The Last Hurrah

There is a time of year in New York when the weather grows cooler, days become shorter, and moms engage in a myriad of seasonal city rituals. Fueled by gingerbread lattes and pumpkin muffins, we busily unpack vacuum-sealed bags of woolen and cashmere sweaters while basking in the fragrance of pine scented candles. In our spare time, we take our kids on nature walks through Central Park in search of Autumn’s kaleidoscope of blazing colors, a seasonal reminder that change is, in fact, beautiful. We fill our bellies with hot chocolate and tiny marshmallows while watching the leaves flutter to the ground at our neighborhood playgrounds. In only a few short weeks, this concrete jungle will be hidden under a blanket of snow and the picturesque tree-lined streets of the Upper East Side will become a wintry obstacle course of slush lagoons and heaping mounds of yellow-tainted snow (yuck).

In New York, most people navigate the city by foot, which means our children are invariably outside even on the coldest of winter days. And city kids are remarkably resilient, using their mittens to brush off serrated icicles before swinging from monkey bars at the playground. But dressing these children in multiple layers and outfitting them with winter-ready accessories can be an arduous undertaking for parents and caretakers. My attempts to put a winter coat on my youngest are often met with meltdowns of epic proportions and blood-curdling screams akin only to medieval torture. There are many afternoons I raise my white flag of surrender and spend the afternoon reading books or doing craft projects with the kids in our apartment merely to avoid this imminent struggle.

It seems inconceivable that Mother Nature’s grand finale for October was met with short sleeves and open windows. But now, in a veritable race against time, NYC families are scrambling to participate in outdoor activities while the temperature is mild enough for even the most vulnerable little ones without the use of bulky snow suits and polar accessories. It seems like mere days ago we made our annual pilgrimage to Harbes Family Farm in Mattituck, NY.  Comfortably clad in only in flannel shirts and jeans, we bypassed the painful process of layering and spent hours delighting in the farm’s many attractions. A refreshing departure from mundane strolls through pumpkin patches, the farm is home to an impressive 8-acre Barnyard Adventure. This city kid’s wonderland boasts an assortment of family-friendly attractions including pony rides, petting zoo, face painting, gem mining, pig races and more. Framed by velvety green pastures, a colorful jumbo trampoline sets the Barnyard Adventure apart from all other farms of its kind. A treat for children of all ages, the bouncy apparatus was an instant favorite among our crew. It’s no mystery why NYC families make the trek out East to visit this agricultural oasis. Harbes hasn’t forgotten about the adults either. After several hours of chaperoning boisterous children, parents can delight in some liquid patience from the Wine Barn on premises. Paired with their scrumptious apple cider donuts, this is the perfect adults-only afternoon snack. As the sunshine warmed my face for perhaps the very last time this season, I delighted in knowing that in only a few short months we will once again leave our apartment without the dreaded trifecta of winter coats, tears, and temper tantrums.

 

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Bridging The Gap 

As children turn 3 or 4, New York City parents often start considering the possibility of moving to the suburbs. After all, raising children here is not for the faint of heart. Living in New York City offers our children a myriad of rich cultural experiences and exposes them to a melting pot of ethnic diversity. But at what expense? In this sprawling metropolis, it’s virtually impossible to shelter our kids from the poverty, profanity-laced conversations and vulgar displays of human indecency found on the city sidewalks. Eager to ditch the concrete jungle for backyards and barbecues, thousands of Manhattan families every year partake in a mass exodus to the suburbs of Long Island, Westchester and New Jersey. But that leaves us, the courageous leftovers, addicted to the urban hustle and determined to raise well-adjusted, resilient kids in the world’s very best city.

Wouldn’t life be easier if we could open our back door and let our children spill out into the yard? Absolutely! But with Central Park only a few short blocks away and a multitude of iconic New York attractions at our fingertips, city kids are exposed to an exhilarating, diverse environment that challenges their curiosities and nurtures their desire to know more about their world. Sure, my kids may not have 3,000 square feet to stash the toys they seldom use, but after nap on any given day they will experience the thrills of riding the tram to Roosevelt Island, playing peek-a-boo with the animals in the Central Park Zoo, or studying the colossal dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History.  Although at times it would be nice to have a bit more space, I feel so very privileged to offer my kids these unique adventures.

Whenever we have the opportunity, we strive to engage in quintessential New York City experiences and have amassed quite a bucket list of Big Apple essentials. Last weekend we capitalized on the unseasonably warm conditions and embarked on an expedition by foot across the Brooklyn Bridge. The elegance of this beloved landmark of grandiose proportion is surpassed only by the breathtaking views of lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, and Freedom Tower. While walking the promenade, I couldn’t help but marvel at the potpourri of both tourists and NYC dwellers – a veritable melting pot of ethnic and cultural diversity. It is my hope that continuous immersion in such a heterogeneous city will encourage my children to grow into compassionate adults who understand and respect similarities and differences amongst people in their communities.

