Park Slope Parents Trotting Tots to Baby Gap Audition Emit Aura of Careful Nonchalance

122607 parkslopestrollers n Park Slope Parents Trotting Tots to Baby Gap Audition Emit Aura of Careful NonchalanceJust a few doors up from the Park Slope Coop, where the righteous buy their organic kale, and across the street from the Tea Lounge, where neighborhood mommies meet to nurse, share their in-the-trenches stories, and show off their strollers, a group of 10 or so parents and their babies (and sometimes an extra kid in tow) formed an orderly line outside of Kidville, a child learning and play center.

When a passerby asked one of the moms what was going on, the mother shyly replied, “Um, it’s a casting call for the Gap.”

Without much fanfare, Baby Gap and Gap Kids held an open model search for their 2008 in-store campaigns in the heart of Park “My Baby’s Cuter Than Yours” Slope.

“I’m sort of embarrassed,” said Anna Johansson, who brought her 4-month-old son, Leonardo, at the urging of her husband and mother-in-law. “I mean, doesn’t everyone think their kid is the cutest?”

“We’re certainly not trying to make our kids child models,” said both Shelley Pocsidio, an architect who owns her own business, and Liz Goldberg, a part-time lawyer.

The two friends met at Cornell 20 years ago and, now that they have kids similar in age (an 18-month-old daughter and a 17-month-old son, respectively), they have a standing playdate every Wednesday.

This week, instead of the usual living-room play at Ms. Goldberg’s home, they came to the casting.

“I live a couple blocks away, it’s cold out, so why not?” said Ms. Goldberg.

But if it grew to more than a 15-minute wait to be seen, they agreed beforehand, they’d ditch the idea.

Alec DeRuggiero, dad to 2-year-old Julian, traveled from Carroll Gardens to join his friend Iwona Mazor, Park Slope mom to 14-month-old Willow.

Mr. DeRuggiero works four days a week from home as a music consultant; Ms. Mazor owns her own design company. Their stylish kids looked more Petit Bateau than Gap, but the whole gang was chipper and game for the general commotion and stroller traffic of the audition room.

Tow-headed Julian was directed to a spot against the wall, he flashed an adorable smile, and a woman dressed in all black clicked her camera at him three times in quick succession.

Then Willow had her turn, and it was over. Coats were taken off and, a minute later, struggled back on. “It’s just a fun thing to do,” Mr. DeRuggiero said.

In another city, even in another New York City neighborhood perhaps, a model search like this would bring out the momagers and mini pageant stars in force for their once in a lifetime shot at the big time.

Here, if there was any real mania to turn the babies into models it was not to be seen beneath the patter of parents cooing at and complimenting each other on their babies.

Advertised on ParkSlopeParents.com, a community networking site that has made news for its nasty “I’m a better mom than you” exchanges (but is, in truth, mostly a boring message board where regular moms sell their kids’ outgrown bouncy seats and solicit travel-with-baby tips), the event drew a well-heeled crowd who were more than a little conflicted by their own bright-lights curiosity.

“On the way here,” admitted a thin, smartly-dressed woman who was there with her 10-month-old son, “I wondered if maybe I should put some gel in his hair or something, and then I thought, ‘Whoa, slow down, Mama.’” (Her son arrived adorably uncoiffed, as did most of the infants and kids.)

Stephanie Tobin, chasing after her 18-month-old daughter with mittens and a hat, had had Jamie Lynn Spears’ pregnancy on her mind. Brit’s little sister is 16 years old.

“I have a lot of doubts about doing this,” she said, “and I’m not sure I’d do it again. But I figure, if she [her daughter] got picked, she’s still too young to get messed up.”

But most of the parents, Ms. Tobin included, didn’t seem very interested in their kids getting picked at all.

No one hounded the organizers about when they’d hear back from them; the parents of kids who frowned for the camera didn’t ask for a second shot; and most seemed more keen on meeting other neighborhood parents (several playdates were set up in line).

But for all of the careful nonchalance, a few did admit to their secret hopes.

“If it worked out, we thought it would be a nice way to help pay for preschool,” said Mr. DeRuggiero.

“Everyone always says [our 13-month-old son] is so cute,” said Boerum Hill mom and part-time environmental lawyer, Lisa Garcia. “This is an opportunity to have an experienced eye instead of friends and family.”