Comments: 65

  1. Thank you for such a lovely essay

  2. This is such a beautiful and important reminder. I’m an older mom of teenage boys, and I often find it hard to relax into the imperfections of motherhood and young-adult rearing, rather than embrace the spontaneous fun and imperfections. We forget how important it is to love ourselves so that we can be nice enough for others to love us back. Pictures and baby books bring me to tears. But I want to be better at embracing and loving the present.

  3. @Cybele Diamandopoulos - wonderful comment!

  4. “Oh poor little worms — I’m going to eat you now!” That would be "verminizing".

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this. I lost my mother just as I was starting out to be a mom myself - and it was so painful and raw for so many years that I know it changed me. I have 3 amazing children now and one is getting ready to launch into the world. It has had me thinking a lot about who I am now and this passage of time. Your essay is a timely reminder to be a little kinder to my present self. Thank you!

  6. It's a lovely essay. I do hope your mentor had tongue in cheek when he referred to "the Aegean Stables,” though I suspect Hercules would have preferred those to the Augean stables to which he was assigned!

  7. As I prepare to launch my third child towards college, I’m thinking a lot about kindergarten and all we’ve gone through since then. Thank you for your sweet and poignant essay. I was the older mom in kindergarten, trying to be younger. I found that my experience as a mother meant nothing to these new mothers. They were so sure their children were unique in every way. If only we could all relax and love ourselves as much as our brilliant little beings.

  8. A beautiful, poignant essay. I truly appreciate it, as an older mother.

  9. @Claire Me too!

  10. Thank you, I sobbed through most of it. I just found some things bosses and professors had written about me in my 20s, and none of them seem true anymore. My son, even—my only child—is not at all like I imagined my own child would be. If I don’t believe in him (and sometimes it’s hard), how will anyone else? Thank you for this wonderful essay that hit me right in the heart.

  11. This is indeed a lovely essay. But I feel for the Mother who had to write essays to get her child into Kindergarden...luckily we are next to a good public school, but none of the pre schools we looked at a few years ago, (no matter how snazzy) or other school alternatives we considered now for Kinder required an essay. I am truly clueless on this (is it a slacker LA thing, that we were spared this? It sounds like torture). Anyway, I am grateful to have read this, and also not to have had to do the same. I just got reminded how lucky life can be, when you may not even be aware of it. Thank you.

  12. For a plebeian like me, it is a crazy thing to comprehend that parents in rarefied economic/social strata send their kindergarteners to a school that require an essay! Wow.

  13. Wow. This is really a profound question. Some wisdom the Guru might impart.

  14. This article was cute but raised some questions for me. 1. why do we need to love ourselves the way we love our children? 2. Writing kindergarten application for your 4 years child is love to yourself or your child? I ran a couples workshop a few years ago, and the topic was Love. I asked each couple to define Love. How they give Love? How they like to get Love? There is a clear gap between the way People like to be loved and the way people give love. So ask your child, what is their interpretation of love? It’s not about kindergarten application. That you do for loving yourself.

  15. I don't mean to be cruel, truly I don't, but I found this essay truly nauseating in its privileged self-regard. The entitlement of your child's future being decided by the luck of a parent's ability to write a certain kind of falsely self-effacing "essay" that declares eagerness to please while concealing neediness: "I promise this child won't actually rock the boat but will mime bold perspicuity." The pointless veneer of education in which the Augean stables are turned into a vacation spot (Aegean). The polished shallowness masquerading as depth that is the life's blood of public radio, wherein everything becomes about the writer's own feelings and memories and carefully faked modesty in an effort to conceal disappointed self-regard. All to say, "I never really learned what was truly important to me in life, and I'm assuming (assuring?) that my child won't either."

  16. @C Wolfe Excellent comment and a welcome rejoinder to the incredible level of self-absorption in the article.

  17. @C Wolfe "The entitlement of your child's future being decided by the luck of a parent's ability to write a certain kind of falsely self-effacing "essay"..." Um, our kids' lives are defined by all sorts of parental traits they have no ability to control. 'Luck' of a parent's writing ability being but one. Education level, economic situation, life experiences, outlook, etc, etc to infinity and beyond. Does any parent want to be in a situation where they have to write a kindergarten application letter, and where their own particular prowess in writing said letter unavoidably influences the whole admissions process? Um, big fat no. Stop blaming parents for the workings of the systems around them. Stop blaming people who worked hard, did well in school, got lucky, and achieved something in life from then hoping to see their kids also be in a position to achieve. It is precisely this kind of ubiquitous criticism that teaches us not to be compassionate to ourselves but to instead judge ourselves harshly for every decision made (& generally made in good faith!). It is possible for people to be truthful, honest, compassionate and open, and it is refreshing when a writer has the courage to put that out there for the world. You don't need to feel the same or make the same decisions as the author to be able to muster up some good old human compassion. She's writing about being able to love and appreciate ourselves the way we do unconditionally for our kids. Hard to do, no?