Once across the bridge, we wandered through Brooklyn Bridge Park in Dumbo, where the kids galloped through the large lawns like wild stallions against a backdrop of the most magnificent Manhattan sky-line. And no trip across the bridge would be complete without a visit to Jane’s carousel, the majestic waterfront merry-go-round enclosed in a genuine glass jewel box. The exquisite attention to detail is as extraordinary as the panoramic view from within the ornate crystal enclosure. Horses painted with genuine gold leaf are adorned with custom bridles hand-painted by the same authorized agent who puts finishing touches on the finest Mercedes-Benz vehicles. As the blazing afternoon sun began to weaken, I watched as my son circled round and round, dipping and rising to the tune of life’s most simple melody. There he was – my little boy, riding off into the sunset – the city at his back and only the horizon ahead. Sometimes in life we need to take a step back to see the beauty of what’s right in front of us. It was in this moment I felt so overcome with gratitude for the opportunity to rediscover this awe-inspiring metropolis through the eyes of my children. You see, while we may not have the picture-perfect suburban home and private back yard surrounded by a white picket fence, what we have is far more valuable. We have New York – the “Big Apple,” “the city that never sleeps,’’ the “concrete jungle.” And here, anything is possible. 

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Mom Plans, G-d Laughs

In lieu of a calendar, I’ve always relied on Starbucks to notify me of the upcoming shifting seasons. When is the first day of Fall? As soon as the Pumpkin Spiced Latte makes its seasonal arrival, of course! After several days of fueling myself with autumnal drinks that spark a cult-like following, I was itching to celebrate the commencement of Fall with an afternoon of family-friendly seasonal activities. Aside from scoring a new pair of limited edition Louboutins, nothing tickles my fancy quite like meandering through a field of vibrantly colored pumpkins with my children or picking apples at our favorite orchard.  For the past several years, Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard has provided us with the most perfect destination for family fun amidst a backdrop of crinkly leaves under foot, crisp red apples begging to be picked, and the aroma of fresh apple cider donuts in the air. And for parents whose children stage imperfectly-timed meltdowns on their grounds, rest assured – their spiked cider is some of the best I’ve had.

We couldn’t wait to make our annual pilgrimage to Harvest Moon this Fall and had been looking forward to our visit all week. I made an elaborate mental blueprint of our day from start to finish beginning with photos in the pumpkin patch followed by pony rides and culminating with apple picking. Spending the afternoon traipsing through the picturesque countryside with my little sidekicks would be nothing short of delightful. After draping myself in my favorite fur vest (because what else should one wear apple picking?) we packed the car with all the essentials (extra layers, camera, bottles of water and several pairs of shoes for different terrain). But despite my painstaking efforts to adhere to a thorough agenda for the afternoon, what ensued could best be described as sheer pandemonium. We’ve all heard the bitter Yiddish proverb, “Man plan, g-d laughs,” but the individual who coined this expression of wisdom was most certainly referring to my life in a nutshell.

What I had anticipated would be a mild September afternoon actually capped out at a sweltering 91 degrees. The assumption that we would have quintessential Fall weather was only my first of many miscalculations about how the afternoon would transpire. What a fool. Luckily I was able to change into a more weather appropriate outfit I had stashed in our car. As we entered the pumpkin patch my ordinarily easygoing 16-month old clung to me like a current-season pair of Manolo’s at a sample sale. Seemingly overwhelmed by the mass quantity of future jack-o’-lanterns, she fought me tooth and nail as I tried to lower her to the ground. What about the photos? How can I possibly get the highly-coveted instagram-worthy shots if I can’t even set her down for a moment? Mom plans, G-d laughs. As I snapped away for the next few minutes, the images I captured were ones of an adorably nurturing older sibling and the cutest pouty lip on this side of the Hudson. The unwavering connection between these two had never been so palpable as in these tender moments. And although the images weren’t the idealized representation of children in a pumpkin patch, they epitomized the chaotic reality of parenthood.

