Confronting Rejection: When Your All Isn’t Enough

Unfortunately, rejection can be a very real outcome of applying to private schools in L.A. The competition is fierce and you can emerge from the process without one single acceptance letter. After all that work, you still don’t have a private school where you can send your child.

The bottom line: too many applications for too few spots. Not enough private elementary schools. Those are the cold, hard facts about private elementary schools in L.A. 

That does little to comfort those parents who find themselves in this situation.  It’s impossible to know what really happened to cause your family to get rejection letters. Child too young? Too many boys? Too many siblings? We talk about the reasons behind rejection letters in Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles. 

As you know, from our book and this blog, my co-authors and I believe there’s a great private elementary school out there for every family. It may not be the one you had your heart set on. It may not be this week, this month or even this year. But, if you think you want a private school education for your child, don’t give up.

·     Whatever you do, don’t let this temporary setback deter you from seeking the best education possible for your child, whether public or private. It’s out there. Waiting for your family.

In the April issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, there’s a wonderful article called, Feeling Good. One exercise called Optimism 101 is especially relevant to handling rejection letters.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:
Martin Seligman, PhD, the father of positive psychology, gave us a quick lesson on a classic optimism-boosting exercise—which he calls the ABCDEs. The goal, Seligman says, is to get you to stop thinking pessimistically, rather than teach you to start thinking optimistically (which rarely works). “This fix isn’t instantaneous,” he says. “But we’ve done studies on it involving thousands of subjects, and we know it’s effective.” So the next time you experience a setback—anything from a leaky faucet to a fight with a friend—walk yourself through these five steps:
A. Name the adversity, or problem.
(For example: “I didn’t get a call back after my job interview.”)
B. List your beliefs.
These are your initial reactions to the problem. (“The interviewer saw right through me. I don’t deserve that position. And he could probably tell I don’t believe in myself. I’m sure the other applicants are smarter, younger, and more qualified than I am.”)
C. Identify the consequences of your beliefs.
(“I’m going to quit my job search so I don’t have to suffer through this feeling of failure again.”)
D. Formulate a disputation of your beliefs.
Pessimistic reactions are often overreactions, so start by correcting distorted thoughts. (“I probably didn’t feel confident because that position wasn’t the best fit. It’s only a matter of time before I find an opportunity that’s right for me. And now that I’ve had practice, I will be better prepared to present my best self.”)
E. Describe how energized and empowered you feel now.
(“I’m more motivated to keep looking for a job that makes me happy. I won’t let fear stand in my way.”)
Practice this exercise as often as possible, and when you can, take time to write out the ABCDEs. Eventually, the sequence will become a habitual thought process. Seligman found that his subjects were still using the technique four years after he taught it to them.
For more tips from this series, visit O Magazine. 

Guest Blogger Jenny: Loitering On The Wait-List

I know, I know. You thought that once the private elementary school letters came out, you’d be off the hook. You’d know the score. You’d pick a school from those that accepted your child and write that fat check and that would be the end of it.

Until your child was wait-listed.

The wait-list feels a bit like private school purgatory. Your child hasn’t been accepted, yet. Perhaps there isn’t enough room at the school. Perhaps there’s some other, inexplicable reason for the wait-list status. You just don’t know. When my daughter was wait-listed at both the schools she applied to (Mirman and John Thomas Dye), I was confused. What did it mean? Was it all over? Should I just accept the fate of another year at public school and forget about the whole thing, regarding the admissions process as some bad dream now receding into memory?

My stepsister, who attended Archer and Windward, filled me in. “Wait-list is good,” she explained. “Many people just get rejected outright. The wait-list means they’re still interested.” It turns out that she was right. I got the call from Mirman in late June that there was a space, she took it, and the rest is history.

In the meanwhile, though, there were many awkward moments. After all, while you’re going through the surreal private school admissions process, you’re usually blabbing all about it. Your friends, family, acquaintances, mailmen, and the guy at the dry cleaner have all heard something, in excruciating detail. And now, it’s just limbo. There’s a feeling of inadequacy as you try to explain the situation, rationalizing it to anyone who will listen (this is an excellent time to have a shrink). Wait-listing implies second choice, second best, second rate, and you just know that’s not true about your child. You feel like, at any moment, you could be given a ticket for private school wait-list loitering.

