Small Town, NYC

9111_2Every New Yorker can tell you where they were when the planes hit the Twin Towers.  My husband and I lived downtown about two miles directly north of the World Trade Center and had one of those spectacular views of the two towers right out our living room window.  On the morning of September 11th I was home but the window blinds were down.  My husband had left for work early so that he could vote in the primary election that morning.  Suddenly he charged into our apartment and shouted that one of the towers was on fire.  He had been walking to the bus when the plane hit and everyone outside froze.  We opened the blinds and saw the smoke rising from the first tower.  We turned on the TV as the second plane hit and then, well, we watched in disbelief, our eyes darting between the horror unfolding right out our window and the simultaneous broadcasting of it on TV.

For that day, and the few months that followed, New Yorkers found themselves in a very strange position.  We were suddenly a symbol of America for the rest of America.  Now, New Yorkers are used to being symbols of America to foreigners.  The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Broadway – all of that iconography travels well.  But, lets face it, to most of the Good Ol’ US of A New York has always been an “other”; a sea of immigrant faces, of ethnic brashness, of liberal politics and upended morals.  And trust me, New Yorkers take pride in being part of a true melting pot that occasionally boils over.  To be the epicenter of national pride, now that is not a position New Yorkers feel comfortable with.   But, we went with it.  New Yorkers opened their homes and hearts to rescue workers from all over the country.  People congregated in diners and parks, held vigils, donated blood, helped friends and strangers try to find loved ones, and offered condolences and comfort to those who needed it.   There was a small town feeling in New York City, and a bit of New York City in every small town.

Seven years later it is incredibly depressing to be staring at those two gaping holes at Ground Zero.  The lack of rebuilding and revitalization reminds New Yorkers every day that nothing has changed.  Even more distressing, is the fact that New York City is once again the “other.”  The pundits are out telling us that the Republicans have reignited the Culture War.   As all New Yorkers know, this is code for us against them.  Yet again, “We” are the liberal, intellectual, media-centered elite and “they” are the family values, apple pie eating, down to earth small town USA.  Yet, we are the ones staring at the scars left from their national policies.  So, almost a decade after the World Trade Center was attacked I am wondering when New York will stop being used to stir up both patriotic anger towards some undefinable foreign threat and conservative anger towards some undefinable liberal way of life.

On September 11th, 2001 the papers reported that the people who died represented over 90 countries.  I would bet that the victims also represented all 50 states, and that somehow every small town in America was touched by a death just a few degrees removed at most.  That’s the thing about New York City – it is not some “other”- it is everyone.  On the seventh anniversary of 9/11 I am trying to be an optimistic New Yorker and hope the people of America will refuse to be drafted into the Culture War and come to the Big Apple for some apple pie instead.

This is an original nycmomsblog post.

Walk Like An Olympian

Becca_2 I did not grow up in a family that valued athletics.  When my dad ordered season tickets he meant the New York Philharmonic or the Metropolitan Opera, not the NY Knicks or Yankees.  Though I was very active with ballet four days a week, I detested sports and started cutting gym class in the 3rd grade when I would sneak upstairs to the library to help the librarian shelve books.  My parents were not only fine with that, but my doctor dad abetted my distaste for public school Phys Ed with “medical” excuse notes.   Its not just that my family didn’t participate in any kind of organized sports – we didn’t even watch them on TV.  So, imagine my surprise at the age of 12 when I became completely and utterly enthralled by the 1984 Summer Olympics.

Those Los Angeles hosted Olympics coincided with my first solo airplane trip when I flew to Chicago to stay with my 32 year old, single, successful 80’s career woman Aunt.  During that visit I went to my first baseball game, at a light-free Wrigley Field no less, and to my first football game (preseason and in a corporate box, but still a real game.)  And I enjoyed them both.  But, what I remember most about that trip was watching the Summer Olympics in every spare moment, on TVs wherever we happened to be, at night till I dropped asleep and then the recaps in the morning. Mary Lou Retton twisting through the air and landing that perfect 10 vault will forever be stored in my mind.  But, it wasn’t just the gymnastics; it was the swimming and diving, the cycling, and track and field with Carl Lewis soaring over the track.  There was something undeniably humbling and spectacular, emotional and intense to all of these endeavors which could only happen once every four years at the Olympics.   I have been hooked ever since.