Next on the agenda – apple picking! I had spent the night before perusing Pinterest for the most appetizing baked apple recipes and ultimately selected a scrumptious apple crisp. My 3-year old had also spent the previous week in preschool learning to identify different types of apples based on color and shape and was eagerly anticipating this segment of our afternoon. As we began our ascent up the steep hill to the orchard, the blazing afternoon sun was beating down on us with relentless fury. Just keep going. With beads of sweat already dripping down our foreheads, the prospect of pushing a double stroller up this steep hill seemed absolutely dreadful. As a result of these unforeseen sizzling conditions, we made the executive decision to forgo what would most certainly be a painful apple-picking experience for all. So much for my homemade apple crisp.  Mom plans, G-d laughs. I quickly ushered my son over to the farm animals, and after a pony ride he had completely forgotten all about apple picking.

This may not have been the exact day I had choreographed for my kids, but it was their day and they lived it just how they wanted.  Despite the tears shed, stifling temperatures endured, and disappointing changes of plans, the laughs we shared are memories I will always hold dear. And as we enter this new season, I will strive not to burden myself with disappointment of activities not completed, play dates not had or trips not taken. So what if we didn’t get a picture-perfect moment in the pumpkin patch? So what if we didn’t make it up the hill to the orchard? Although I’m consistently searching for teachable moments in the day-to-day activities with my kids, some of the most valuable lessons learned are my own.  So frequently we foolishly hold tight to our expectations and assume that we are in control over the details of our lives. But despite our most careful planning, life with kids is unpredictable and much of what happens is beyond the realm of our control. The sooner we can surrender ourselves to the uncertainty of motherhood, the easier it will be to implement tools that will help us stay calm amidst the struggles and challenges thrown our way. It will be chaotic. It will be far from perfect. But it will undoubtedly be the most wonderful time of your life.

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Babies n’ Boardwalks – Our Coney Island Adventure

Whenever we have a free weekend in the city, my husband and I enjoy taking the kids to other neighborhoods in Manhattan or to the outer boroughs to participate in all kinds of cultural events and view popular landmarks. The Bronx Zoo, Brooklyn Bridge, and Coney Island are only a few of the world-famous (and kid-friendly) attractions we are fortunate to have at our finger tips. For many New Yorkers, Coney Island is synonymous with unapologetic indulgences and an overcrowded boardwalk teeming with sleazy characters. In fact, many of my friends and neighbors steer clear of this tourist trap for this very reason. But not us! With a tight grip on our wallets and children securely strapped into their stroller, last weekend was the perfect Coney Island adventure, a trip we’ve been making every summer since even before the kids were born.

Coney Island is widely-recognized for its iconic boardwalk and rightfully so. Lined with food stands, beachside performers and surf shops, it’s the perfect respite from the stagnant city air. The opportunities for supreme people-watching are endless, as it attracts a diverse crowd of all ages. And let’s not forget about the greasy food – Coney Island is home of the original Nathan’s. Yes, please! After first making a pit-stop for hotdogs and fries, we pushed my daughter in her stroller along the boardwalk, keeping a close eye on my toddler who was carefully weaving in and out of beach-goers. He’s an avid explorer of new territories, but in these situations I’m not too proud to sport matching bracelets connected by a spiraled rope (most commonly referred to as a “leash”). There must be a very delicate balance between a toddler’s desire for independence and safety.

After meandering through crowds of people and stopping for cotton candy and ice cream cones, we made our way to Luna Park, an old-fashioned amusement park that most closely resembles a county fair. There we would spend the next 2 hours watching our toddler bask in the glory of this recreational utopia only before moving on to the aquarium, the only one of its kind in New York City.  We cruised through the animal exhibits in record time thanks to my energetic toddler on a sugar high and arrived at the Aquatheater just in time for the sea lion show. It was difficult to determine which my raging threenager enjoyed more – the interactive sea lion performance or climbing up and down the steps 547 times during the show.

By the day’s end I was thoroughly drained and unsure of how I would make it to bedtime. But despite the all-encompassing exhaustion of motherhood, on this day (like many others) I had the opportunity to stop and soak in the world through the joyful eyes of my children, and for that I am grateful. It’s days like these when I really feel my cup runneth over.

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Young, Wild, and Three!

As busy parents raising kids in New York City, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of our every day lives. With jam-packed calendars and stacks of unopened mail, we often feel as if we’re constantly engaging in a game of catch-up. And the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. In an effort to take full advantage of all this heaping metropolis has to offer our children, we often over-commit them with trips to museums, enrichment activities, lessons and playdates. I’m the first to admit that I’ve been guilty of trying to fill every minute of every day with a variety of activities to keep my kids busy. But we must not lose sight of something so very essential to the healthy development of our children – the importance of green grass and fresh air.

