This vs. That. Left vs. Right. Gay vs. Straight. Butter vs. Margarine. Breeders vs. Ballers. It would seem that we human beings are hard-wired to compare everything. And in the comparing, we become competitive and not just collectors of information. It ends up being My Way vs. Everyone Else’s Way or simply put, “LA LA LA LA LA I can’t HEAR you LA LA LA LA my way my way my way”. I’ve found that this is particularly true in the parenting conversations. I’d guess that through my empirical research (of thinking in my head) that the reason parents get so hot when defending their parenting style choices is that if they were wrong, holy cow. That sucks to actually parent in the wrong way. So, it’s best to defend one’s choices to the death. Clearly.
I’ve heard more than one time, from more than one person, that they could never raise their child in New York City. This is usually followed by a somewhat disingenuous caveat “But you of course seem to be doing fine with it…”
I get it. Totally. No space, unpredictable wacked out people on the subways, the filth, the crime. I apologize daily in my heart to my son for not having a bigger home (though he never ever has seemed to want more space), and I wonder how awesome it would feel for him to hop on a bicycle in front of his home and cruise around in a cul-de-sac like his cousins in Utah do. He is filled with wonder by all things suburban: Malls, shopping centers, and drive-thru’s. These are pure magic to my city kid.
But I don’t doubt for a single minute that Roan benefits so much from growing up in this city. He has a wicked sense of navigation on the subway. My 6-year-old can get you uptown, across town, and even out-of-town pretty much on his own. I like that. He’s confident walking through subway stations and operating subway turnstiles. Roan knows to give up a seat to someone elderly (like me), he knows to avoid eye contact with strangers who are acting strangely. He also can walk miles and miles in a day, because we do not own a car and that’s the deal. A really cool perk of living here? About 80% of the things he sees on TV shows (Sesame Street, Cyber Chase, etc.) are things he can actually visit if they piqué his interest. Everything is just a subway ride away.
My city kid has started using city kid lingo. He says, “I’ll wet you” when threatening to throw a water balloon. We didn’t say that in Colorado. He tells me to get “on-line” not “in line” which still sounds funny in my Colorado ears. He calls the corner store a “Bodega” and not a corner store, and has started fluidly turning the phrase, “How ya doin? How’s everything?” like an old school neighborhood guy. Roan thinks all things are delivered and really they are. From dinner to laundry to groceries, everything comes to our front door.
And I was raised in exactly the opposite way, by an opposite set of parents in an opposite land. I think back on summer nights spent running around like a banshee with parents nowhere in sight, and having to get in a car for every single outing. I was happy. Roan is happy. And I think that in this battle of raising a kid in the city vs. raising a kid in the suburbs, the answer is: kids are kids and have a capacity to be happy in pretty much any circumstance as long as they know they’re loved. And parents are parents, regardless of population or geography. Parents have the capacity to make a child thrive even in the most difficult of circumstances, be that suburban or urban.
But still, you demand a winner in this versus match? Ok, city kids win. But that’s just because I’m raising my kid in a city. And also? Where else could Roan and Rowan dance while Rowan’s mother, Brooke Shields, and I lament about the cost of the gymnastics class our kids are going to? (I know it’s obvious, but I’ve been dying to fit in a way to get that story into Pistols. Desperate and sad, I know. But true!). And as I said, it’s best to defend one’s choices to the death. Clearly.
What about you? Where are you, and how’s it going? Would you move to the other side if you could?