So this year, with the help of a DVR (an Olympics fan’s best friend), I have been introducing my 6-year-old daughters to this world of athletic celebration.  This summer has been pivotal for both of my daughters’ athletic and physical development.  They are not the kind of kids who just pick up a bat and hit a home run.  They don’t do monkey bars.  When they took a soccer class they spent the entire time inside the goal net pretending it was a spaceship.  But, this summer at camp something changed.  They want to do better.  They want to be a part of the team.

When they came home the other day they were bursting with excitement because color war had broken out at camp.  They were fired up and so eager to compete it made me stare at them and wonder where these two warriors had come from.  We sat down to watch the women’s gymnastics final and they watched intensely.  When Alicia Sacramone fell – and then got right back on the beam, my girls gasped and wanted to rewind it.  Its one thing for someone to tell you to persevere – its another thing to see it in action.  The next day my daughter came home and told me that her team had won the crab walk relay.  Crab walking, not an official Olympic sport but integral to the color war games, involves making yourself into a table on your hands and feet with your stomach facing up and then walking backwards in that position.  (Try that Michael Phelps)   She told me that she kept falling over but that she propped herself up and kept on going because she knew not to give up and let down her team.  Olympics lessons at work!

I knew when I married an NBA fanatic that sports would be a part of my life.  Just like my husband knew that marrying an ex-ballet dancer would make the arts a part of his.  Now the trick is taking the best of both worlds and making them a part of our daughters’ lives.  Maybe that’s the real appeal of the Olympics – its all of the grace and artistry of the human form with the power, anguish and triumph of the human spirit.  And that’s the kind of lesson that every child should learn.

Original NYC Moms Blog Post

Big Girls Do Cry

Pe02762_ When my daughters, Sophia and Isabel, turned six this past May my husband and I started getting a little tougher on them about random acts of crying.  Luckily, they didn’t really go through the terrible twos or the tantrum threes but lately, when things didn’t go their way, they were apt to pull out the dramatic school age tears complete with quivering lower lips and woefully large doses of self pity.  So, before camp started we pulled out every bad motivational-speaker-coach cliche we could muster in order to buck them up and encourage PERSEVERANCE!   DETERMINATION!  THICK SKIN!  Tears we told them were for when you were actually, physically hurt not just sad because someone else took your seat at the arts and crafts table.

Off they went to their day camp on the big blue bus, trying their best to be “big” girls. And it went okay.  There were tears when at first Isabel was mistakenly placed into a lower swim group than her friends and sister.  And another meltdown by Sophia when she realized that she missed mommy in the middle of the day.   Normal adjusting to camp kind of stuff.  As the week went on the tears disappeared.  Sophia even came home one day and told me that though she had banged her elbow and saw BLOOD! she didn’t cry, just whined.  And her counselor called her a rock star for her bravery.  All good.

So when the weekend rolled around my now fearless daughters and I decided to go the movies and see Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. Now, going to the movies is not a small thing in our house.  Sophia is terrified of movies.  Its not that she’s afraid of the dark – she’s not, she is scared of the previews.  She hates the surprising unexpectedness of them, the loudness and fast paced editing of them and most of all she is certain that one of them will scare the life out of her because last year the preview for the Transformers movie did just that.  So, it was a big deal that Sophia agreed to go to see Kit. (Although it helped that she brought her own American Girl doll along for the show.)