Of course, a parent whose child does get in everywhere faces some unfair scrutiny, too. I know someone whose daughter was accepted everywhere she applied. She’s a wonderful student and a great kid. Someone had the nerve to imply it was because she was black. Pretty nasty and spiteful, isn’t it?  Hint: she writes this blog. Maybe there’s no winning here.

Anyway, some advice to those who have been wait-listed. Don’t stop contact with the schools. Call them every month or so, just to check in and remind them you’re still interested. If there’s a function, you might want to attend it, again to display your willingness to participate and be a good sport. Besides, even if your child doesn’t get in off the wait-list, if you love the school, you might want to reapply next year. If that’s the case, you definitely want to keep a good relationship going. You certainly don’t want to burn any bridges.

In any case, pay no mind to the doubters and insulters. Those people are not your real friends (like you needed me to tell you that). Be a proud loiterer! Hang in there, and you might get a surprise phone call, too. And if you do get that phone call, CALL THEM BACK IMMEDIATELY. Because it’s called a “list” for a reason, and there’s more kids on it. Swipe up the space on the spot and don’t think too hard about it. If you’ve worked this hard and come this far to get your child into the right school, the decision should be a done deal. Then, take a deep breath, sit back, and enjoy the moment.

Jenny Heitz has worked as a staff writer for Coast Weekly in Carmel, freelanced in the South Bay, and then switched to advertising copywriting. Her daughter started 4th grade at Mirman School this year. She previously attended 3rd St. Elementary School. Jenny has been published recently in the Daily News and on Mamapedia, The Well Mom, Sane Moms, Hybrid Mom, The Culture Mom and A Child Grows In Brooklyn. She now writes about gift ideas and products on her blog, Find A Toad.

"L" Is For Letters: We’re Talking About Admissions Letters

Letters: A Roll Of The Dice?
The “L” word. 
Letters. Private school admissions letters. Perhaps a unique kind of love letter for your family. You hope. 
There are basically three kinds of letters: Awesome Letters (Accept), Wishy-Washy Letters (Wait-List), Harsh Letters (Rejection)
“L” is for letters.  
“L” also stands for a bunch of other words, depending on what your private school admissions letters say:
Love. Your kid got in? I LOVE you, admission directors!
Letdown. Wait-listed or declined admission? Total letdown. Could turn into a total meltdown. Who can blame you? This sucks.
Liberty. Got in. Glad it’s over. Free at last!
Lucky. Whew. Got into one school. That’ll do just fine, thank you.
Lame. Got into your last-choice school. What the hell happened? Good thing we applied there. Liking it more and more each minute.
Lingering.  Wait-listed everywhere you applied? Sort of wishy-washy. Do they want us or not? The process will linger. Not over yet. Keep hope alive!
Loitering. It’s temping to loiter around the admissions director’s office pleading with her to let your kid in. Could be misinterpreted as stalking. Never mind. Move to Plan B.
Laugh. Your kid got in.  But, you’ve decided to send him/her to public school. Laughing at the private schools all the way to the bank.
Liquor. Lots of it. The process was too stressful for words.  Good news? Hit your favorite bar to celebrate. Bad news? drink away the shock and horror. Martini anyone? Shot(s) of Patron? Hit rock bottom? Head over to Bristol Farms a liquor store for the Malt Liquor. It’s cheap and made to get you stumblin’ drunk.
If it’s all bad news, the “L” word could quickly morph into the “F” word. 
What do you do if your letters arrive and it’s not the news you wanted, expected, hoped for prayed for? What if the best laid plans are foiled by bad luck and a trash heap of rejection letters? 
What if it’s the best news and the worst news you’ve received all in one day? Is that even possible? Ohhhh yes.
What if your child is wait-listed? Then, it’s time to get your second act together. Long sigh. The process isn’t over if your child is on a wait-list at a school you like. In fact, the process will continue.
We write about all these topics extensively in Beyond The Brochure. 

Good luck to everyone! Please let us know what happened! Leave us a comment (can be anonymous). Questions? Leave a question in the comment section and we’ll answer it (can also be anonymous, of course).


