Raising kids in this city I love

last week at the Met
last week at the Met

Last week I took Simon and a friend to the Met on one of the days they were out of school. A comment on Instagram was how thinking about trips to cool places in the city makes her want to move here stat! I’m all for more of my friends moving close to ME! While I feel we do take advantage of what the city has to offer – there are some challenges to living here that are unique to city living. Not harder necessarily, but different.

Simon's first trip to the Met - 3 weeks old.
Simon’s first trip to the Met – 3 weeks old.

Because of the dissertation and my data collection in Indiana I’ve spent more cumulative time there this year since I moved to NYC in 2005. In various combinations of myself alone and with one or both kids I’ve spent six weeks this year in the state of my birth. Then my mom, sister and niece (who is about to turn one) spent a week here in the spring and one at the end of the summer.

On the roof before getting a pass to cut the McQueen line.
On the roof before getting a pass to cut the McQueen line.

I asked my sister, and her list was pretty similar to mine. These are things I have dealt with on a daily basis since becoming a parent, so I don’t really think about it all that much. But the time in the mid-west brought it into more focus. So here is the short version.

  • It’s hard not having a car because a) you have to carry everything you might need in a day and b) kids touch/lick things and public transit leaves a lot of questionable surfaces in reach of tiny fingers (and tongues; oh your kids don’t lick everything? you’re lucky)
  • It’s loud.
  • Not a lot of space/no yard to lock them outside in.

The longer version with details and specific scenarios if you want to read another 900 words on the topic:

We don’t have a car. We don’t want a car either and the public transit here is great. But for the last several months we have had a weekly appointment in the city that usually involves me taking both kids on the train after school (when they are fried) to the appointment and then home again during rush hour. The appointment is about 8 miles away. It’s a 40-minute trip. Those aspects I can deal with, but add tired cranky kids and a bazillion people and sometimes it would be so easy to throw the kids in the car and drive somewhere.

-We don’t have a car. This means that if we are going somewhere everything we take with us needs to fit in a bag to carry or in the stroller. In the neighborhood this isn’t a big deal usually. We are usually going to the park so can load up the stroller, or to a restaurant that is close enough to home that a spare diaper in my bag and a baby carrier are fine. But then there are those trips into the city for an appointment or errand (I shop online A LOT) and the bigger trips where if we are going in it’s to make a day of it. We can’t just throw things in the trunk of the car and it’s in the parking lot.

Questions I ask myself almost every time I leave the apartment:

How many diapers? Do I really need that change of clothes? (did I ever blog about that time Simon had a blowout at the Natural History Museum and there was basically no where to buy an outfit anywhere nearby for less than $75 so we walked seemingly FOREVER to get to a Gap…) Can they share a water bottle or does everybody need there own? Is it worth the fight to make them share? What about snacks, bring or buy? One or two toys MAX and if you lose it too bad so don’t bring special things. Will this all fit in my purse or is it a backpack day?

It’s a delicate balance. Do we need the stroller? If we take the big one are we going to be near a subway stop with an elevator? Will the small one be worth the extra thing – sometimes it’s nice just to hold stuff if we are shopping. If we need to take a bus the big stroller is out because if doesn’t fold easily. Is having to unpack and fold the umbrella worth it, or just pack less? How tired are the kids going to get, I’ll take one carrier always but does Rob need one too? If it’s a backpack day do I plan to put kid on front or kid on back and backpack on front?

Now that the boys are bigger I mostly bring one carrier, a water bottle, and sometimes a change of underwear and pants for Caleb if I remember. I wear a kid and carry a kid a lot. We spend a lot of time sitting on sidewalks next to buildings “resting” also known as waiting out the kid on a walking strike. Some of these things come up with all kids no matter where you are, but some days man, it would be nice to be able to pick them up and get to a car instead of knowing I have an hour more of this.

-We could take a Cab or an Uber or whatnot. But then there is the car seat issue. I’m not taking the seats with me. It is legal to ride in a cab without a carseat, but then there is a risk benefit analysis of how far/what roads/how fast/how emergent is this. Sometimes the answer is yes. Most times it is not.

– We walk. A lot. Kids get tired. Parents get tired. The problem with walking somewhere is you then have to walk back. If there is a stroller that can’t be folded and only a bus, then walking still has to happen.

– Everything is an hour away. Even things that are geographically close. It’s nearly impossible to go home between things if you have two things in one day unless one or both are local.

– Even if you have a car you have to plan on circling for parking. And finding parking. And moving your car for alternate side parking. People I know who have a car and make it work mostly have one parent who stays home and thus drives a lot. Note* driving the car means you may spend a lot of time sitting in your car after a kid falls asleep because you aren’t necessarily parked close to where you live.

We have a pretty small living space. Everything we own fits into our 710 square feet. My sister’s house in Indiana isn’t all that much bigger 800ish I think. But. We don’t have a yard or a deck, or attic or garage or shed storage. This makes holding onto kid stuff challenging. We use our second bathtub (how great is it that we have a 2 bath) as storage. There is a game here called “store my stuff at other people’s homes”. For example, when Simon outgrew his Jumperoo I then passed it around to friends who could use it until I needed it again. My maternity wardrobe went through seven pregnancies before I let it all go (Caleb was 7). So while we all have too much stuff, it’s really obvious in a small space and my kids don’t really have large scale toys, we get/keep things that can come apart to store in a box.

-We don’t have a yard. I can’t send them outside alone. If we need to go outside, I have to go with them to a park. We have a fabulous park, but it does mean there is no leaving laundry going or putting something in the oven like I could do if we were in our yard.

-It’s loud. There are sirens, and trains, and honking, and people, and noise. My kids are used to it and luckily if they are going to sleep will sleep through most any noise. But a kid who is used to quiet – it’s tough.

Despite all of this, I don’t want to leave. So I guess this means a blog post about all of the awesomeness about raising kids in this city I love is due too.

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