We got through the previews just fine.  Sometimes Sophia covered her eyes or ears but all in all the previews were appropriate and in the case of Space Chimps downright funny.  Then the lights went down and Kit started with period music and a lightness that instantly put Sophia at ease.  Every five minutes I looked over at her.  She was engrossed, delighted and seemed less and less anxious with every passing frame.  As the film wound down to its heartwarming close I sighed with relief that we had made it through the film with a completely positive experience.  Then, suddenly, Sophia grabbed my arm and whimpered, “Help me mommy.  I’m crying.  Why am I crying?  Mommy wipe the tears from my eyes I don’t want to be crying..”  I looked over and saw the glistening tears pooling under her glasses and realized that this lovely emotional happy ending was making my daughter cry and she couldn’t figure out why.  She had never experienced this kind of empathy for a movie or television character, never been to a movie that was meant to tug on your heart strings in this way.  And it freaked her out.

I couldn’t help but laugh a little and actually feel proud of her. I reassured her that it was good crying.  That she felt what the characters felt because she cared about them.  And, that sometimes tears weren’t signs of sadness but happiness. She didn’t quite buy it. I could see that we had unwittingly created a small world for our daughters where tears were bad or babyish and not an expression of a wide range of feelings.  So, I turned it around in that moment of American Girl goodness and warmth and told Sophia that she should be proud of her tears.  They showed that she was a girl who felt deeply and had empathy.  She had given herself over to a movie in a way that she never had before and I wanted her to go with it, not be afraid by the depth of her response.  So I explained that to feel what others feel is one of the most mature and strong things a girl could do. After all, big girls have big hearts and sometimes big tears too.

Original Post to NYC Moms Blog.

Generation Hillary

HillaryThis morning Isabel, one of my six year old daughters, asked me if she had to take down her Hillary for President sign that she hung on her bedroom door 8 months ago.  I told her that it was her choice.  She thought about it for a minute and then decided that she should take it down and save it to copy when she runs for President some day.  Now, I think a lot of kids say they would like to grow up and be President.  My daughter would also like to be an astronaut, a ballet dancer and an American Idol.  But, unlike all of those career options, until this presidential campaign she did not have a concrete example of a woman running for the highest office in the land.

Isabel became a Hillary supporter early on.  We were watching clips from the Iowa debate one Sunday morning and she asked why there was only one girl on the stage.  We explained to her that Hillary was the only woman in the race and that there had never been a female president.  Well, that was it for her.  “I want the girl to win,” she proclaimed.  And when your daughter unknowingly declares herself a feminist at five years old you do what you need to do to support it.  An on-line shopping trip to the Hillary2008 store ensued.  My daughter wore her “Hillary Cares About Me” shirt to school the day of the primary when voters were traipsing in and out of her school cafeteria.   She got into a war of words with a classmate who told her that Hillary was horrible and only Obama was good.  (We had to explain to her that both candidates would be good options and that Obama wouldn’t like his supporters calling other kids stupid heads.)

Isabel is too young, thankfully, to understand or grasp the media misogyny that so gleefully played itself out during Hillary’s campaign.  But, she encountered her own gender politics and struggles this year in, of all places, kindergarten.  For the first time in her school experience the boys and girls separated and segregated during free play and work time in a way that I wouldn’t expect in 2008.  Isabel often came home upset because she was the only girl at the block building area, or the only girl at the math skills table.  The other girls tended to choose drawing and the pretend area, leaving her as the sole girl among boys who recently discovered that teasing can be a team sport.  This is something that shook her up to the point where she did not want to go to school.  When we spoke to her teachers about this – and these are very progressive teachers mind you – they told us that that is typical kindergarten boy behavior and that they try to help but Isabel is just in that situation because she enjoys the more “boy” stuff.  Really.