Ever since my son was born, I’ve been flabbergasted at the amount of energy radiating from his itty-bitty body. Even from a young age it was abundantly clear that he required outdoor play time every day in order to blow off steam and sleep soundly through the night. In addition to assuring a good night’s sleep, the health benefits of outdoor exercise are immeasurable. Regular physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight, builds muscle and reduces the risk of many health conditions.  Green grass and fresh air are also essential for the psychological well being of children, especially city kids, most of whom are confined to small apartments. I still recall the very first time we introduced my son to playing in the grass – he was so hesitant to wander off the blanket and picked at the individual blades of green, so fearful that they would pierce his tender little feet. Flash forward almost three years later and he runs like an untamed antelope through fields of green grass.

Some of my most favorite childhood memories are long summer days spent building forts in the woods behind my childhood home, playing in the snow and other self-directed activities outside. Now that I have two kids, it’s a bit more challenging to get outside, especially in the colder months. Bundling up babies in several layers is an arduous task, but I understand the importance and make it a priority to get my kiddos outside for at least 30 minutes every day. And as often as possible, my husband and I take the kids out East or to Connecticut to visit family outside of the city. Disconnecting from our electrical devises and spending time outside as a family is one of our favorite things to do.

What are some of your favorite outdoor family activities?

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Perfectly Imperfect

As if raising children in today’s world isn’t difficult enough, the modern day mother is also pressured to live up to increasingly unobtainable standards. Thanks to social media and the ease of sharing information online, moms everywhere are subjected to irritating images of Pinterest-perfect birthday parties, picturesque bento boxed lunches of gluten-free, organic, dairy-free meals, and other #momgoals-worthy grandiose exhibits of motherly perfection. Sure, we would all love to be perfect mothers and provide our children with the very best childhoods, but that’s just it – perfection in motherhood is a myth. We hold ourselves to these unrealistic expectations of what our society thinks motherhood ought to be like, thereby almost always setting ourselves up for failure.

Although I may appear put-together and well-rested when you see me on the street, there’s a great probability that I’m actually exhausted and my apartment is littered with broken crayons, Cheerios, and toys strewn in every direction. Usually operating on insufficient sleep, I often find myself fumbling through the day just trying to juggle the needs of two young kids and a mountain of other responsibilities while maintaining some semblance of composure. I applaud moms everywhere who make motherhood seem like a constant stream of cuddles and cotton candy and believe me, I would love to live in a constant state of bliss with my tiny humans. But somewhere along the lines, diaper changes always evolve into exhausting power struggles, fevers and head colds turn into debilitating double ear infections, and I’m usually running on empty by 11am. Home cooked meal? That’s funny! Once the kids are fed, I’m lucky if I have enough energy to order delivery dinner.

I’m not perfect. I MAKE MISTAKES. There, I said it.

Just last week I planned to have my very first movie date with my toddler, an activity that would serve as a welcomed departure from his familiar morning routine of playground, children’s museum or errands with Mommy. We prepared several days in advance by discussing rules for inside the theater, my behavioral expectations, and what kind of snacks we would share. To merely say he was excited is a gross understatement.

As we strolled over to the theater prior to the movie, I was overcome with the delightful anticipation of sharing this new experience with my exuberant little buddy. We approached the box office and suddenly something caught my eye. There it was – a sight so alarming I instantly thought my eyes were deceiving me. “SOLD OUT!”  How could this be? How was I going to explain this to my pint-sized sidekick? “Come on, Mommy! Let’s go! Let’s go!” he squealed as he tugged my arm toward the theater.  I grasped at my thoughts, trying to find the right words to let him down gently. Choose any other movie and we’ll get any candy you want! I’ll buy you a pony! Just please forgive me. I explained that there were no more tickets left and admittedly, I should have planned ahead and bought tickets online. He gazed up at me with his big doe eyes. “It’s ok, Mommy.” And just like that, we walked hand-in-hand to the playground like we had done countless times before.

And then it hit me – I shouldn’t be so frightened of exposing my child to disappointment. After all, learning to cope with letdowns is a necessary skill for becoming a successful adult. This misfortune of having to skip a movie seems rather inconsequential in the scheme of things, but these minor setbacks are actually training our children to confidently overcome life’s challenges down the road. I was so proud of my boy’s emotional resilience and ability to easily bounce back without even so much as a minor meltdown! It was in that moment I realized that despite our botched movie date, this imperfect morning was nothing short of perfect.

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10 Things Nobody Tells You About Motherhood

1. You will stop caring about what other people think of you.

If Academy Awards were given for temper tantrums, my toddler would outrival Meryl Streep for best performance. Able to transform from perfectly delightful toddler to borderline foaming at the mouth in .25 of a second, there is no telling where he will strike next. To the strangers offended by my wailing child on the floor of Whole Foods – sorry I’m so preoccupied raising my children that I thoroughly ignored your conspicuous disapproval of my parenting skills.

