and then there is paris. or not.

January 31, 2010 |  Category:   life nyc rambling travels


Remember last year when I declared that we were going to Paris this year? Yeah, ok. That dream is dead postponed. That Paris fund, which I admit never got its own separate account like I had planned, has now turned into the Claudine preschool fund. Or at least a small percentage because I’m not telling you how much her preschool is going to cost next year for 4 almost full days a week. It’s an embarrassing amount of money, an unthinkable amount of money for 1 year of preschool. Think of an outrageous figure and double that (if you’re not in the NYC metro area, than triple or quadruple it).

So is it worth it? I’m not normally the type of parent who gets caught up in the hype of “only the best for my kids”. We still use the same beat up MacLaren stroller, recall and all, that we’ve used for the past 5 and half years. Hand me downs are fine and welcome, and despite Mia’s insistence that everyone has an American Girl doll, I’m not about to fork over $100 bucks for a doll, especially one from a company that rolled out a homeless doll called Gwen.

In a city like the one in which we live, it’s not hard to become sucked into the competitive and cut throat vortex of preschool madness, where you have some camps who firmly believe that acceptance into an Ivy League college starts with the crucial selection of the “right” preschool. Even if you don’t buy into that crap (and most of my friends don’t, but I know it exists), getting into your preschool of choice sometimes involves getting up at pre-dawn early hours and lining up to get an application, just as you may have done in another life to get tickets to a concert (or a free couch, in the case of the grand IKEA Brooklyn opening). There are school tours, essay questions that make you delve into the psyche and habits of your 2 or 3 year old, and then the interviews. Yes, interviews. With your child. Before you start thinking that anybody in the city is crazy to put up with this (well, we are), it’s really a (mostly) simple explanation of supply and demand.

Now, I must admit, I didn’t go through any of that since the parent/child classes that we started going to way back with one particular new program in the neighborhood when Mia was a toddler organically morphed into a preschool. Mia was just in. And so is Claudine. It just so happens to be an excellent program and one I believe in – the kind where your kid might come home to tell you that they studied Andy Goldsworthy that day or mention in passing, stuff like “DNA is the puzzle inside your body”.

So yeah, I guess I am thinking that it’s worth it. 1 year of preschool at a premium price before Claudine gets thrown into the jungles of public school Kindergarten. We will sacrifice vacations and big purchases and give up many many things this year and next. Sacrifices. Now I’m talking like a real parent, huh?

So Paris Paris Paris, it will be a few more years till you and I meet again. You will always be there I suppose. The kid will only be in preschool once, after all.

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  • Annie From Seattle January 31, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Aww. I know that’s disappointing but seriously…Paris will actually be better in a few years. Like, when Claudine is five or six. I love, love, love to travel with little kids but I found Paris to be harder with a toddler than Nairobi or London or Amsterdam. If you’re going to make the most of it and really experience every second of it as a family, maybe this really works out….
    Um….and the pictures you will take. Oh, I can’t wait!

  • Tobias Linder January 31, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Hi Jenna
    A really cheap but at the same time amazing way of traveling is couchsurfing ( If you don’t know it you should really check it out.
    Last summer we had a mother with her 3 year old girl from little Italy visiting us in Switzerland with couchsurfing. She traveled from Bulgaria through Italy, Switzerland and went on to France and Spain. She traveled for about 3 months and always stayed for free with couchsurfers. Also a family from Payson (Arizona) came visiting us for a few days in July with their 3 kids. They traveled also for several months in Europe and stayed mostly with couchsurfer families.
    Now this November we went on a 30 day trip to New York, Arizona, Puerto Vallarta (Mexico) and Dallas and only stayed for 4 days in hotels. The rest of the time we always stayed for free with couchsurfers and we had such a great time.
    It’s just amazing to arrive in New York without any plans what to do the next five days and just get the advice of your hosts what’s up at the moment or which restaurants to visit in this neighborhood. The guys in Arizona even organized a halloween party for us and the host in Dallas not only spent 2 days sightseeing Dallas with us but in the end even brought us to the airport with all our luggage.
    I especially like to stay with other families, because like this our 4 year old has always someone to play with and it’s so easy going. When we stayed in New York our host even took care of our son for one evening and we could enjoy a fantastic dinner at Blue Hill.
    There are more than 60 couchsurfers in Paris who take 4 people in and many of them seem very nice as far as I can tell from their profiles. A good thing if one wants to meet other families is to join the Family Welcome Group. There you can find a world map with all the members on it.
    In case you want to also stay a few days in Switzerland you’re of course always welcome at our place. We are complete foodies, love your cookies and our city is only a 4 hour train journey from Paris.