Confessions Of A Mommy Playgroup Reject By Jenny Heitz on Sane Moms

It’s been almost ten years since my daughter was born, and a lot has happened. But, one of the things that still stands out for me from the early days of motherhood is my first experience with a playgroup.
Motherhood did not come easily to me. I was 33 when Anna was born (the first of my friends to have a baby), and I ended up with some bad post partum depression. I didn’t really emerge from my hopeless depressive fog until about six months had passed. At that point, Anna was a very cute, tiny, and crabby baby who seemed to need a lot of stimuli. So, I took her to one of those Mommy and Me type classes in West Hollywood. 
To continue reading, click on Sane Moms:

Guest Blogger Jenny: Sleep Away Camp And Summer Separation Anxiety

It’s hard to believe, but summer is just around the corner. And, like every other private elementary school parent in Los Angeles, I’m already grappling with the question of just what to do with my soon-to-be-ten year old daughter for the summer months. 

I’m speaking, of course, of the choice between day camp and sleep away camp. Camps, at least in L.A., are sort of a given. There’s just no benefit to having your child lying about the house all summer long, especially since today’s parenting demands that you not only confine your child to the property (just in case some pervert wants to snatch them off the street. An unlikely event if there ever was one), you must entertain them as well. Los Angeles has no shortage of day camps, from Tumbleweed to Tom Sawyer and a plethora of temple day camps.

But, sooner or later, your kid will get sick of day camp. Or, you’ll get sick of either hauling them to bus stops every morning or chauffeuring them to various sports, arts, and science camps every week. This changeable summer schedule can be even worse than the school year schedule, turning the summer months into months spent mostly in an air conditioned automobile. My daughter hit the day camp limit years ago, and that’s when sleep away camp became an option. Since starting private school, I’ve learned that sleep away camps are popular among many private elementary school families.

Anna was actually lobbying for sleep away camp at age seven, but there was no way I was going to send her that young. She couldn’t even wash and brush her own hair properly, and I had visions of having to use a chisel to remove the dirt from her nostrils upon her return. Plus, I knew that three weeks (the average sleep away camp duration) is a long time for a kid. I managed to put it off until age eight, and then away she went, off to a camp I attended, my sister attended, and my step-sister attended as well.

At such a young age, the camp was a mixed bag for Anna. She was one of the youngest kids, which she resented. There was the obligatory mean girl in the cabin, who offended Anna’s sense of justice. I received a few plaintive letters describing homesickness, yet the camp director informed me that she was fine.

Game for another round, she returned to the same camp the following year. It was definitely more successful, but she still had to deal with girl terror. Still, when she came down the escalator at LAX upon her return three weeks later, she was chatting kids up and hugging them.

This year, she initially refused sleep away camp, saying that she couldn’t deal with the kids. I offered to find her a different camp, with different kids (not that it matters; there’s always a creep in every cabin). After many refusals, she’s suddenly gotten it into her head that she wants to go to Maine (!) for a four week session on some lake somewhere (honestly, is there anyplace in Maine that doesn’t have a lake?).

So, why the change of heart and the interest in cross-country exploration? Although Anna was the first of her circle to sleep away, now the other kids are starting to go, too. And, given the vast number of east coast transplants here in Los Angeles, the parents have decided that an east coast camp experience is in order. Some of these camps run as long as seven weeks, which probably is totally appropriate if you live in NYC or Brooklyn, but makes a bit less sense coming from California. Add to that the cost of east coast camps, up to six grand for a month. And you thought private school was expensive.

Although Anna has had a turbulent time the last two years of sleep away camp, I applaud her willingness to go back time and time again. I went to sleep away camp and had a way harder time (partially because I was a great big nerd with glasses and bad hair), but I still consider it to be a good and character building experience. I’m even Facebook friends with one of my camp buddies from all those years ago; we went on a memorably filthy backpacking trip together at age fourteen.

Because of my willingness to send Anna away at a young age, I’ve received some rather obnoxious comments from freaked out parents. One of them even asked me what the molestation rate was at her last camp (a totally neurotic and completely offensive comment if there ever was one; I still don’t know if he was kidding or not). I think this sort of attitude says more about the parent’s level of anxiety than the kid’s. After all, it’s our job as parents to teach our children how to operate independently, and camp gives them an early chance to do it in a controlled environment. It also gives parents a chance to take a guilt free vacation, sleep in, wander the house naked and stay out until all hours. See? Summer camp for adults really does exist!

