あそびのもり ONLINE

Series CHILDREN IN THE WORLD Part III Diversity of families -families from New York-

Pholida and Neil Barclay and their 3 year-old son Grayson

  • One of the Manhattan’s symbols, Chrysler Building, is part of the view from their balcony, Pholida and her son Grayson (3) look out the streets. ‘We’re firm believers in the rich cultural diversity’ of New York says Pholida.

  • Grayson relaxes on the sofas in the living room, many family photos are decorated on the walls.

  • Grayson has two different nannies watching him while his parents are at work.

  • Pholida gently soothes Grayson who starts crying during meal.

  • The family lives on the higher floor at the mid-town apartment. Grayson often looks at the streets far below.

  • Pholida hugging his son who is absorbed in snacks rather than meal.

  • Grayson poses at mirror.

  • Grayson really wants to see himself eating some yogurt in the mirror.

‘We’re firm believers in the rich cultural diversity that New York brings access to a lot of cultural enrichment’

For Pholida and Neil, living in midtown Manhattan offers fantastic opportunities but also difficult choices for their young family.

They live with their son Grayson in an apartment building just south of Grand Central Terminal. Pholida works in the public relations department for a financial services company, and Neil is an attorney working for a financial company consulting on legal compliance issues. The couple met in New York. When they got married, they decided to keep living in New York after they have a child.

“Being a working mom in New York City has incredible advantages. The city offers great resources to help raise kids such as museums, playgroups, parks and a lot of cultural activities,” said Pholida. “But at the end of the day, I think it is important to balance all of that.” She said it is important to have your own supportive network of other moms who are going through a similar situation.

She said your group of network and friends change when you become a parent. A lot of Grayson’s schoolmate parents have become their friends.

Currently, Grayson is in a private pre-school program geared for 3 and 4-year-olds called the Wee One’s Club (http://www.weeonesclub.com/). It has a play-based school program which is supposed to help a child’s social-emotional development.

Pholida and Neil found the school only a block away from their house. Grayson is there from 9-12 p.m. weekdays, and the class sizes are between 13-14 students. When Grayson turned two years old, he attended classes known as the preschool practice once a week at Wee One’s Club that helps the child become independent from their mother.

The couple has built its social circle not only from other families that attend the preschool but parents they meet their local playground in Madison Square Park.

Pholida discovered that a lot of friends with children have decided to move out of the city. “A lot of families find it hard to invest the time. A lot of families once they have one or two kids move to the burbs.”

“We’re firm believers in the rich cultural diversity that New York brings access to a lot of cultural enrichment,” Pholida explained. “Of course we can be in the suburbs and have more access to physical recreation, but we wanted him to have this solid foundation first.”

We’re committed to staying in the the city because of my career and Neil’s career,” continued Pholida. “This is such an enriching location for Grayson to grow up. He has everything at his fingertips. The rich cultural diversity of New York. It’s just a really wonderful place to raise a kid. You’re at the epicenter of the East Coast [of the United States in New York].”

She also said they were not willing to spend an hour plus a day commuting to their jobs. “We choose to live the proximity we do for a reason, and we certainly pay a premium for that,” Pholida noted. “But there is nothing that beats walking to work every day knowing that you are only a couple of blocks from your son.”

‘The process for getting into schools is “worse than getting into Harvard”’

When Grayson is not in pre-school, he has two different nannies who watch him while his parents are at work.

The family’s daily routine starts after Grayson wakes up. First is a glass of milk while reading him a book and then they have breakfast. Pholida and Neil switch days going to the gym to exercise before work, while the other parent watches their son.

After breakfast, the nanny arrives and takes Grayson to school while they get ready for their jobs. After pre-school in the morning, the nanny feeds Grayson and then takes him to occupational or speech therapy classes.

Pholida also likes living in New York because the city offers programs and services that help parents raise children.

For example, they received help for Grayson with his speech. When he was younger, he was a little bit delayed with his speech development. His pre-school contacted the New York City Dept. of Education, and they said he would need some language therapy to improve. The classes are available for all residents of New York and are not based on economic need.