  18. @Dogstarra Actually, my wife and I lived in Bloomington for four years in the 80s. As near as we could tell, folks from Bloomington (parents and kids) managed to mingle with the great unwashed (e.g., people like my wife and myself) and still do well for themselves (e.g., Hoagy Carmichael, Joshua Bell). I think that's from where C Wolfe is comin'. Public school kids actually don't have cooties.

  19. I do agree we all should be kinder to ourselves. That’s a good message. But kindergarten essays? I’d never heard of such a thing and I’m glad my children and I did not have to go through such a process.

  20. no. and stop being disappointed that you can't.

  21. Augean stables analogy is off base, more appropriate would be Narcissus starting into a spring.

  22. Sorry, I couldn't get past the "kindergarten application essay."

  23. @Lori Wilson and yet you made it all the way to the comments section. Why exactly did you bother?

  24. I’m disappointed in the ugly responses here—seems like sour grapes to me. That the author’s problems are first world problems don’t make them less valid for her. To focus on the jealousy one feels for their lack of what this author has is pathetic and immature. That focus for some responders has made them miss the point of this lovely and poignant essay. I was a young mom, living in the south, had no issue conceiving my children, poor as a church mouse for years, never wrote anything on my children’s behalf to get them into anything, and yet I totally felt what this author has felt. That I love and cherish my children, that though I am a strong and demanding mother to them, I am forgiving, loving, and kind too. Those are not traits I have been great at extending to myself though. My children have both just graduated and left for college this year. A dear aunt sent me the letters I sent her while I was away at college. When I finally had the nerve to read over them again, I was struck by my guilelessness. I suddenly felt very protective over that young woman, who knew nothing of the ways of the world yet. This article made me remember that I need to “mother” myself with the same love and compassion that I extend to others. Thanks to the author for that.

  25. @Daniette To focus on the thoughts in your first paragraph: We all have problems, and we all face them in our various ways. It’s a negation of ones own life and experience to rank ones problems agains the universe of potential problems. It risks trivializing what we are living through. First world problems are as important as second and third world problems, just to different people. We all pay attention to the problems in our own lives and are often oblivious to the problems in others lives, unless we are told about them personally or in a public vehicle such as this essay. I am childless, but I enjoyed this essay.

  26. @Daniette Beautifully written--thank you

  27. I think people who focus on the writer's need to produce an essay to get her child into kindergarten are missing the point. Every day we are assailed with examples of criticisms and comparisons, nagging at us that we need to do more, acquire more, and become better. The cumulative impact of this is that it wears away our ability to take great care of ourselves by loving ourselves as we do our precious children. Narcissism and self-love have alarmingly become synonymous, but they are not the same. Loving one's self as warmly and as tenderly as your own child is metaphor for understanding our brilliant vulnerability. This universal reality says that being human is a miraculous, creative, and soft surprise that inspires unimaginable feelings of love. Every single one of us needs help with this reminder, except those lucky parents of young children, and those who are able to remember the treasured feelings we had, so long ago, when our kids were our entire world.

  28. Beautiful. This is not about an essay for a kindergarten placement. It's about mothers and daughters and it rings true for this mom whose three miracles are decades from that first day of school. It brought me right back to those formative years without my mother standing next to me. But she was with me every second and still is. Thank you for sharing your talent.

  29. After my son tested at the gifted level, we did a round of interviews for a gifted public school. During the play session interview, they read a book about chameleons, and he incorrectly guessed the colors of the chameleons (we found out a great later later that he was red/green colorblind). And then later in the play session he was so, so excited to see the ancient wooden truck that they had at his nursery school-that instead of playing with the more complex wedgets or naming the planets in the solar system in the window decals, he wheeled that truck around the room and use blocks to make tunnels. So, of course, he did not get into the school-but he did do something that made me so proud - he used to sneeze in dry winter air periodically, and his habit at home was to bellow: I need a tissue! if he was going to sneeze. I had asked him in the way up to the school play session to whisper in my ear if he needed a tissue. And right near the end of his truck driving session, he came over and whispered quietly "Mom, may I please have a tissue?" And I was oh so proud of my rejected son, who headed off to our neighborhood public school in the fall, where he was blessed with the best teacher he's had, to this day, as his kindergarten teacher (a warm shout out to Mrs. Sharpe - the best of the best!)

  30. Great kindergarten teachers are the best! I found your comment to be really touching.

  31. @Trevor - thank you for your kind note - there is no better introduction to learning than a special teacher!