I still don’t know if I have the fortitude or the budget to send Anna off to Maine, but I do know she’ll be heading off somewhere for a session.* If nothing else, the rigors of camp, including having to share a cabin with many noisy people, participate in group activities, eat food that’s occasionally gross, and sleep outdoors, really makes these coddled kids appreciate home. When Anna returned from camp last year, it took at least three days to complain about anything. And that’s money and time well spent.

* Update: Anna will be heading to Maine for summer camp. 
Jenny Heitz has worked as a staff writer for Coast Weekly in Carmel, freelanced in the South Bay, and then switched to advertising copywriting. Her daughter started 4th grade at Mirman School this year. She previously attended 3rd St. Elementary School. Jenny has been published recently in the Daily News and on Mamapedia, The Well Mom, Sane Moms, Hybrid Mom, The Culture Mom and A Child Grows In Brooklyn. She now writes about gift ideas and products on her blog, Find A Toad.

Guest Blogger Barry: Private School Boys And Sports: Backyard Bradys (Tom) & Driveway Durants (Kevin)

The Westside of Los Angeles long known for its doctors, lawyers and entertainment industry denizens, is suddenly a hotbed of athletic talent.  Yes, those are professional team scouts crawling the corridors of Westside private schools looking for the next Tom Brady and Kevin Durant.

That is, if you believe the hype of parents in this upscale area that they have magically produced from their not-so-athletic genes super-athletic kids ready to rise above their lineage. 

My 7-year old son is in his third year of playing various recreation league sports in Los Angeles.  Fall soccer and flag football, winter and summer basketball, more football in the spring.  Sports camps all summer.  Sprinkle in various skill clinics and tennis lessons and he is a busy little guy flexing his athletic muscles.   It’s a great way for him to meet friends, learn about leadership and teamwork, and burn off endless energy.

Where will it lead?  Who knows? Hopefully he enjoys it and can keep playing the sports he loves most through high school.   Then he can go on to a good academic college and watch his otherworldly little buddies on national TV as they fulfill their parents’ dreams playing Division 1 ball.  I have changed names to protect the innocent (many of whom have already been signed by top agents).

Paul B.  His father, a chunky lawyer who throws like a girl, told me when the boys were 5 or 6 that his son is such a talented baseball player that he doesn’t have to save for college.  A scholarship at USC is in the bag.  Unfortunately, by age 7, the pressure is so intense on poor Paul he gets headaches and phantom injuries and leaves mid-game whenever his team falls behind.  Happened to Nolan Ryan, too, I’m told.  So all should be ok.

Danny J.  A multi-sport star with parents who average 5 foot 6.  Danny takes private lessons 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  He is a QB, pitcher, point guard and hockey goalie.   Danny’s parents scream at him from the sidelines, telling him where to go, what to do and how to do it.   I think I saw the Bradys doing the same during one of Tom’s three Super Bowls, so Danny is in good company.

Aaron M.  A basketball prodigy.  Never saw a shot he couldn’t force.  Some of them actually go in.  From really far out.  Good thing to, because he carries the ball like a football instead of dribbling and is frequently outrun by garden snails.  All he needs are a few tats and he’s got a shot at going straight from Hebrew School to being a lottery pick.

Then there is Scottie T.   This much-hyped kickster is a legend.  For two years his parents sang the wonders of his backyard soccer heroics.  Think Pele.  Ronaldinho.  Beckham.  Only better.  Finally, my son lucked onto a team with Scottie and I got to see the legend up close. $150 Nike cleats.   Crisp replica Lionel Messi jersey.  What a game this young man had.  Shots landing anywhere but in the net.  Passes perfectly placed on the foot of the opponent.   Sliding tackles…of the referee.  God how I wished Scottie could play goalie…for anyone but us.

Yes, the backyards of Beverly Hills and Brentwood are teeming with budding Bradys throwing perfect spirals.  And on the driveways, dozens of dandy Durants are dunking and draining jumpers on their way to Division 1 scholarships and a shot at the NBA.  Just ask the little superstars’ parents.  They will tell you all about it.