“The services are great, and they try to help as much as they can,” Pholida said.

Pholida has not felt like they have had to teach Grayson about diversity because they have a diverse group of friends in New York. “Why point it out,” she said. “It’s already embedded as part of our social circle,” One of his best friends is half Turkish, and another is half-Indian. Grayson has a lot of mixed-race friends she noted.

In the fall Grayson will move from private pre-school to a private pre-kindergarten class at the Jack and Jill School at St. George’s Church in Manhattan. (http://www.calvarystgeorges.org/jackandjillschool) That is on East 16th Street and has a play based curriculum. He will go to school there for two years in the 4-5-year-old program. After that, they will apply for a private school.

“The reason why we chose the play based school is that I believe that kids learn from playing,” said Pholida. “The problem with today’s curriculum in school is that kids are forced to sit down too much and they can’t.”

The process for getting into schools is horrific explained Pholida. “It’s worse than getting into Harvard.”

Pholida and Neil applied to 4-5-year-old pre-schools starting in September last year. For each school, they had to answer essay questions that included: Why they thought the school was a fit for a child? What was unique about the school? Why was the school a good fit for the family?

After the application then there is a parent-family interview and a play date at the school where staff observed Grayson’s interaction with the other kids. A few months later they receive acceptance or rejection letters. Parents only have 10 days to accept and then have to agree to the assignment and put a deposit down. Grayson was accepted into only two of the five schools they applied for.

After Grayson attends pre-school, he then will have to apply for primary education. Pholida and Neil could send Grayson to a public school in the district they are zoned for, but they want to send Grayson to a private school instead. Their first choice is St. Bernard’s all-boys primary school (http://www.stbernards.org/podium/default.aspx?t=134293) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Bernard%27s_School). It is a traditional prep-school that Pholida’s godfather attended.

‘I’d rather him make his own opinion after looking at both sides’

When asked what ‘s hard about living in New York, Pholida noted that the winter season is difficult when the children have to be indoors a lot. She pointed out that Grayson likes to be outdoors a lot. They try and find a lot of indoor play spaces during the winter for him.

As for her hopes for Grayson, Pholida said wants to raise a child with great empathy, intelligence, kind and considerate, who has self-confidence. And hopefully, by instilling these skills, he becomes a great contributor to society.

When asked about the current political climate in the United States, Pholida and Neil feel their responsibility as a parent to let Grayson come to his own understanding about Trump.

Neil thinks there is a lot to worry about with President Trump, but he doesn’t feel that parents should indoctrinate a child with a political ideology.

“Grayson is into Presidents, and we have an updated poster in his room [that includes Trump]. I’m more Libertarian, established GOP, and I think that Trump is unhinged, but I would never say that to my son,” Neal said. “I think Barack Obama just used gay marriage when it was politically convenient, but I would never say that to my son. I think President Bush wrongly went to Iraq, but I wouldn’t say that to him. These are things that he has to come up with on his own, even if they are positions I don’t agree with. It’s more about the reasoning. I’d rather him make his own opinion after looking at both sides.”

“He is going to evolve into his own person,” added Pholida. “As his parents, it’s our responsibility to instill a good foundation for him.”

Reporting by Douglas Zimmerman
Photography by Ayumi Nakanishi

The Team Profiles

  • Douglas Zimmerman Journalist /Photojournalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His understanding about the importance in education was instilled by his mother who was a career teacher and school administrator in public schools in in the state of Connecticut in the United States. As a photojournalist, Douglas has spent the past fifteen years covering football (soccer) culture in the United States and at the FIFA World Cup. He also works as an online photo editor and reporter for SFGate.com, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • Ayumi Nakanishi Photojournalist /Documentary photographer and filmmaker. She has traveled to 40 countries to meet families & communities, especially documenting children issues. Her passion led her based in Jakarta, Indonesia for the last 10 years working on a long-term documentary film project on a punk commune giving a helping hand to others including children. Her film has been screened in Japan and Indonesia.