young city life

I read this article in the Globe the other day, written seemingly on a lark, by a woman who brought her two little boys back the South End (Boston’s Brooklyn, replete with brownstones tugged from the hands of artists who were there first) for a weekend, “to see what it was like living in the city.”

It annoyed me that it was implied that living in the city for a weekend was in any way close to actually living in the city. Like if I went to Spain for a weekend, I could then write about how crazy it is to have kids in Spain.

But to my surprise, even in that short amount of time, she quickly experienced and noted the tough stuff about city life with young children. By the end of it, I didn’t feel that it was a romantic article. In fact, it was the good stuff about city life that didn’t get fair play.

bistro

Tough stuff: 1/ You are conscious of your close neighbors whenever your children behave like children, and are noisy—crying, stomping, jumping, dancing. You worry that they hate the noise and aren’t complaining out of cringing kindness. 2/ You experience meltdowns in public places regularly because you started the two mile walk back home just a little bit too close to nap time.  3/ You spend less time dwelling at home because home is actually pretty small. 4/ If you use your car, you often can’t find parking close to your apartment, and therefore add 10-15 minutes of walking to your trip home.

elevators

Anything written about this, at my stage of life, must be caveated by the fact that having young children in the city is deemed the toughest. Asking your three-year-old to walk six blocks at the end of the day because you couldn’t find parking and didn’t bring your stroller on the car-adventure, yes, that’s tough. Living on the fifth floor and having the elevator break for most of the summer, yes, it slows you down on your way in and out, particularly when the one-year-old likes to climb stairs on her own. Hopping on the T is complicated by the presence of a stroller and a snack-loaded bag, no matter how small the bag and how slim the stroller. Rest assured the T car will be dead silent when one of yours throws a screaming tantrum, as well. The fact that your children can never wander outside on their own, with you simply watching from the window is tough and feels restraining, even unfair (to them) at times.

Having a nine year old, on the other hand, who is allowed to run to the corner market to pick up milk, who can walk side-by-side with you on the way to class before you go to work, who can name five friends who live within walking distance, and knows which train line to take the the museum, that is nice.

So I can see the future and the future is promising.

bridge

But back to the present: here are just a few things I like, limited to four lest I drone on.

1/ Every walk turns into an ad hoc lecture and discussion as we encounter new signs, businesses, cars, people, or destinations. Almost as if the city coaches me into talking to and engaging with my child. It’s probably just Boston traffic talking, but I never have these type of discussions when we’re in the car.

2/ I get excited about visiting new places. New coffee shops, bakeries, markets, parks, these things get me out of the house. They are probably the primary reason I live in the city at all. Your children have a calibrated barometer on your mood and know very well the things that please you. It makes me happy to know that Lux knows I’m excited about what we are doing, and that she gets excited too.

3/ You learn that the “tough stuff” is actually not that bad. It doesn’t matter how many people see your child freak out. It’s not really that big of a deal if you go out to eat and it goes terribly. It’s actually pretty fun to get stuck on a long walk in the rain, even if the baby does cry the whole way. In the end, you always end up home, and you always begin again the next day.

4/ Hyper-awareness of strangers. I like that the girls see so many strangers every day, they get very good and clear about whether they want to interact with them. If they aren’t feeling it, it’s obvious (here I’m remembering Lux dropping everything and sprinting towards me when she didn’t like an older lady that had started talking to her) and I don’t have to worry about them wandering into something. Conversely, I like that no one is really surprising to them. They see people from all over the world smiling at them every day (even if they choose not to smile back!).

What do you like about where you live? What’s tough? I’d love to hear.

 

 

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22 Comments on "young city life"