So, here is where Hillary comes in, and here is why no matter what her mistakes and foibles are – and yes I know there are many – I will be grateful that she put herself out there in a way no woman has before.  Hillary toughed it out.  Not always well, not always fairly, and probably for too long, but that kind of tenaciousness and endurance is not something that is taught to little girls.  Not even now.  Little boys are told to suck it up and get back on the bike, dust themselves off and stick up for themselves.  Little girls are told to find another thing to play, or to find other girls to play with rather than deal with bullies.  Isabel rode that roller coaster campaign right along with Hillary.  She witnessed those bitter defeats and subsequent triumphs, and ultimate loss.  But, more importantly, she saw Hillary on stage with men, holding her own.  For a six year old trying to figure out her own place as a “girl” in her small world Hillary was an enormous source of inspiration and validation.

When Hillary finally conceded and we told Isabel that it was over she was resigned, but happy that Obama would be the first black man to run for President.  Having a “first” seemed important to her in some way.   “Don’t worry mom,” she told me as she looked up at me with those earnest big brown eyes,”Now I can be first woman President and you can vote for me.”  I can’t wait.

This is an original post to New York City Moms Blog.

This post was nationally syndicated by McClatchy/Tribune

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The Sky Is Falling

CraneThis past Friday when an enormous crane collapsed on the Upper East Side the city was thrown into high construction to alert.  It is almost impossible to live in Manhattan and not pass under scaffolding, walk by several cranes, and hear the sounds of a jackhammer breaking ground on your morning walk to school.  There are two monumental building projects going on within one block of my daughters’ elementary school-  Both of which entail extraordinary cranes,intricate cement funneling systems which reach at least 10 stories high, and tons of metal and electrical supplies being hauled by a cable into the air.  Hopscotching through the streets in order to avoid these buildings is like entering an obstacle course with no clear path.

But, this current crane collapse, coming only months after another deadly collapse, shows how important it is to keep our kids and ourselves far away from these sites.   Unfortunately, like all things in New York, it is incredibly easy to become blase after encountering one building site after another.  Why not just walk through the temporary sidewalk opening adjacent to the huge trucks?  After all, crossing the street is out of your way.  Why not walk underneath the scaffolding like everyone else even though 20 tons of steel are being lifted overhead?  Well, I offer two of my own experiences of being Chicken Little in a city where the sky can fall in an instant.

Several years ago as I walking home from the grocery store during a huge rainstorm I missed the light and got stuck at the corner.  I was basically cursing my terrible luck and getting soaked to the bone until finally the traffic cleared and I could dash across the street and under the scaffolding of the building on the opposite corner.  As I approached and ducked underneath an entire section of the scaffolding immediately in front of me came crashing down.   Had I made the light I would’ve been right underneath it.  Turns out someone had left cardboard and other materials on the top of the scaffolding which had become laden down with the rain and heavy enough to cause the metal sheeting to give.

My second brush with falling disaster came when my daughters were only 4 months old.  My husband and I were walking down a lovely tree lined block on the Upper West Side to see the apartment we had just made an offer on.  As we strolled down the picturesque brownstone street a women screamed, “f*****ck!”  And directly behind us, where we were standing just 5 second before, an air-conditioner came hurtling to the ground and smashed into pieces on the sidewalk.  We looked at each other in horror and a strange sense of hyper awareness, freaked out and incredulous but also relieved.  “What if?” is all that ran through my mind at that point.  That and the image of my 4 month old twins suddenly orphaned by the most random of circumstances.  Like some weird beginning to an episode of Six Feet Under.

So, I guess it doesn’t surprised my when things like huge crane accidents happen, or entire facades of buildings suddenly collapse.  It is an unfortunate side effect of living in a city where taller is the norm and people live in the sky.   We can hope, and expect,  that our mayor and the people in charge are doing all they can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  But, since I have little faith in those powers that be, and more faith in the randomness of this city, I make sure to look up every now and then, and avoid the areas where I can’t see the real sky through the beams.  I’d rather be Chicken Little than a Dead Duck.

This is an original post to New York City Moms Blog.

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Forever Fifteen

Welcome_3 So, I’m in the schoolyard and my friend comes running up to me because her friend texted her and told her that her guy’s ex-girlfriend was checking out her pictures on Facebook.  OMG.  Now she had to go and change her privacy settings, but not before she checked out the ex-girlfriends’ pictures which were all bikini pictures.  Like, all of them.  Who does that?