2. You will learn the true meaning of exhaustion.

You spend the greater portion of your 20’s working hard, partying harder, and burning the candle at both ends. You know everything there is to know about being tired, right? Guess again. The exhaustion following a night of alcohol-fueled bad decisions pales in comparison to the hamster wheel of motherhood. Sleeping all morning is no longer an option and unlike hangovers, sleep deprivation can’t be cured by mozzarella sticks and Gatorade.

3. Having a few close mom friends is essential.

Nobody understands both the joys and struggles of raising tiny humans quite like other moms, and during the first few years of motherhood these friendships are fundamental in maintaining your sanity. These relationships are often based on a mutual love of nap time and adult beverages and serve as the perfect outlet for commiserating over the challenges of the first year, terrible twos and raging “threenagers.”

4. You will kiss your vacations goodbye.

Although our children are seasoned jetsetters, I hesitate to use the term “vacation” to describe our getaways, as these trips are rarely relaxing. Gone are the days of floating down lazy rivers and reading US Weekly on a chaise by the pool. Suddenly swim-up bars have been replaced with swim diapers and sunscreen application is met with poolside meltdowns.

5. There will never be enough time in your day.

Despite your best pre-baby time management skills, it will be a continuous struggle to manage your never-ending to-do lists and overloaded calendar. You will inevitably try to cram your entire adult life into the small window between your child’s bedtime and the moment when you fall asleep on the couch still clutching your Iphone (while adamantly insisting that you aren’t, in fact, sleeping).

6. Your children (and their stuff) will take over your whole home.

Despite your best efforts to maintain a sophisticated home, your living space will become inundated with toys (most of which your child will seldom even use) faster than you can say “Paw Patrol.” I’ve always paid meticulous attention to detail, especially when it comes to keeping my home neat and organized. At first I shuddered at the sight of cumbersome baby gear alongside my perfectly-curated living room filled with French antiques. One gargantuan play mat, two exersaucers, two swings, and one play kitchen later, and I’m finally coming to terms with our new interior design.

7. Everyone is an expert on how you should raise your child.

Your colleagues, relatives, and even your barista at Starbucks will be eager to offer their unsolicited parenting advice, especially during your most challenging motherhood moments. Unless you can provide me with a copy of your “Mother of the Year” certificate, I will pretend to graciously accept and carefully contemplate your advice before walking away and complaining to my mom friends about our encounter.

8. You will appreciate silence.

Remember those peaceful Saturday mornings spent sipping cappuccino while quietly reading the New York Times? Me neither! There is no volume control to the soundtrack of motherhood, and flashes of silence are so infrequent that we often suspect our children are in danger when the room is too quiet. As I exit the elevator on the floor of my apartment building, I can already hear the cacophony of sounds emanating from my apartment – balls ricocheting off the walls and high-pitched voices vacillating between shrieks of joy and tearful whimpering.

9. You are way more capable than you ever thought.

I vividly recall the final few moments before leaving the hospital after the birth of my first child. As I strapped my fragile newborn baby into his car seat for the very first time, I marveled at the tiny defenseless creature before me. “They’re actually going to let us take him home?” I questioned my husband in disbelief. Like many new moms, I was incredibly intimidated by the enormous sense of responsibility that accompanies parenthood. It wasn’t before long, however, that my motherly instincts kicked into high gear and I was offering unsolicited parenting advice to other new moms – ha!

10. You will be eternally grateful for it all.

Although sometimes motherhood feels like an endless onslaught of tears, spilled milk, and low-grade fevers, there is no greater joy than waking up to smiling faces and rediscovering the world through their eyes. And every night before you go to sleep, you will pray for the tools to persevere through the chronic fatigue while secretly wishing that all of this will never end.

