Are NYC Parents Crazy?

96th Street subway, uptown side, Oct 2009 - 15This is a post I wrote a year ago for the Westside Independent, but after meeting so many women this weekend at BlogHer who asked me how I could raise my kids in NYC I thought I’d repost it here on Beccarama for a whole new audience.

Are city parents crazy?  This is the question that a dad blogger posted on his site last week upon returning home to the Midwest after a four-day trip to New York City. I always think that while I am certainly not crazy, this kind of question always brings out the crazy in me. First I get defensive – the knee jerk well how can YOU live in the cultural, ethnic, culinary wasteland that is the suburbs? Then I go into my why New York City is the best place ever routine – oh the museums, the landmarks, the food, the theater, and the one that always freaks out everyone, we don’t even own a car! But truth be told that routine is getting a little stale. Why do city parents really want to raise their kids here?

All of the reasons I listed above are of course true, but do they really outweigh the small spaces most of us live in, the lack of backyards and basements, the battle for kindergarten admission, the financial costs and the ever-nagging sense that city kids grow up too fast? No, I think there’s more to it.

My daughters are in second grade and their social studies curriculum is all about New York. They happen to attend a great public school that is outrageously field trip happy and this course of study lends itself to exploring neighborhoods. I love this aspect of the curriculum because the strange secret of New Yorkers is that they rarely venture outside of a ten block radius from their homes except to commute to work (and as a writer that would mean the walk to my kitchen table) We eat at the same restaurants over and over again, we go to the same playgrounds every weekend, and we shop at the same grocery and drug stores on a weekly basis. With everything at your fingertips it’s easy to take it for granted and not take advantage of all the things that the city has to offer. It takes effort not to fall into a lazy New York lull of the familiar.

And this is why it’s always so shocking to me when people ask me how I can raise my kids in New York City. I don’t really raise my kids in New York City, I raise them on the Upper West Side. We zip in and out of other areas on weekends – Flushing for dim sum, the East Side to museums and the zoo, Times Square for the theater, downtown for gallery hopping, Chelsea Piers for bowling and ice skating, Brooklyn for old friends and family, and of course Central and Riverside Parks for grass, trees and nature – but at the end of the day we come home to our small town. It’s the best of all worlds. A familiar place called home nestled inside the most exciting city in the world. And that is why I am not crazy to raise my kids in (the Upper West Side of) New York City.

7 replies on “Are NYC Parents Crazy?”

  1. Having been raised in NYC myself, I can’t imagine growing up in a place where Central Park Zoo and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the Hall of Science were not readily accessible… but you know you’re right: NY is really just several small towns all smashed together with all the ensuing provincialism… I know people who don’t ever leave the island of Manhattan, haha!

  2. What an awesome post — and so true regarding one’s specific neighborhood! I live and spend most of my time between the Financial District, WSP area, and Chelsea — needless to say, anytime I find myself above 34th street I feel like I’m in a TOTALLY different place, and then it hits me that I actually do live in NYC.

  3. Bravo to you. I raised my children in Brooklyn….and made many trips into the city….sometimes on school trips….now I take my grandchildren…NYC is the best and believe me I tried to live elsewhere….but always came home. I am proud to say I have 5 great children and 6 wonderful grandchildren and would not live anywhere else….and never get tired of taking them to see everything the city has to offer….because we never sleep and there is so much to do….

  4. As the mom of a toddler living in a small town, I can see the charm of a big city. When the little one tosses out a tantrum on the sidewalk, what are the chances of ever seeing those folks who are eddying around my flailing child again?

    Great post!

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