“What are you talking about?” I asked her, looking at her like she was speaking another language.  “You gotta get on Facebook,” she says to me.  “EVERYBODY is on Facebook.”  Now I find this hard to believe, because despite the fact that this seems like a scene out of Gossip Girl, we are in fact 36 years old, my friend is pregnant with her third child, and the schoolyard we’re in – well, its kindergarten pick up at my daughters’ public school.  How can this be true?  Can Facebook now be populated by thirty-something moms and dads trying to sneak peeks at their old high school flames?

Turns out that’s exactly who’s on Facebook.  And now I’m one of them.  When I first logged on it was with trepidation and a feeling of venturing outside of my comfort zone.  Despite being a blogger, I am not the kind of person who posts her pictures on flikr.  I shudder at the very thought of filling out my favorite books, music and movies for all the world to see.  But, then I found the friend finder function on Facebook, and find them I did.  There they were, two of my best friends in high school who I hadn’t seen in 15 years.  There was my best guy friend who I haven’t seen in 7 years. And there were the extended friends, the ones who were always at the same parties, the boys I may have hooked up with at some point in high school and who didn’t break my heart, and then maybe one or two who did.

Like a yenta matchmaker Facebook puts it all out there, gives you the intro, even goes so far as to suggest people you may know and want to friend.  Facebook gives you an in, a sense of bravery you’d never have if you Googled someone and randomly emailed them in come creepy stalkerish way.  Here I am friending people I sort of remember in a nice way, ignoring the people I wish I didn’t remember (and hello – do they not remember why we weren’t friends in real life?), and relishing finding my old friends whose pictures fill me with nostalgia and flat out love every time I see them.

So suddenly through the matchmaking wizardry of facebook I’m fifteen years old again, sort of.  I look forward to the messages from my friend in California, the one who could bring out my mean girl side like none other, and sort of believe her when she tells me she’s mellowed out.  I am having lunch tomorrow with a friend who from third grade until about sophomore year of college I always referred to as “my best friend” C______.  How we grew apart I don’t remember, but seeing her appear on Facebook made my heart flutter.  And, even though its not entirely real, isn’t it important to have those people in your life? The ones who saw you at your angst-ridden worst, your craziest best, through all kinds of bad hair and outfits, through some of your most vulnerable and your most empowered moments.  All the things that made growing up hard and wonderful at the same time, these people, even as thumbnails, collectively keep that part of you alive.

And so I’ve embraced Facebook whole heartedly.  I love the cheesy group of thirty somethings who all grew up in my Brooklyn neighborhood and are now posting group pictures to the site for all of us to cringe and laugh at.  I love the ease with which I can reconnect with a friend who I’ve wondered about but don’t feel the need to actually befriend again, and I love feeling fifteen – if only for a few minutes a day while checking in to Facebook.  Because really who’d want to go back to high school for real when visiting is so much more fun?

Original New York City Moms Blog Post

Admissions of an Admissions Survivor

Admissions I would like to think that if Dante wrote The Inferno today there would be a special circle of hell just for Kindergarten admissions in NYC.  And within that level there would be a VIP room for those of us with twins.  When I explain the process to friends and family living outside of NYC they look at me like I have 5 heads.  There were times during the process when I felt like I had five heads.  Between both of my daughters they took four IQ tests, for both private and public schools, a “School Readiness Assessment” for more public schools, went on four private school interview/play-dates, and 2 second round playdates at the specialized public schools.  We also entered 2 public school lotteries for the schools within our district that we were not zoned for.  Did I mention that my daughters were 4 years old at the time?

In the end we ended up at the out of zone public school that we most wanted from the beginning. Ironically enough, it is an all gen-ed school meaning that they do not separate out or track the students based on scores.  So, after all that testing what we realized was that we didn’t want our daughters at a school where they would be segregated based on their scores.  Whether we feel this way later on in our daughters’ education life I don’t know.  But, for now, we like the “all one family” vibe at our public school.