20 Things Only Manhattan Moms Understand

  1. We experience no greater happiness than stumbling upon one of the city’s iconic street fairs while strolling outside with our little ones. “No thanks – I don’t like fried dough,” said no child ever.
  2. Spending a few days in the suburbs arduously loading our babies in and out of car seats gives us a newfound appreciation for the ease of running errands in the city.
  3. The UES Mommas Facebook group is our holy grail for parenting advice, product recommendations and exploitations of nannies behaving badly. And although we won’t admit it, we love watching the Oscar-worthy drama unfold when moms go head-to-head over the most controversial topics.
  4. We enter the bus at the rear so that we won’t have to fold our strollers. If the bus driver didn’t see it, did it even happen?
  5. We get annoyed when we see people leisurely walking down the sidewalk hand in hand. We know you love each other, but please don’t monopolize the only passageway separating me and my midget psychopaths from the tranquility of nap time.
  6. We are equally agitated by clueless pedestrians who stop suddenly in front of our strollers. People driving cars know such deviant behavior leads to getting rear-ended, but many pedestrians still remain oblivious. Learn some sidewalk etiquette and keep it moving, amateurs!
  7. Choosing between Uppababy and Bugaboo is a critical decision that requires multiple visits to Giggle or Buy Buy Baby, hours of second-guessing and countless revisions to our baby registries. After all, we need all-terrain vehicles capable of conquering demolished asphalt (thanks, Second Avenue subway construction), maneuvering around potholes and schlepping to Bloomingdales even in inclement weather.
  8. We’ve all been there – we reach the crosswalk just as the countdown clock arrives at single digits. Enter creepy pedestrian, abruptly violating our bubble of personal space while marveling at our sweet defenseless babies.  I’m flattered that you think my baby is adorable, but that doesn’t authorize you to caress her perfectly dimpled hand with your filthy meathooks. Within seconds my baby’s hand (and your germs) will be inside her mouth.  Gross!
  9. We can change a diaper anywhere, including the back seat of a cab, park bench or even on our laps . . . in the dark and with both hands tied behind our backs.
  10. The effort we put into our friendships with other moms is directly proportional to the child-friendly amenities provided by their apartment buildings.
  11. There is nothing more exciting than discovering a new restaurant that offers the ultimate brunching bonanza – both bottomless mimosas and high chairs.
  12. We attend the “Cry Baby Matinee” at the City Cinemas East 86th Street theater, a rite of passage for all East Side moms. Rather than sneaking in candy from Duane Reade, we arrive with an arsenal of sippy cups, Puffs and Cheddar Bunnies, all of which will most likely end up on the floor.
  13. We can multitask better than any of our suburban mom friends.
  14. The city sandbox is no replacement for the beach and we loathe this playground Petri dish. Really, what’s in that thing?
  15. We know the precise locations of every Mister Softee truck within a 2 mile radius.
  16. Summer marks the beginning of sprinkler season in most of Manhattan’s public playgrounds. In addition to water shoes, we buy several pails, shovels and watering cans even though our kid will most likely just poach water toys from other kids at the sprinklers.
  17. Our children think that “lobby” is a number between 0 and 1.
  18. We go to great lengths not to disturb our sleeping children – a note on our doors asking deliverymen to “knock softly,” expensive soundproofing of walls and windows, and then the doorman rings the buzzer to alert us to a food delivery, except we didn’t order food and he buzzed the wrong apartment, and now the kids are awake and screaming. Ahhh!
  19. We scoff at the ultra-competitive world of New York City nursery schools, but inevitably spend hours making spreadsheets comparing the philosophies of education, tediously filling out elaborate applications, writing extensive entrance essays, and subjecting our children to playgroup interviews.
  20. On rainy days, our children flock to this Upper East Side hangout, where they abandon their strollers and run like untamed antelopes through unassuming masses of people.  In this real-life representation of the Lord of the Flies, children often decimate everything in their paths, leaving behind a scattered trail of toys and books. Barnes and Noble, thank you for your unwavering patience and for graciously hosting even our most mischievous little ones.  Love, the Moms of the Upper East Side.

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Lessons From My Baby Girl

In this fast-paced concrete jungle so many of us call home, we are often scurrying through our lives at a breakneck pace. As the competition to get our kids into the most prestigious schools intensifies, parents go to great lengths to give their children the edge they need to get ahead in this unforgiving metropolis. If you peer closely into the shadows of the soaring skyscrapers down streets snarled with yellow taxis, you will typically observe them in their most natural state – these stroller-striding, sleep-deprived moms hiding behind Chanel sunglasses and relentlessly barreling down the sidewalks en route to the city’s premier infant and toddler enrichment classes. We sacrifice our sleep and sometimes even a blowout, all in the name of educating our children. But while we Manhattan moms put forth unparalleled efforts to give our tots every learning opportunity, we seldom pause to recognize the priceless lessons our babies are unwittingly teaching us. 

Last week we joyfully celebrated our daughter’s first birthday with our closest friends and family. Between nibbles of cake and sips of champagne, I found myself immersed in a moment of reverie, reflecting on this whirlwind year and pondering the sheer wonder of it all – the challenges of juggling two-under-two, the poignant memories of my daughter’s first milestones, and the unexpected events that jarred me into reappraising my priorities. It boggles my mind that this ephemeral chapter in my daughter’s life will be one she recalls only through stories and photographs. And although she won’t recollect it, her first year is also one of developmental leaps and absorption through our direct instruction, modeling and environmental osmosis.  Little did I know that the lessons my baby girl would teach me would be just as valuable as those I have imparted to her.

