It’s amazing how many people who don’t live in NYC believe it is impossible, cruel, or both to raise kids or dogs in NYC. I think we’re all on the same page about cats, who are hands-down running away the best apartment roommates you can get. Waste disposal is still a problem, and
a number of bright young sparks have come up with imaginative solutions, but I’ve never met anyone who has fieldtested with glowing results. Especially the one where you train the cat to use the toilet.
But children? Everyone thinks of the burbs, Moms painting the front door red or blue or something to contrast with the white picket fence. How unfair! Children and their parents benefit greatly from growing up in the big bad city.
Easy Play dates
Out in the burbs, you’ve got to get a calendar app for your kids and dogs to play. Not so in NYC. Kids have ready-made friends on every floor of almost every building in the city (well, maybe not in Nolita). They find their own play dates. When it’s raining, they’re in and out of the apartments and plaguing the general public in the hallways and lobbies. Otherwise, they’re at the parks. Ditto for the dogs – though they don’t
usually get to run up and down the halls – or if they do, they don’t ring the bells or take the elevators. But they do get lots of social time with other pals at the many local dog runs, both formal and informal. If the Super has a dog, and you give him your keys, sometimes he takes your dog to his place for treats and romps.
I’ve heard this is a problem in the burbs, where the local skank is expensive and unreliable. Not so in New York. We’ve got lots of babysitters choices, in all age categories, price ranges, and language skill
sets. Both my kids and my dog have had some fine babysitters here in the city: granted, the kids needed more language arts, less walking, and no leash (usually), but the concept is the same.
Membership at the New Victory Theater
This alone is enough of a reason to raise your kids in NYC. The New Victory theater is theater for kids. Real theater – not Disney on
Broadway (which is fine for kids, but expensive). The variety is amazing, and such high quality that fully grown adults would enjoy themselves without kids in tow, if that didn’t provoke stares. Get a niece, nephew, or neighbor and go. Tall cushions are offered so little ones can see, and the
acts are great, short, and quirky. Let them cut their teeth on culture from a young age. If you join as a member, tickets cost less than a movie.
Out in the burbs, you’ve got two choices: stay home and answer the door, or decamp to a hotel. Or, if you live in the Bible Belt, I guess you could yell out the window to inform children they are going to hell. Of course, you also have those options in NYC, but there’s another to add to
the list: just don’t put the big “I accept trick-or-treaters” tag on your door. New York child-friendly buildings have a Halloween sign-up list. You sign up, you get a door sticker telling all the little costumed darlings that the candy bucket is ready. Don’t want them ringing the bell? Don’t sign up. It’s as simple as that.
Money buys quality education here in New York, as everywhere else. Unlike everywhere else, you’ll need a whole lot of money. You’ll need to shell out $45k per kid, per year, from kindergarten through high school for a top private school.
Fortunately, there are other, less pricey choices. You might be living in one of the zoned areas that everyone wants to get into – in that case, you’re set. Or, you might have a kid that tests into G&T (gifted and talented). Again – set. If you don’t have money or great zoning, and you do have kids who miss “brilliant” by that heart-breaking 1 point, you’ll need to get creative. New York will help you. There are lots of magnet schools, charter schools, parochial schools , and scholarships if you want to shave that 45k to an I’m-still-in-debt-and-she’s-only-in-5th-grade level. By the time high school rolls around, the city is your oyster
due to our system of citywide highschool enrollment . In between, you can also opt for home schooling – there’ s a lively group of home-schoolers in New York City. Al and I did it for a few years for Elder Daughter during middle school. Our motto was “home schooling NYC – it’s not just for creationists and holocaust deniers!”
Free range kids
Guess what? No car pools in New York City. Your kids start taking the subway at a young age, and from then on, they’re free range. Teaches
independence and other valuable life skills, and cuts down on the gray hairs of watching them learn how to drive.
No novelty acts
Maybe your Mom is a white woman who married a guy from the Dominican Republic. Maybe you have two Moms or two Dads . Maybe you were born in China, and a single person adopted you. Maybe your family doesn’t go to church because you’re Zoroastrians. Out in the wide open spaces of pickups and gun racks, or in the less-open spaces of the
picket fences and the leafy burbs, your family will be a novelty act. Your neighbors may not burn crosses on your lawn (depending on where you are), but it’s going to be a constant source of polite questions that your kids will have to field as they grow up. Listen – it’s not like there are no bullies or mean girls in NYC. It’s just that your kids will find a whole group of ready-made allies who are in the same boat as they are. I can guarantee that no one will say to them, as a well-meaning neighbor in Louisiana did as she handed my sister a home-baked plate of egg-shaped cookies, “Happy Easter! ….or Passover. Or whatever it is you people celebrate”.