Now that my daughters’ kindergarten years are coming to an end,  I realize that the entire admissions process was like planning a wedding.  It is so easy to get caught up in the insanity of the planning, the competition, the scary statistics and rumors swirling around that you lose sight of the end result.  In the case of a wedding you forget that what’s really important is the marriage after, and in the case of admissions its all about the schooling your child will receive.  No matter how much you may have your heart set on one school or another you really have no idea if will be right for your child until you are in the thick of it.

And – take a deep breath here – if it doesn’t work out, you will move your kid.  Yes, its a pain.  Yes, there will be some transitioning and rough spots.  But, that is part of education too.  Not everything works out as we picture it and learning to adjust and shift our expectations isn’t the worst thing in the world.  This year I’ve had the distinct opportunity to compare two very different teachers within the same grade, in the same school.  Having twins gives you this special eye into things.   I can tell you that I am not happy to have the comparison because one of the classes is so much stronger than the other.  Have I lost faith in the school?  No.  Will I give it one more year?  Yes.  And then if it doesn’t work out, if the school I fell in love with was not the right place for one of my daughters, I may sign up all over again to ride on the admissions the roller coaster.  I can feel another head sprouting already…

Original post to New York City Moms Blog.

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Not Really Rosie

Rosie This past weekend I took my daughters to the Atlantic Theater Company’s production of Really Rosie.  It was one of those moments you look forward to as a mother, when you get to take your kids to something that you loved as a kid and watch them fall in love with it too.  They’d listened to the CD of Really Rosie hundreds of times, one of my daughters had been studying Maurice Sendak’s  “Chicken Soup with Rice” poems at school and even cooked up a pot at a big chicken soup celebration.  So, when I saw this rare revival advertised in New York Magazine I jumped at the chance.  Well, it didn’t go as well as I had planned.

First of all poor Rosie seemed to be the victim of gentrification.  See, Rosie is a little girl with a huge personality, chutzpah, delusions of grandeur and above all a mop of dark, unruly hair which exemplifies her eccentric, Flatbush, Brooklyn Jewish self.  Think of a young Bette Midler.  However, this Rosie had straight blond hair and was about as Flatbush as Paris Hilton.   And then to make matters worse she wasn’t dressed like she threw on her mother’s, or better yet, grandmother’s fancy-schmancy clothes, she looked more like Cyndi Lauper in the 80s – purposefully mismatched and a little kooky, but certainly not charmingly fabulous.

So, there we were in our pseudo Rosie experience and the music began and of course Carole King never fails, so my girls are engrossed and I get over the shiksa Rosie.  But, then the music stops and out comes the dialog.  Now, I love Maurice Sendak.  I appreciate the scary brilliance of Where the Wild Things Are.  But, the book of Really Rosie is one long nasty back and forth between bratty kids.  Of course kids today call each other “stupid.”  They can be as mean and cruel as ever, but there was something so old school about seeing these actors portray kids as nothing but whiny and petulant.  There was a lot of talk about killing and hating each other.  Needless to say my daughters wanted to leave at that point.  After all, they can see real kids acting this way every day at school where they can walk away from them.  They don’t need to sit in a theater for the privilege.  But, we stayed because thankfully the music began again.

And, suddenly the true charm of Really Rosie became clear. This is a story about a bunch of kids with no real toys, no TV, no Disney-made costumes, no Target play shoes.  The thrill of being a kid is turning an old garbage bag into a cape, using a good old-fashioned broom stick as a microphone, and creating a spotlight from an old flashlight.  The show is about the real, spontaneous, organic imagination that every child possesses but today we feel the need to supply.  These kids were left on their own to play, fight and create. It was messy, disorganized and perfect.  The very opposite of all of the craft driven, parent-directed play-dates my daughters seem to have.