Barry Perlstein is the dad of a 2nd and 4th grader who attend The Willows Community School in Culver City, CA. He works in private equity. Barry has a B.A. in applied mathematics from Harvard University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is married to Christina Simon, writer of this blog. They live in Hancock Park with their two children, ages 7 and 10. And, yeah, he’s funny in person too.

P.S. Here’s a very funny post on Parenting By Dummies about Amanda’s observations at her son’s soccer games called “How To Be A Sideline Dad”

Guest Blogger Jenny: Honesty: Is it Really the Best Policy With Mommy Acquaintances At Private Elementary Schools?

Recently, I read a blog post openly advocating for total honesty among moms. Her theory was that this complete honesty, both about the joys and trials of motherhood, would open the doors of empathy in playgroups and parent organizations.

It’s a really lovely theory. Honestly (and I mean that, honestly) I like it a lot. But its one major flaw is that honesty is simply not what anyone is looking for in superficial interactions. Most women in playgroups or organizations (like the PTA or just the parents within a class, say), have been thrown together simply by virtue of being fertilized around the same time, thus producing kids.  This has nothing to do with personalities, parenting styles, life styles, health issues, neurosis, or indeed much of anything else. The same can be said for moms at private elementary schools too. Maybe there’s a commonality by virtue of the fact that you all selected the same school. But, even that fact doesn’t mean a whole lot.


For instance, it’s good to nod sympathetically when an exhausted mom complains about how her five year old still doesn’t sleep through the night. Sympathy is what she’s seeking. Saying, however, that your little darling slept through the night by six months and lets you sleep in every weekend will gain you nothing but bruised enmity. What’s the point? If you have a name of a pediatric sleep specialist to offer up, you could try that, but most likely she’s just looking to vent, not for solutions. She probably gets enough dopey solution offerings from her husband, and you know how she feels about him.


Many of us, once in a group of women, get lulled into a false sense of security. Well, don’t be fooled. If you have a complaint to lodge, by all means do so (as long as it isn’t, like, too gross. I still have images stuck in my head regarding one woman’s detailed description of her laser hemorrhoid surgery; the idea of being in that, ahem, position makes me nauseous). But steer clear of really good news.


What’s really good news? If you still enjoy sex on a regular basis with your partner, avoid discussing it. They will curse you, either silently or quite openly. It’s just the way it is, because it’s very common and indeed fashionable to shudder at the mere idea of sex after babies. I don’t know why.


The same goes for being skinny after having a baby. I was one of these women (sorry, I know I’m being honest, but it’s my post and I’m making a point here). After post partum depression, not sleeping for three months and having the life sucked out of me by a preemie resembling a lamprey, I was super skinny. It wasn’t something I bragged about, but I certainly couldn’t hide it, either. Some of the comments I received included things like, “Yeah, I got the baby blues too, but I got over it. You were lucky to get skinny.” I would say that skinniness caused by depression and desperation wasn’t “lucky” in the slightest.


Keep in mind that I’m speaking about honesty being overrated only in terms of larger groups of women. Your friends, now, are quite a different story. How do you know if someone is really your friend and not just a group acquaintance? She is a friend if you’ve had more than two solo lunches or coffees and you’d still like to schedule more. She’s a friend if you text her to report on something particularly heinous that just happened to you on the street. She’s a friend if you call her just to discuss pretty much nothing, just because you find one another amusing. She’s your friend if she shares your brand of humor, whether it’s restrained and urbane or leans more toward the Jackass series of movies. Friendships have nothing to do with groups; they are individual endeavors. Your friend doesn’t care if you’re skinny, although she does care if it took personal suffering to get that way. And your friend will offer useful advice when warranted and patient listening when it’s not.


All the caution I stress above is doubled when dealing with groups of moms in a private school environment. First off, if you say something personal you might regret (or really tick one of the other moms off), it’s now out there with a group of moms you’re probably stuck with for years (there’s no bowing out of the playgroup here). And private schools can be hotbeds of gossip. Why make yourself a target? Just lay low and look around. You’ll probably find one private school mom who will become a real friend, and then the two of you can huddle in the corner during school events, cracking each other up.


