As the move became more likely and my online searching was nearly incessant, we booked a flight for us to see the areas I had been researching firsthand. We decided to bring along our seven year old, to do a trial run of parenting around the city.
Initial thoughts on our move
When the possibility of us moving to NYC first came up, I envisioned this super hip, chic lifestyle awaiting us. New York seemed like the coolest place to raise a child, period. The diversity, the learning opportunities, all of the arts and culture–the possibilities of things to do there are endless, of course. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect based on other peoples’ encounters, New York online publication write-ups about the different areas, (and honestly, maybe a little bit based on movies and TV shows).
Mark, on the other hand, was more interested in the suburbs. This came as no surprise to me: he grew up in the suburbs of Houston and had, many times, tried to convince me into moving out of the city. We butted heads a bit on the matter.
Our visit: Manhattan
Our first days in the city, Mark had to work. Tobias and I took advantage of the free time by exploring Times Square, sitting in the first row of a Broadway show, touring Central Park, and visiting an art exhibit that I had been seeing all over Instagram.
Why New York City wasn’t for our family
We had a blast in the city, don’t get me wrong. But on day one, Tobias consistently wandered far out of my sight as he was shopping around Times Square–in a way that I don’t usually worry about or reprimand him for. We shop near each other and not attached at the hip. But the crowds were unbearable, and frankly, scary when I couldn’t see which aisle he had gone down.
He claimed the M&M store was too much walking, when Google maps estimate the walk time to be one minute from the doors of the hotel in which we were staying. One minute. I could hardly imagine subway travel with this kid day-to-day.
Granted, he had been up at an ungodly hour (4:30 a.m.-ish) for the first flight out of Houston, and he was likely tired. But, the following day, when he was playing on Central Park playground following our tour of the park, I noticed that nearly every time he wasn’t in the same place I had last seen him before I read a page in my book, my heart would stop until I placed him. The casual days I imagined relaxing at the park to escape a tiny apartment while my kids played with friends at the park were seeming pretty unrealistic.*
Though I had pretty much ruled out living in NYC, we still took a 45 minute train to check out a neighborhood in which I found that we’d be able to afford to buy a condo, live in it with our dog we’ve had for three years, and Tobias would go to a good public school.
Upon arriving to the neighborhood, the first thing that came from my son’s lips was, “Why does it smell like pee here?” That kind of sums it up. We explored a bit more, saw some of the kids that were just a little older than him, cussing every other word and crossing the street, and got an impression that can be best described by the single photo I took in the area:
Disclaimer: I realize that Crime in New York City has significantly dwindled since the crack epidemic of the 80’s and 90’s. I’m not a helicopter mom, on any account, either. Maybe that’s the problem for me: I can’t keep a distant watchful eye on my child in a crowd. I’d have to be up close, personal, and a Helicopter mom.