8.23.2010

All Walks of Life, the Schoolkid Version


Back-to-back social events for Jada brought home for me the very wide swath of society our family interacts with on a routine basis. The first was a play date for incoming after-school program participants of a highly regarded program that is adjacent to Jada's kindergarten and that therefore makes room for any new kindergarteners there, since it is easy for them to walk the kids literally across a courtyard and into their facility. This program, which runs from infants all the way to 6th grade, is so highly touted that our first contact with them was when they said they had room for Jada at age 4 . . . after we had been on the wait-list for over three years!

Anyway, most of the kids Jada's age are also incoming kindergarten classmates, and because Jada's elementary school is very good and real estate values have gone up as a result, that means most are upper middle class like us. Except it's overly generous of us to consider ourselves in the same socio-economic tier, since many are older than us (i.e. more time to make money) and newer to the neighborhood (i.e. have to be able to afford a much higher mortgage than lucky us). So, for example, we're not close to having a nanny or a membership at the local swim club or a house in the Poconos, facts about my colleagues that were casually dropped over the course of conversation.

It was a similar realization at Jada's second social event, her current classmate's birthday party. This time the expenditure gap wasn't about leisure items but educational ones: while we are lucking out with a great public school option nearby, many of Jada's classmates are heading into private elementary schools with pricey tuitions. I haven't run the numbers on what it would have looked like to pay tuition for Aaron and Jada through their school years, since we are fortunate enough to like our free option, but suffice to say that a back-of-the-envelop estimate has us downgrading to Ramen noodles for meals and jaunts at the local playground for our summer vacations.

Who I will rub elbows with as it relates to Jada's current and future school is a far cry from who I have rubbed elbows with as it relates to her old school and Aaron's current school. There, though tuition is a bargain (even with a recent rate hike, we're talking well under four bucks an hour, with three meals and lots of snacks included), most of the participants qualify for some form of public subsidy. I know that attire can be misleading, but it's all I have to go on, and based on that, I have only met a handful of moms (and no dads) who have professional jobs, out of dozens of families represented.

One of the good things about raising kids in a big city is that they become friends with the children of parents who come from all walks of life. Aaron's guy friends might be rougher, and Jada's girl friends better dressed, but I have not perceived any differences in the way our kids interact with all of their friends in all of their classrooms. It matters to me that they have this kind of exposure, and learn to make friends with all types, and be satisfied with who they are and where they come from. So I'm glad for how school has played out for them. I guess this weekend's back-to-back social outings really highlighted for me just how broad is the range of social status that we're intersecting with.

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