So, next time you’re at a playgroup or a school function or wherever large groups of mommies are found, keep it light. Because, unfortunately, too much information can and will be turned against you. Think of being Switzerland, all bland and neutral, until you can hone in on the very few women who might be simpatico. Then, make your individual plans and let it fly.

Event: Private Elementary School Admissions Process and Financial Aid, April 20, Beverly Hills Country Club

Please Join us!
Kim Hamer, founder of and author of Finding the Perfect Private School: A Step-by-Step Guide To An Effective Elementary School Tour
Christina Simon, Co- author of Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles and parent at The Willows Community School.
- What to look for on tours
- Tips for writing a winning application
- Your Child’s Visit/Testing Day
- Tips for a successful parent interview
- What income bracket you can be in and receive financial aid (This will shock you!)
- What to do if your child is wait-listed
- Plus questions and answer session
WHEN:   Wednesday, April 20, 2011, 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. (light appetizers will be served)
WHERE:  Beverly Hills Country Club
  3084 Motor Avenue (at Patricia Ave)   Los Angeles, CA  90064
FEE:  $30 per person,  $55 per married couple

Guest Blogger Jenny: Confessions of a Mommy Playgroup Reject

It’s been almost ten years since my daughter was born, and a lot has happened. But, one of the things that still stands out for me from the early days of motherhood is my first experience with a playgroup.

Motherhood did not come easily to me. I was 33 when Anna was born (the first of my friends to have a baby), and I ended up with some bad post partum depression. I didn’t really emerge from my hopeless depressive fog until about six months had passed. At that point, Anna was a very cute, tiny, and crabby baby who seemed to need a lot of stimuli. So, I took her to one of those Mommy and Me type classes in West Hollywood.

The class itself was fine, simply an hour of free play while the mothers milled around. I met a very friendly, very pretty mommy there who seemed totally simpatico, and she invited me to join a playgroup she’d recently attended. “It’s kind of waspy, “ she said. I didn’t know what to say to that, but figured that she must need company, so I went.

I will say that I didn’t really fit into this playgroup from the very beginning. The women were very respectable and conservative. They were sort of friendly, but not in any sort of down and dirty way.  They perfunctorily chatted with me (Breastfeeding? No, not anymore. RIE classes? No. Homemade baby food? WTF?) before I retreated. I spent a bunch of time huddled with the one friendly pretty woman I knew, and then eventually our duo in the corner grew into a group.

This group was definitely different from the main mommies in the playgroup. We all seemed grubbier, moodier, edgy and a bit neurotic. The majority of us had been in creative fields; unlike the main mommies, none of us had retired from the business world. We drank a lot more coffee and ate a lot more cookies. There was cursing coming from our corner. Many of our children were not blond. Some of our children seemed ever so slightly unwashed. None of us wore pearls or Chanel logo earrings.

After a couple of months of weekly groups, I began to realize something. If the group was held at an original member’s abode, everyone showed up. But, if the locale was owned by one of us corner lurkers, we were on our own. This was just another indicator of the approaching wholesale rejection.

There were two things that led to the final death knell and the split. The first was when a stay at home dad started showing up. I will give the uptight ladies this much: he was kind of creepy. He wasn’t, say, a funny gay dad, or a cute young stay at home dad, or a cool hipster dad. No, this guy was sort of doughy and soft, seemed unmotivated, had a wife from hell and seriously seemed to cramp the uptight ladies’ style (even though, it must be admitted, they weren’t discussing anything juicy anyway).  The uptight ladies began boycotting. And then the word came down from above.

I can’t remember who told me first, but one of the other corner mommies informed me that there had been some mention by the uptight ladies of the pretty young mom who’d gotten me into the group in the first place, some criticism along the lines of: “She’s too cute.” It was the sort of slam that can only be made by a conservative blond in a sweater set, and it was final.

Suddenly, the corner mommies were rejected altogether. There were too many “age differences between the kids,” one uptight lady offered. “Our schedules don’t mesh,” another said. Interestingly enough, one of the rejects, whose husband was a famous artist, was invited to the “new” playgroup, same time, uptight lady’s house. She graciously declined the offer, deciding to stick it out with the corner contingency. She didn’t make homemade baby food, either.

