Raising kids in the City

Contrary to what people think city kids do wear Crocs shoes for at least 4 months a year like any other kids living in the countryside or near the beach. Parents cannot resist the visually painful Blob plastic trend because Crocs are magic. They are basically the only shoes that don’t drive you completely nuts each time you have to put them back on your kids’ feet, after these have been unceremoniously kicked out of the stroller for the 100th bloody frigging time. Converse sneakers, though much stylish, can just not compete. Yes, New York kids and their parents are almost like other kids and parents.

I absolutely love raising my children in the city that never sleeps but I am going to quickly brush over what sucks about it for the sake of a more balanced argument:

1- private outdoor space is an oddity in Manhattan but we are very lucky to have our own courtyard. However, I feel a little guilty when things like these happen:

  • when I yell at my kids while they are pulling out my Nasturtium or tomatoes plants. These are such precious commodities, like glimpses into a white pickets fenced house alternative life. So, it does hurt when they get hysterically stomped upon like some cheap pieces of bubble paper.
  • instead of hearing birds or crickets, the incessant roaming of 200 A/C units is what nature must sound like for G, P and L. Similarly I sometimes wonder if they know that the drizzling from these units is not rain…It’s really kind of sad.

2- if we were living in a small town with one local school, I would not have to deal with stressful fellow parents (and friends) who freak me out asking what is my school strategy for my kids in Fall 2015 (when G & P may be able to go to pre-Kindergarten). I would not have to deal with conversations about zoning, dual programs, recruitment interviews process, private Vs state education, bribing boards of directors with ‘voluntary’ donations etc. Nope, if I were in a small town where the teacher is also the Saturday’s kids’ baseball league, I would not have to deal with all this shit.

3- New York is full of crazies. I know because I am one of them. But sometimes I wish I could shield them from the level of craziness. I guess I am ok when my kids witness some dude walking with a 3 foot long parrot (tail included of course) licking his ear or an Amish soprano ventriloque ‘singing’ German Opera on a subway train. But, when they see 100 scary looking bikers using avenues like freaking highways or yelling as if they were in a scene of Mad Max, that is seriously not cool.

Now, on why I cannot leave Manhattan despite all this and the expensive childcare and square footage:
– I am an abysmal and extremely nervous driver so there’s a huge relief that I do not have to drive the kids around for play dates or classes. I would seriously have to throw all my clothes away because of the damage caused by sweat patches! I have mentioned on several occasions the dangerous impacts of running out of milk in my house (think 3 chuck dolls in the Exorcist movie) and when it happens, I am damn happy that my local Starbucks shop opens at 6am and can give me (free of charge) the precious pint of milk I need satisfy my cubs.

– There’s always something to see and do: museums, plays, story telling sessions etc. Good selection is still very important and DH and I often suck at it. Last week end, DH insisted that we take the kids to the planetarium of the American Museum of Natural History. As they opened their doors, I started to get worried: ‘Are you sure it is age appropriate? There’s no explosion or scary crap like that, right?’ He comforted me :‘Nooooo, just some stars floating…‘ Stars floating my ass!!! The sun came straight at us, there were nebulous constellations, explosions, the weirdest halos of light and a loud Whoopi Goldberg narrating. Kids were petrified, sweating and panting on top of me and I was cursing DH out loud:’I swear to god, if one faints I will kill you’. We eventually redeemed ourselves with the Dinosaurs’ section of the museum and with a Balinese performance in Central Park….I mean, my kids are weirdos, they are afraid of stars but giant bones and gaping jaws full of sharp teeth as well as some men pretending to be white hairy monkeys or gods are absolutely fine.

– There’s always someone we can use as an on the spot babysitter to help us finish our meals in restaurants or at a picnic or while I am looking for keys in my messy bag: a reggae DJ, childless youngsters sunbathing in the park, people with friendly dogs, building doormen and porters etc.

– Diversity is another big thing for me. And it is not something that you can theoretically teach your kids; they have to experience it. I think the concept of ethnicity is still alien to them; I doubt that they already understand cultural differences. But when they start asking questions, I want to make sure they see for themselves what multiculturalism means and not believe only what they hear about it on TV. Two days ago, I realized that my corner shop is called “Modeli’ as in Mohammed’s deli. And everyone loves Mohammed. Old, young, black, white, indian folks talk to Mohammed as he was a barman. Every time I go there with the kids in tow, we hear the whole community pours their heart out and sometimes I think:‘Poor Mo, he cannot even drink to help him through this.’

So yes, when the kids grow up and start blaming us for piling them on top of each other in the same bedroom or not buying them the ride-on car we saw in a yard sale in Pennsylvania two months ago because we have NO space, I hope they’ll understand something. I hope they’ll understand that the things they got instead don’t take much space: the souvenir of their first star explosion, Mohammed’s chuckles when listening to his clients or the kindness of that DJ who once gave them some plastic tokens so that mom and dad could finish their beers.



7 thoughts on “Raising kids in the City

  1. Yes, I love the diversity here, too. I like that it’s just normal to my kids. And you know, NY has Central Park so at least they’ll see trees once in a while 🙂 .

    1. Absolutely! Plus I have discovered that there are so many things we can do less than hour away from the City (beach, mountains, farms, etc.). Very diverse natural landscapes and ‘playgrounds’ available 🙂

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