only willing to shell out thousands of dollars for an admissions consultant, they're falling apart under the unfathomable stress of it all. Therapists have heard it all, from the single mom who faked being a lesbian to make her kid's application more unique, to the mom who agonized over whether she was carrying the right purse to the school tour.

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I guess in a way I can sort of understand this hyper-obsessiveness—I definitely fretted about my own child starting kindergarten, and whether or not we should explore different educational options. On the other hand: FIRSTIEST FIRST-WORLD PROBLEM OF ALL TIME.

Dr. Lisa Spiegel, a therapist who runs the Soho Parenting center, told The Post that her clients spend the majority of the 90-minute sessions freaking out about failing their kids by not getting them into the right school:

It’s traumatizing. I hear parents say, ‘I just have to leave the city.’ I’m trying to help them stay grounded. Parents are eating, sleeping private-school admissions. (…) Parenting is a competitive sport. We’re trying to provide parents respite from that.

Parenting is a competitive sport? Yeesh.

I don't mean to invalidate these parents' concerns, it's just that it's so hard to identify with the idea of a child's life being RUINED if they don't get accepted into the toniest of schools—when they're all of 3 years old. I can't imagine a lifestyle that involves strategizing nursery school applications through the use of expensive educational consultants in order to have a better shot at the best private kindergarten, for crying out loud.

Still, you almost have to admire the tenacity of these parents. When the acceptance rate for an elite private kindergarten is lower than Harvard's, you'd think people would just give up. Instead, they're wringing their hands, hiring shrinks to coach them through the stress, and meeting the challenge head-on. As one parent told the Times, his child's admissions process became "my full-time job for four months" and it was "way more difficult than anything I’ve done academically in my life, including applying to university in America from India."

More power to them, I guess. Me, I'm glad to be living in boring West Coast suburbia, where competitive parenting seems mostly limited to scoring the best parking spot—in front of the neighborhood public school.

What do you think about the intense private preschool focus?

Image via Flickr/US Embassy

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