Word, of course, got back to the pretty mommy who’d recruited all of us. “Those fuckers!” she hollered, before inviting us all over to her house for a consolation reject playgroup of our own.  At that point, I was seriously beyond caring.

We kept that neurotic, twitchy, mostly brunette playgroup going for about two years, until pre school schedules tore us off in opposite directions. I’m still very close with one of the rejects, and our kids still play together. 

The one thing this entire experience taught me is that, just because you happened to squeeze out a baby at roughly the same time, the other mommy just might not be your speed. This seems obvious, I know, but when you’re lonely and sleep deprived and covered with spit up, you’ll go to great lengths and operate on a stratospheric level of denial for a little company. So scrutinize your playgroup picks carefully, since the last thing you need in the first year of motherhood is rejection by your “peers.”

On the other hand, if you do wear pearls, Chanel logo earrings, and a blond pageboy, do I have a playgroup for you.
ADD Bloggess mommy cards at the park

Guest Blogger Jenny: Going Once… Going Twice… Auction Season at Private Elementary Schools

When I applied to private school for my daughter, I knew it would involve a lot of fundraising demands. Hey, even public school involves tons of fundraising. While most of it seems totally doable (hitting up grandparents for donations, for instance), there’s one part of it I really, naively did not anticipate: the Silent Auction.

The Silent Auction appears to be a fundraising mainstay at private schools. In case you’ve been living on the moon and are unfamiliar with the Silent Auction concept, it means that parents with children at the school bid for various donated items, mostly so they fork over even more money to the school, but feel like they’re getting something out of it, too. Civilized lists are placed in front of each item, and people “bid” the price they’re willing to pay for each item.

Fist fights are discouraged. But, occasionally spats do break out. Apparently, at one private school’s Silent Auction, the second place parent (in other words, the loser), after an argument over the bid sheets, took the item home anyway, and refused to give it to the rightful bidder. Apparently, the fight went on for months and the school administration actually had to get involved. Pretty petty.

So who donates the items? Why, the parents, of course! Yes, the parents are expected (even required) to shill for at least two Silent Auction items. In a town rife with industry connections, this is simple for some: call in a favor or two for instant Laker tickets, or behind the scenes studio tours, or a weekend in Santa Barbara. But what if, say, you’re not particularly connected, or happen to be a semi anti-social writer who lives in her little room? What then?

The pressure to donate items is huge. And there are criteria. The estimated value must be over $50. Things that are enthusiastically recommended are (the aforementioned) sports tickets, studio tours, and weekends away. Briefly, I considered begging the management at Street for a donated dinner for two. But then I panicked. Who the hell do I think I am, anyway? Why should that restaurant care about my kid’s school? Plus, every private school in Los Angeles is doing the exact same thing, every year. That’s an awful lot of free dinner requests for fancy private schools. Every time I thought about leaving the safety of my office and waddling up to Street, application in hand, my stomach clenched.

In the end, a friend helped me out. I am eternally grateful. She is the Fairy Godmother of Silent Auction Items. So I got a reprieve this year. No waddling.

I have another observation regarding the Silent Auction phenomenon. Generally, these events are so insular and circular. It’s not like the items are offered to the public (only a few school make their online auctions available to the public). The very same parents who pay tuition, and do annual giving, then supply the items and shell out for them, too. It’s like visiting the same watering hole every time, until it’s just a muddy, unproductive hole in the ground. The one school I’ve seen (not even a private school) that has a better concept is Larchmont Charter. Every year, it holds a photography Silent Auction event at a gallery in Culver City. The art is fabulous and the prices are good, plus the school is excellent at inviting other people besides parents to the event. I bought a photograph there about two years ago. It was a wonderful deal, and I love it, but now I can’t afford to go to the event ever again. I have my own auction to contend with. 

Weekend in Barstow, anyone?
Jenny Heitz has worked as a staff writer for Coast Weekly in Carmel, freelanced in the South Bay, and then switched to advertising copywriting. Her daughter started 4th grade at Mirman School this year. She previously attended 3rd St. Elementary School. Jenny has been published recently in the Daily News and on Mamapedia, The Well Mom, Sane Moms, Hybrid Mom, The Culture Mom and A Child Grows In Brooklyn. She now writes about gift ideas and products on her blog, Find A Toad.