Perservere

There appears to be no impediment on this Earth that will halt my baby girl from obtaining any physical objects she targets. Take wires and electrical outlets, for example. For a reason unbeknownst to me, my daughter, like my son before her, is spellbound by hazardous enticements and drawn to them like a moth to a flame. Although our electrical outlets are equipped with sliding plate covers to prevent the kids from sticking items into the tiny holes, it’s more challenging to baby-proof occupied outlets.  After having furnished our apartment with the finest 19th century French antiques (thank you, Charles Cheriff Galleries), we have resorted to reconfiguring our furniture into a makeshift obstacle course in an effort to block off access to electrical outlets. Equally naughty as she is internally driven, this pint-sized apprentice electrician will strategize and exhibit calculated maneuvers to scale any barricade put in place to prevent her from accessing those dangerous corners of our apartment. She perseveres through any challenge and won’t give up until she succeeds, or in this case, seizes a fist-full of wires requiring a prompt intervention to move her back to her playmat. In a blasé smirking manner, looking backwards to make sure I’m watching, she will do it again and again and again.  I admire her steadfast tenacity and continue to be impressed by this quality on a daily basis. Despite repeatedly tumbling before somehow climbing over our roadblocks, not once does she think, “maybe this just isn’t for me.” If more of us took a cue from our children and refused to be weighed down by a plethora of perceived limitations and impossibilities, there is no limit to what we might accomplish.

Find Joy in the Little Things

My daughter enjoys showing off her self-evident comprehension of “object permanence,” and what better way to tickle her fancy than engaging in the universal game of peek-a-boo?  Her high-pitched squeal of excitement when I vanish and reappear is a reaction so unadulterated, so pure and one filled with joy. This game, though so very simple in nature, transcends all language and cultural barriers; it is based solely on the fundamental concepts of expectation and surprise. It never gets old. In fact, repetition only seems to intensify my daughter’s jubilation. And as it turns out, the laughter is contagious! Regardless of how many times we engage in this infantile amusement, I can’t help but succumb to her giggles as I hide my face and suddenly pop back into her view. I can only hope that she will greet me with the very same enthusiasm years from now when peek-a-boo will have become a distant memory. Her captivating sense of innocence and wonderment at life’s mundane pleasures is a refreshing departure from the ominous uncertainty of today’s world.  If we could all see the world through the eyes of a child we might appreciate the small, commonly-overlooked pleasures in our everyday lives.

Live for the Moment

Like most babies, my daughter has the fantastic ability to embrace the present and appreciate each moment as it transpires.  She is blissfully unaware of the stressors that plague many adults and has no concept of either the past or future. She knows only now – this very moment, which is essentially the only thing we have for sure. While some adults spend the greater portion of their lives lamenting the past, mourning missed opportunities and worrying about the future, my baby experiences sensations only in the here and now. So long as her needs are gratified immediately, she has no foresight into what needs she may have in the future and isn’t distracted by thoughts of time gone by.  Although the complexities of our adult lives have robbed us of this same divine naiveté, we can all by some measure strive to be more present in our daily lives.

No Two Babies Are Alike

Prior to my son’s birth in 2014, I had visions of nibbling on tea sandwiches and petit fours in Central Park while my baby played quietly on a blanket next to me. Boy, did I have a warped perception of motherhood!  In addition to assuming the role of new mother after the birth of my son, I also acquired the not-so-glamorous roles of bodyguard, referee, and janitor. As stay-at-home-mom to my incredibly thrill-seeking, rambunctious boy, my days were spent protecting, policing and cleaning up after my son as he mischievously sought opportunities to scale furniture, jump from high surfaces, and turn our apartment walls into crayon-based murals of his own design. When I became pregnant with our second baby while my son was merely 13 months, I was frightened to my innermost core. As much as I love a challenge, I shuddered at the thought of having two of these pint-sized bulldozers leveling our apartment like a tornado. And then I found out we were expecting a girl, and a wave of tranquility washed over me and awakened my inner child who had fantasized about one day having a little girl of her own. As nature would have it, it wasn’t too long after my daughter’s birth that I began noticing unmistakable differences in the personalities of my baby girl and toddler son. My baby girl has always been so mellow, loves cuddling and being held, and cries whenever I leave the room, whereas my son has been an independent free-spirit and risk-taker since day one.  The disparities in their personalities could not be any more consistent with gender-specific stereotypes. A few weeks ago my friend, Chelsea, and I took our baby girls to the park for a picnic lunch. As we listened to the birds chirping and airplanes swirling above, our babies sat peacefully by our sides, and in a moment of pure nirvana, we locked eyes and knew this was the rare flash of serenity that we so foolishly thought defined motherhood.

