Thursday, November 29, 2012

Parent Life: The Five People You Might Meet on a Preschool Tour. And How to Dress for One.

Preschools in New York have almost mythical status among parents.  For those who haven't had the pleasure of the introduction here goes...getting into preschool in New York is pretty much like getting into college minus number 2 pencils, plus graham crackers.  There are tours, essays, application fees, interviews, listing of extracurricular activities, five digit tuition fees, etc.

You might be saying to yourself, that is absurd!  Well, it is.

It's also a fact.  I've been on a boatload of these tours lately, and, just like when I was applying to colleges, I've noticed that there are always the usual cast of characters following the director around the pint sized chairs and sensory play area.

The Nodders: I'll just tell you upfront that these are my least favorites. The nodders always sit or place themselves as close to the tour leader as possible and make ferocious eye contact at all times.  They enthusiastically nod at everything that is said, often grinning and laughing at jokes.  You know that they are just trying to look engaged, but they end up reminding everyone of the bobblehead sports dolls my grandfather collected.  Bonus points when they interject with awkward quips like, "That's so darling!"

The "Just a Formality" Couple:  These are the people who are just on the tour because everyone has to take the tour.  Even if they shower with the board members of the school at the Harvard Club or whatnot.  The mother is usually carrying a current season Celine or Chanel bag roughly the size of my bathroom and sporting a fresh blowout and a bored look on her face.  The husband is wearing a Brioni suit and checking his phone every 5 minutes.  Sometimes they even refuse to put on the name tags and they jet for the Town Car idling outside as soon as possible.

The 20 Question-er:  Any questions?  The 20's can never let that just hang out there.  They need to ask another question.  Often they take the form of things that are awkward, like "How many spots are there for 2 year olds born in August?"  Or silly, like "Do you serve only organic snacks?"  These people guarantee that you will never get out of the tour without forcing the preschool director to repeat things that are just common sense (children will be allowed to pee at school, yes) or early-slash-on time.

The Expecting:  The general age of parents in New York is a little older and people seem to have kids back-to-back, so there is always at least one pregnant woman, but I went on one tour with as many as four.  One director remarked that on a past tour, one woman actually went into labor on the tour.  They generally look exhausted and fairly casual, depending on the trimester.  They always ask about the school's sibling policy and ask to take the elevators.

The Student:  The Student often overlaps with the Nodders.  In addition to nodding vehemently, this person also whips out a small notebook and pen and begins intently jotting things down as the tour leader speaks.  I mean, I get it.  We see a lot of schools, but really?  We're not discussing the finer points of tax policy, it's preschool.  Make some notes after you walk out the door.  They often ask facts and figures questions, which the 20 Question-ers love because they can follow up with another 3 queries.  May even ask about when the school gives homework.

What to Wear

Alright, so, you're sitting on these tours, listening to how many highly educated people will teach your darling child the ins and outs of finger painting for the price of a luxury car.  But what are you wearing?

What to Wear to a Preschool Tour

My thought was to keep it pretty basic.  You want to look like a responsible parent, one who can get out the door in pants without an elastic waistband, but not so put together that the staff thinks that you spend more quality time with your hair stylist than with your child.  Most tours are mid-morning (so you can see the kids in action) and most people will be heading to work afterwards, so men might be in suits, but women tend to be a little more casual.  I like the idea of incorporating basics in your closet (like knee high Frye boots) or basic dark grey pants (the ever reliable Theory Max C pants), with a new cardigan.

For sweaters, I really like a burgundy/oxblood open cardigan like this one from Topshop or splurge on a cashmere V-neck like this J. Crew sweater.  I also like the idea of adding a pussy bow blouse (like this long sleeve or this sleeveless) to any outfit to amp up the warmth potential and the formality without looking fussy.

Since most tours are a solid walk away and take place in late fall, I think flat shoes or comfortable heels are a must.  I'm also just looking for any reason to add these Rag & Bone boots to my closet.  ANY REASON AT ALL.  If you opt for real heels, stash a pair of flats in your tote, along with a small pad and paper (take notes afterwards, not during, the tour) along with some names for the thank you note.  For this reason, I prefer a satchel style bag, like Rebecca Minkoff MAB or the Coach Legacy Hobo.

Any we haven't even gotten to the playgroup-interviews...

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