  • diamondkelt January 31, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    Kind of makes you feel like you’re growing up when you have to postpone your dreams. But maybe if you wait a bit longer both Mia and Claudine will be older and will be able to remember Paris MUCH better 🙂

  • Chai Ling (Singapore) January 31, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Where you live is really like where I live here in Singapore, esp the pre-dawn lining up for applications thingie and you are so right on the demand and supply explanation. Perhaps, you may consider visit Singapore one day 🙂 If you plan to come after 3 years, my husband and I will definitely accomodate you and your family 🙂 ps. why after 3 years? Our Built-To-Order apartment will only be ready by then.

  • Nicole January 31, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    LOL I can only imagine! We wanted to put our almost 5 year old into full day kindergarten and our 3 year old in 3 day preschool this coming fall……..ummmm no, that wont be happening. For some outrageous reason we would be paying $300/mo for kindergarten and $150/mo for preschool!!! Seriously? Well if you hadnt guessed already, we decided to go with the FREE half day kindergarten and stick to the 3 days a week preschool. TOTALLY OUTRAGOUS!!!! I feel your frustration 🙂

  • alexandra February 1, 2010 at 4:51 am

    yes, paris always will be there for you, mark and your kids.

    i don’t know if it helps but my best friend started to travel when he had the same age as mia and now always says that with his kids he won’t do the same, he says that can’t barely remember the firs trips, and only really started to enjoy it when he was around 12.

    … and little claudine deserves the best, i think is really a great choice.

    anyway, we are going there for a weekend in may (is really cheap from geneva) if you want some special parisian thing, just let us know, and we’ll send you, with all pleasure.

  • elena February 1, 2010 at 9:18 am

    going through the same preschool madness… dont know really what to do…

  • Jenn February 1, 2010 at 9:48 am

    I had no idea American Girl came out with a homeless doll…

  • emmy February 1, 2010 at 10:05 am

    You are such great parents!!!

  • Michele February 1, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Here’s my two cents – Spend the money on the best pre-school you can comfortably afford, and remember it is not college. A good pre-school education is excellent to start children on the right footing ( especially as schools now expect so much before they arrive). This is their formative years and children should be stimulated, curious, happy and full of new things. They should enjoy learning and experiencing. They should want to go. But, the best pre-school will not get your child into Harvard / Yale / whatever, nor should any parent be thinking about that at pre-school age. This lunacy about getting kids on the list almost during labor is nuts and has no proven advantages – just stresses parents which in turn makes for anxious children.
    Wait a couple of years to go to Paris – it has been there for a very long time and isn’t going away anytime soon. The children will be a older and will be in a better position to experience what Paris has to offer and enjoy it.
    Try not to make yourself crazy, you are doing a good job!!
    (and my resume reads educational professional, mother and frequent flier with child who has more air miles than she needs).

  • emeline February 1, 2010 at 10:47 am

    If it makes you feel a bit better, Paris will be SOOOO much better when the girls are a bit older- you know there will be less tantrums and train rides will be more enjoyable! We travelled a lot when we were kids, but it’s the trips that I remember which are – for obvious reasons- my favorite! So good for you, those decision totally suck to make!

  • Truly Smitten February 1, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    What? A homeless American doll? LOL! Aww, Paris will always be there with wide open arms for you and your wonderful fam =)

  • handmadecharlotte February 1, 2010 at 5:32 pm


  • Jenna February 1, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Tobias, thank you so much for that lengthy advice. I’ve heard of that before, so we’ll have to keep it in mind. And how sweet are you to offer up your home? The kindness of people who we’ve met through this blog just boggles my mind. thanks.

  • Jenna February 2, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Nicole, this is why I didn’t specify any dollar amounts for preschool here because 300 a month for full time kindergarten is hands down a STEAL around these parts. I’d be jumping up and down thinking I was rich if that’s what we had to pay.

  • Fiona February 3, 2010 at 10:12 am

    I waitressed in Paris one summer to make college fees and the amount of American families who came in whose kids would be worn out and grumpy from all the walking, probably jet lagged too. I used to feel so sorry for their parents who had obviously saved so hard to get there. New York on the other hand… Who needs Paris when you’ve got New York? I’ve never been and am DYING to go, definitely without the kids.