When we went home that night I dragged out my pile of sad bridesmaid dresses, dusted off old high heels and junky costume jewelry.  I will not be replacing my daughters too-small “Belle” costume, or purchasing another set of plastic high heels.  It’s not a huge deal, I know.  But, I can’t help but think the world could use more authentic Really Rosies, and fewer Disney Princesses. While I know I can’t entirely rid their world of pre-made “play” and manufactured fun, Rosie reminded me of why its important to try.  So, even though Really Rosie wasn’t exactly the musical I had remembered, the message of unbridled girlhood imagination still rang true.  As Rosie would say, “Belieeeeeeeve meeeeee.”

Original post to New York City Moms Blog.

How to Raise Real New Yorkers

Bwaysign On a recent Sunday afternoon as we were weaving our way through the crowds on our way to see a matinee of Mary Poppins one of my five year old daughters casually asked, “what are XXX live nude girls?”  The tourists huddled on the corner around us laughed.  Yes, some pre-Disney vestiges of old Times Square do still exist.  “Well, um, nude means naked,” I replied.  My daughter’s eyes widened as she tried to make sense of this and I braced myself for the inevitable follow up question.  Instead she and her sister started laughing.  “Naked girls?  That’s so silly.  Why would girls want to be naked in a theater?”   And, I wimped out and pointed across the street excitedly, “Look girls M&M World!  Let’s get some for the show!”  Naked girls soon forgotten.    No where in my “You-can-be-anything-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up” speech  is there a section for pole dancing.  But, still these kinds of questions are inevitable when you live in a walking city like New York.

The biggest cliché one hears when raising kids in the city is that they grow up too fast.  People are referring of course to sex and drugs – the Gossip Girl paradigm.  But, more to the point is that kids in the city see way more on an average walk to school than any suburban kid sees in a month – or maybe ever.  Last year at my daughters’ preschool anxious parents asked our preschool director how best to prepare our kids for the IQ and standardized tests they would be taking for kindergarten admission.  Her answer – you live in New York City, everything you do is preparation for those tests.  A stroll down Broadway with my 5 year old twin girls is a mini life lesson in social studies, science, history, math and good old fashioned marketing techniques 101.  Pass the homeless man living in a box on the church steps, give lesson about poverty, misfortune, being grateful and having compassion.  Walk by Fairway Market with its multitude of fruits and vegetables spilling out on to the sidewalk and categorize, weigh them, discuss country of origin.  Pop into the pet store to look at the birds and fish and get a quick zoology fix, and then, sheer bliss for my girls, walk by the toy store with the hundreds of Webkinz in the window, all placed at preschool eye level.  Go into said store for 20 minutes to pet and ogle and wistfully dream of the Webkinz they may or may not have in their future, while figuring out how many weeks of allowance it will take to save up for the purchase.  All of this in a typical ten block walk home from school everyday.

Of course all of this stimulation and visual eye candy has its price.  Occasionally there are advertisements which are truly disturbing glaring out of a bus shelter or phone booth.  For an entire month my daughters refused to go downtown to my mother’s apartment if it meant we would ride on the West Side Highway.  There was an enormous billboard looming over the road for some horror film, and the very sight of it filled them with fear and anxiety.   The only thing you can impart to your child in that situation is to close your eyes.  Which really isn’t the worst thing to teach.  After all, I want my daughters to know that they don’t have to be passive participants in the media barrage that surrounds them.

Yes its exhausting answering all of those questions that come up each and every day as they try and make sense of the diverse world around them.  But, its worth it when I see the constant curiosity that this city inspires in them.  Because its not just the museums and cultural institutions which make this city such a rich place in which to raise my kids, but the way they’ve learned to navigate the subway and the sandbox, or strut down Broadway commenting on the way the neighborhood has changed in their short lifespan (all those banks!), or stroll along the Hudson River watching the boats go by. I am glad that they’re growing up this way – not faster, but maybe savvier.  And positively New Yorkers to the core.

 

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