Love knows no bounds

Most second time moms concur – at one point we thought it was inconceivable to love a new baby as much as our first. Our first borns made us mothers and taught us everything we now know about unconditional love. For 20 months my son had my undivided attention and within this time we shared a wealth of unforgettable experiences (for me, at least). Every day was a new adventure. We ate at the latest restaurants, traveled to different neighborhoods in search of the best playgrounds and had play dates or classes virtually daily. I knew him with every fiber of my being and our relationship was one of perfect harmony. When I discovered I was expecting my 2nd child, I experienced both anxiety about the changing dynamic of our relationship and fear of splitting my time and affection with a newborn. How could I even fathom loving another baby as much as my son when I couldn’t possibly share that same connection with a new baby? The answer to this question would soon find its way to me. I discovered soon after my daughter was born that the heart is not subject to limitations as I had once thought, but rather is capable of infinite love.  As our family of 3 expanded to 4, my heart so naturally followed in suit. And so began this crazy adventure as a family of 4, my heart practically bursting at the seams with every moment.

 

 

Chugga Chugga Two Two – Adventures of a Toddler on the Second Avenue Subway

Like most Upper East Side moms and residents alike, I was absolutely ecstatic about the January opening of the mythical Second Avenue Subway project after decades of setbacks and delays. Aside from easing congestion along Manhattan’s East side and providing efficient transportation to other neighborhoods, the unveiling of the long-awaited project also provides unique opportunities for those of us with young children.

New York City weather is as unpredictable as the sale racks at Bloomingdales on Black Friday, and much to my chagrin, my rambunctious 2-year-old doesn’t share my affinity for hibernating indoors in sub-zero temperatures, torrential downpours or the most simmering summer heat waves. The 86th Street subway station has become a frequent fieldtrip destination for my kids, especially on days when either rain or severe temperatures prohibit outdoor play. The subway platform at the 86th Street station is 93 feet below street level and impervious to the city’s most severe weather elements. And unlike most other subway lines, a mechanical cooling system within the station will be activated this summer to maintain a comfortable temperature of approximately 10 degrees cooler than outside at street level.

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As my toddler approaches age 3, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep him entertained within the confines of our Manhattan apartment. Always on the hunt for new adventures and opportunities to assert his independence, he thrives in new environments and enjoys being an on-the-go tot. Because of his blossoming curiosity about the world, I present him with frequent hands-on experiences to keep him physically active and nurture his urge to know more. He’s been enamored with the Q Train since its Upper East Side inauguration and we can’t pass by its entrance without him pleading to go for a ride. The first order of business when headed to the subway is perhaps my toddler’s favorite part – descending via escalator deep into the cavernous station. I use this opportunity to teach and reinforce the basic safety measures of facing forward, holding hands, and being cognizant of what’s going on around us at all times. Although we always avoid rush hour, the escalator can be treacherous for toddlers and it’s imperative to take the proper precautions to avoid injuries.

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Once on the train platform, we eagerly await the arrival of the train. As it approaches, my toddler beams with excitement and his silky baby strands blow wildly in the breeze of the oncoming train. Years from now, I will remember him as joyful as he is in these tender moments. When the doors open and people file in, he knows to quickly locate an empty seat and sit down. And when the train starts moving, he’s in all his glory, squealing with delight as the train accelerates down the track. It’s not long before my toddler amasses a fan club of passengers who are enchanted by his playful demeanor and irresistibly sweet face.  A natural performer, he feeds off this attention and loves making new friends. It doesn’t matter where the train stops or what’s nearby; as soon as we exit the subway car and ride the escalator to street level, he’s ready to turn around and do it all again.

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Although he’s barely 2.5 yrs old, my toddler enjoys examining the large New York City Subway map in the train car and pointing out various locations around the city. He understands that the colored lines represent different trains and that straphangers ride different trains to get to different places. We’ve had many conversations about how the subway is a means of connecting people in different neighborhoods city-wide. I point out landmarks he recognizes (such as JFK Airport and his favorite parks) and we discuss which train line we would take to reach those points. Two-years old isn’t too young to be introduced to basic concepts of geography and by allowing him to take an active role in the discovery process, I’m laying the foundation for a lifelong love of learning. Next stop – the New York Transit Museum!

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