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Katrina Harrington
Katrina Harrington
2 years 10 months ago
I always admire how you parent in the city with grace, and I do wish we had the cool things to do in Boston. We are really lucky to live a few blocks close to the campus in the city so I like that we can walk to the nice park there and to church. There are also two lakes, wide open quads and tons of giant, old trees to explore. I’ve discovered that having all of this in walking distance is so essential to my well-being as a mom. I fell in love with walking everywhere when I did… Read more »
lauraaaaaa
lauraaaaaa
2 years 10 months ago
Oh man. What a great/timely post. I have been reflecting on these issues now, two months into our new city (Philadelphia – before, we lived in Cambridge). I think some cities are better set up for families than others. For example, in Philly you can’t bring an unfolded stroller on the bus or trolley. I did that all the time in Cambridge – it was so easy to just fold up the seats and bring it on. It’s really impeded our ability to explore more, which bums me out. Along that same vein, walk up life is super tough.. since… Read more »
Bernadette
Bernadette
2 years 9 months ago
Welcome to Philly! I really wish I still lived in the city, but my husband is a Jersey boy and doesn’t like city living (although he loves visiting). I was definitely in better shape when I lived on a third floor apartment in South Philly! We live in a 2nd floor apartment near the high speed line, so we do sometimes take that into the city, and I agree, navigating public transportation with a toddler can be hard — but for awhile, he behaved so much better on the train/subway than in the carseat. I do love walking (soooo slowly)… Read more »
Jana @ One Drawing a Day
2 years 10 months ago

I love living close to the beach-it never gets old!

Becklist
Becklist
2 years 10 months ago
We live in Oakland and I like being able to walk to pretty much anything we need/want…except for nature. Sure there are lovely parks big and small but I like getting out into some real fresh air and I just can’t get to that without a car (which we don’t have right now). Before I had my child I was a big city lover. The diversity, events, culture, networking, public transportation, ease of civic engagement and joining of social movements live and in person – I loved, lived and breathed it. I still do, but I find myself wanting to… Read more »
Ashley
Ashley
2 years 10 months ago
Hi Rachael- great post! I read the other article too… And just could t really relate at all. That’s not me trying to be ultra hip and urban- I just really couldn’t imagine the feeling of needing a suburban context for children. But, I didn’t grow up in a suburban context so that is probably why. I grew up in a rural context, and that I definitely miss that on occasion! Partially the way small communities run. I love living in Chicago with Mae though! It sounds silly, but I really usually find one thing a day that I’m really… Read more »
Erin Clifford
Erin Clifford
2 years 10 months ago
I love living in the city (we live in Toronto), although I do find it more difficult with two than one (esp public transit) I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world. A couple of months while I was looking for a new job my husband suggested that I look at a small town nearby and I almost broke into tears thinking about all of the things the girls (as well as he and I) would miss out on – the food, the walking everywhere, the cultural events, the history and character that our neighbourhood has. I think… Read more »
Andrea Barnett
Andrea Barnett
2 years 10 months ago
This is great, Rachael. Every few years we entertain the idea of opening another restaurant and making a go of it in NYC, but then I start thinking about how much fun screaming tantrums would be with close neighbors, and two dogs to walk and…. yeah. You make it sound almost enjoyable though. Even though Portland drives me crazy sometimes, I think we’ve become really spoiled living here. And like the above commenter said, some cities really aren’t great for kids, some are. Portland is a small city, but still has all the culture, restaurants, events, and public transportation we… Read more »
Tara
Tara
2 years 10 months ago

YES to tough thing #1. We have the 2nd and 3rd floors of a brownstone in Charlestown and I’m so aware of the noise we make. Our downstairs neighbor, who is super nice, swears he can’t hear us but I’m SURE he is lying as my 4.5yo and 2yo boys jump, run and crash all over the place. But it’s all the good stuff that keeps us here and I imagine (or hope!) the noise will go down as we exit the toddler years.

Tracy
Tracy
2 years 10 months ago
We live in Orleans, on Cape Cod, where my husband grew up. The bad: It can be limiting as far as meeting other young families, since the population is dominated by retirees, and it’s lacking in ethnic and racial diversity. There’s also not a lot to do once summer winds down. The good: My little ones and I are at the beach all year long, exploring, swimming, and taking it all in. When my older boys get home from school we can head out into woods, mudflats, beaches to run and play. We can get to places that are jaw-droppingly… Read more »
Blaze
Blaze
2 years 10 months ago
I always love reading about your adventures with littles in Boston, my favorite big city! We live in Santa Barbara Ca, my hometown. We live in a nice neighborhood five minutes from the beach with a beautiful park across the street and a small lake around the corner. The weather is pretty much perfect year around and everywhere is a quick drive with no traffic. But lately we’ve been seriously talking about moving to my husbands hometown near Portland, Maine, mainly because housing is so insane here. We rent and even though my husband has a great job it will… Read more »
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