  32. The phrase “kindergarten application essay” should not be anything a parent ever has to utter. Alas, our education system—public and private—is bonkers. My son grew up in Chicago where the competition for spots at selective enrollment high schools, middle schools and even kindergarten produce high anxiety for children and parents. I’m grateful to have put all that behind us, but I feel for the writer and her child.

  33. Thank you for the beautifully expressed sentiments. I loved that last line ...'focus not on promise, but on presence'. It's something we would all do well to remember.

  34. I didn’t view the author until I was finished reading. I was delighted to recognize the name. I love when Faith is a panelist on Wait, Wait and enjoyed her touching essay and seeing another aspect of her talents.

  35. I am a midwestern psychotherapist who often works with college students and twenty-somethings from this east coast subculture. I see private school graduates who grew up with constant demands and evaluation and very little being seen for who they really, truly are, and who -- on top of all that -- failed to get admitted into an Ivy League university. They are so sad, so empty, so lost, so angry.

  36. Reading this essay made my eyes widen in disbelief. An essay to be accepted to a kindergarten? The child is "assessed" in a separate room? Sheesh. The whole thing reeks of privilege and false modesty.

  37. @Michelle My kid’s school had a kinder evaluation (motor skills, communication, can he be away from mom for twenty minutes without freaking out) because they really don’t want to start kids who aren’t ready and will be struggling. No essay and I don’t think we’d have applied if they did. I can imagine... Sorry, we already have one kid into dinosaurs, looking for a fan of frogs? Sorry, kids whose moms think perky is a complement don’t stack their blocks properly?

  38. I hope you can ignore the critics, those who seem to take some perverse pleasure in pointing out what they find distasteful in others. Let it go and enjoy the images and the beauty of the writing.

  39. I never had to write a kindergarten application essay for my kids and I’m sorry about it. Writing such an essay would have put my very early motherhood in a better perspective. We understand ourselves and others through narrative. I think that writing mini-stories about our experience and identity is both therapeutic and creative. Hopefully the author will teach her daughter to tell stories about herself, as I tried to teach my sons. As for those who find the essay “self-absorbed” and narcissistic: yes, and this is why I like it. I am tired of hypocritical virtue-signaling and ugly anti-elitism. The author has the means to send her daughter to a private kindergarten - good for her, and good for her that she can write an articulate and engaging essay about her experience. Faulting her for being herself only exposes the respondent’s meanness and jealousy.

  40. Very beautiful and poignant. Thank you for writing this. Though the very idea of 'applying' to a K'garden is galling. I wish you and your daughter every happiness.

  41. Focus on presence not promise. Great sentence. That’s why grandparents enjoy their grandchildren so very much.

  42. "She is formed; she has launched herself." The biggest lesson I learned from my children is that they enter the world with their own personalities. We can influence them, perhaps, but not shape them. They shape themselves.

  43. I loved this essay. I don't even have children, but having children that I love in my life, knowing I don't always have the same level of compassion for myself that I have for them and having gone through the transition from innocence to experience, I found this essay a beautiful expression of feelings that are universal.

  44. Public schools are not only necessary to society, they are wonderful places for families to get to know the variety of people who inhabit our nation. Plenty of time later for the stratification that I suppose is inevitable, or desired by some. But best to be postponed.

  45. It is rare that I read things that resonate with me the way this article did. Profound.

  46. For three decades, I have interviewed applicants to my college (and I'll confess that I've yet to figure out why a select few are offered admissions and others - seemingly equal or better students - don't). The clunkers have been few and far between. The rest? Interesting, funny, inquisitive, motivated, charming in ways they never intend to be, joys to be around if only for a short while. Maybe there are markers for extraordinary adult contributors, but I've yet to divine them. And these are kids with whom I have no familial ties to make the analysis more difficult than it need be. I get to meet these applicants after a dozen years of "education." The thought of having to conduct some hare-brained equivalent at an age when being downwind of a diaper pail isn't even a distant memory leaves me befuddled...and not in an amusing way. I guess my concern about what's reflected in this column is that the most powerful memories I have about kindergarten are milk and cookies and nap-time. Those skills have served a lifetime, but really wouldn't seem to have merited mention in an "essay." The other aspects - including character and social graces - are probably still pliable through those early years; their development should be a partnership between the parents and the school. If I were a parent going through this "process," I'd think it only fair for the school to meet my kid and then submit an essay as to how they intended to help me in such a partnership.

