Welcome to Kids in the City
There’s irony in me launching a page called Kids in the City. I was one, true, and so were my parents and grandparents, and my children are two more, but even though New York City has been our home for generations, I’ve never considered myself much of a city kid.
I’m not what most people picture when they think of a New Yorker. I don’t like to shop. I fail to recognize celebrities and designer labels. I’m not especially aggressive. I like birdwatching and baking. I don’t own a BlackBerry or an iPhone. Sometimes I wish I had been planted somewhere else, somewhere smaller, more low-key. But my roots are deep in Manhattan, so here I am, and here to stay.
For me, the project then becomes: in a huge, noisy, vibrant, high-pressure, high-achieving city like New York, how do you raise children with a small-town sense of community, of responsibility, of modesty, practicality, and pragmatism? How do you expose them to the city’s extraordinary delights without making them into jaded snobs? How do you protect them from its excesses? I hope this space will host an ongoing conversation.
Becoming a parent in the city of my birth has made me more conscious of how I live here. Tucked away in a quiet corner of Yorkville, right up against the East River and Carl Schurz Park, I can tune in to the changing seasons and the cycles of plants and animals, and make sure Clare, 9, and David, 7, learn those habits too. The liquid voices of the cardinals are back on the block this week, and the witch hazel is blooming in the park. I’ve introduced this idea in an earlier essay, Field Notes from 89th Street in The Morning News.
I’m trying to open their eyes to the small natural details in their urban world, while closing their ears (and my own) to the anxious background hum of parents and peers who focus on Accomplishment to the exclusion of more important things. I want them to find passions to pursue-and in a city like this one almost any passion is pursuable at the highest level-but I also want them to find a peaceful place to curl up and read. That endlessly tricky balance will be another theme, one I’ve already begun to explore on this site (see “Late Bloomer“).
This space will be about charting a course through the city: seeing through its distractions to the universalities of being a parent or a child anywhere, celebrating its diversity and its too-muchness. I used to think growing up in New York had spoiled me for living anywhere else. Now I believe it prepared me for everywhere, and everything. Learning to focus on a few true things amid the clamor of a city is a form of meditation, a useful discipline for the mind. Especially the perennially distracted mind of a parent.
Photo by edenpictures.
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