May 11, 2006

How About Doing What's Best?

Sometimes Mr. Robertson talks mothers out of enrolling a child at all. "We'll call them with a spot that's opened up and they can't do it because every single day they have two or three things. I tell them, 'I don't think you need another class.' "

Still, some parents won't be dissuaded. Mrs. Doyle, who had her son wait-listed from the maternity ward, said she had second thoughts about his being in three classes at just one year old. But she did it anyway.

"My husband thought it was way too much, my mother thought it was way too much," she said. She now spends $5,000 to $10,000 a year on mommy-and-me programs for her son, who is now 2, she said. "I think it's ridiculous, but at the same time I'd do anything for my kid."

First, this is possibly insane, but I can also see how three classes at age one might not really be that overwhelming an experience for the kid. And frankly, All Souls Church IS the it-church of Carnegie Hill, so whatryagonnado?

But I was talking about this very "I'd do anything for my kid," "give my kid an edge," mentality with a friend from the Disney days who now runs a company that does classes based on this rigorously researched developmental curriculum--I mean, to watch the classes, it just looks like very fun, enriched play--and even he can't put his finger on the precise meaning/motivation behind this parental mindset. Is it actually, seriously just about getting into the "right" feeder pre-school to get into the "right" school?

[ps. there is not a single dad mention anywhere, just this one husband reference. is that significant?] [correction: DT reader Marjorie reminded me that the "edge" quote came from a dad. Of course, what I meant was, there's not a "single dad" mentioned. Yeah, that's the ticket, yesss... ]

Baby Shall Enroll: Mommy Knows


The Washington Post took a much more thoughtful look at this subject two weeks ago.

[interesting, the Post article focuses more on the children's needs and experiences with/without the classes, while the NYT article is more about the parents, particularly the anxiety over doing "all they can" for their kid, an especially sensitive subject when both parents work and already rely on professional childcare to some extent. -ed.]

My 15 month old did little Maestros on the upper east side. Did he derive some value out of it? While admittedly its hard to judge the progress of a 1 year old, it seemed like he really enjoyed it and developed a much deeper appreciation for music than we could deliver at home with just cds. Was it worth the money? That question is solely derived from the relative income of your household. For some the costs have a minimal impact on the family budget. In such a case there really is no down side to the program. For others the cost would be "insane".

He is starting with Free to Be Under Three next week. I think that was only 300 bucks. I will report back in if it was any good.

[Thanks for the firsthand acct. I am with you on the expense aspect; it's entirely relative. My original "possibly insane" was a reference to overprogramming a 1yo. And depending on how you do it, and what else you do during the week, and what your kid's like, 3 classes at a time can be fine. Or insane. Good luck on the F2BU3. -ed.]

The article seems really down on playgroups. It features this quote: "Basically, all of a sudden you can't stay at home with the baby. That's the new trend."

Errr, yah. Or, to put it a more positive way: All of a sudden, you and the baby don't have to stay locked in your home all day.

While it's obviously easy pickings to make fun of the super-expensive groups (especially when there are great free options, which there are in Boston and you people down in NY can't be that far behind), I think the "trend" is great.

actually there was a dad quoted in there (definitely unusual for these trend stories): "'I want my child to have any edge another child has,' said Andrew San Marco, whose 3-year-old daughter takes four classes a week at a cost of $6,000 a year. He said the Little Maestros playgroup has enhanced her vocabulary. 'She's very well rounded,' he said."

(nb. too bad that nukes her chances for the cover of Cookie.)

i remember the words of the social worker who ran the new moms group i attended after kid #1 was born: "don't worry about ENRICHING and STIMULATING. when you're a baby, a look inside the vegetable crisper drawer is enrichment!"

[we have people for that kind of thing, though. -ed.]

We can afford these classes, but I find them absurd. I dropped in on a toddler music class in my neighborhood after a friend told me I just "had to do it" and saw a room of under 2's looking around, squirming, some bored, some being held into place, some banging on their drums, or shaking their bells, but nothing that seemed to me that earth shattering. These classes are for the parents, pure and simple. The toddler gym class I went to check out was even worse, mothers openly comparing the development of their kids (who at this stage were in the 9-12 month range) and talking about how such and such wasn't doing such and such. Good god I thought, do I need anymore stress? Safe to say, we have never been back.

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