  47. No offense to anyone, but I just find this whole essay thing an affront to those of us who are not wealthy. Good for you that you can afford to freeze eggs and enter your 5 year old in a private school. While I never had those opportunities, my children have turned out to be productive compassionate members of society who are involved in their communities and I am proud of those accomplishments by them. They were educated in public institutions and we managed to do that without a debt at the end of their schooling. Is your public school really so lacking? Would it be a problem for you and your children to socialize with everyday people instead of only with the wealthy? Are we who are normal working class people offensive to you? Do we have nothing to offer someone like your daughter?

  48. I found most of the comments here to be quite judgemental, but this one in particular stood out. it's as though the author of the comment thought this essay was a personal attack on her and her way of life. In its essence, this essay is written by a parent who loves her child as much as we all love our children, trying to do the best she can-- they way we all try to do the best we can. if you strip away the particulars of the essay, I actually thought it was quite universal-- a parent in awe of his/her child, contemplating what can be / what could have been, and speaks to the girls of life.

  49. Is it standard for you to assume that because someone wants/needs to enroll their child into a private school that they don’t want anything to do with the likes of you? Because this author has opportunities you didn’t, she should be excoriated because you don’t agree with her choices for her life. Wow. If everyone I met were as narrow minded and judgmental as this person who wrote this comment, I’d be looking to enroll in a private school too. —Your issues are your issues—don’t project them on to someone else because you feel inferior.

  50. sorry, "girls of life" = "circle of life"

  51. "I do know she’s unburdened by anyone’s notions of promise. It’s not my business to assign her dreams for her future." You're writing an essay for her kindergarten application. You are applying to elite private schools. Hello?

  52. Is the essay for public school or private? Actually the only question a private school wants to know about your daughter is, "How fat are Mommy and Daddy's wallets?"

  53. Really? An essay to apply to kindergarten? If you find yourself writing one for your kid and don't feel existential angst, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and Sartre would be disappointed in you. Time to slow down and think about where your life is going and why it's going that way.

  54. Too bad the kindergarten application has already been sent; how wonderful for the committee if you could have sent that one and your professor's recommendation, and this essay, too! What a beautiful 'circle game' -- it speaks to so much that has shaped your daughter.

  55. Lovely. Thank you.

  56. Could this actually be a parody? I've read it twice and can't hear the insufferable voice any other way.

  57. "so we can have some choice of where our kids go to school" The author writes this as though it's obvious she should have some choice. I mean, the local public school down the block from the author is accepting kids for kindergarten no application necessary -- if "presence" is what matters, not "promise," why not allow your child to mingle with the unwashed masses at the local school? School choice here is just a euphemism for segregation and elites propagating themselves another generation.

  58. I never wrote a kindergarten admissions essay. The idea boggles my mind. This is something that must be unique to affluent New Yorkers with more money than sense. Most Americans either send their kids to public schools or even to private schools where if you can pay, your kids can go. Must be nice. Silly rich people.

  59. The beauty of this essay far outweighs the ugliness of some responses. Thank you for sharing.

  60. Agree . Criticism is pretty harsh for a story about love and loss which is well told .

  61. the power of storytelling tends to rely on intriguing personal details - not on big picture 'I was different then' ... I'd prefer less circumlocution - more interesting anecdote

  62. "Can we love ourselves the way we love our children?" I don't know. Can we excuse our children from the competitive rat race before they're six years old? My kid doesn't need to apply to kindergarten to get a decent five year old education. Of course, I left NY a long time ago due to lack of opportunities...I guess you have to pay a lot for the ones that are left.

  63. There's something so repugnant about this essay...I don't know if it's the barely coded humblebrags, or the complete lack of self-awareness in writing admission essay for a 4 year old. The latter is not normal, it's ugly, it feeds a shameful status quo, it takes away even more from those who have little. This gem: "I do know she’s unburdened by anyone’s notions of promise", seems particularly out of touch. No 4 year old should have to go through that; if she's so bright and magical (which I believe she is - as most 4 year olds are), why funnel her through a wing clipping system? Finally, we all love our children to the moon and back. I think that may be the most uncomfortable aspect of this essay. If you understood that your love for your child is not special on the whole, you may just edge out of the narcissistic bubble this article so aptly represents.

  64. The delicious irony is that the author doesn't seem to realize that writing an application essay for her kid's grand entrance into a select kindergarten 'program' is more a paean to herself than it is to her 'don't-really-care-where-I-go-to-kindergarten-I-just-want-to-eat-some-paste' daughter.

  65. No. Because no "nice ladies" from an elite "admissions team" are not coming to whisk you away to the next thing. There's a time and a place for everything. Of course the love for a little kid should not mirror your reflection on your adult self. And watch out-adoring presence of yourself may lead to public school for your kiddo. All this talk about "launching" really strikes me as incredibly off and self-serving. Get real, she has not launched anywhere. Instead, she bounces around your orbit- -the one with hours spent by you_ applying for her assessment.