10 Things Normal to a New York City Kid
I grew up in the California suburbs where life was wonderfully orderly and serene. My childhood included a large, grassy, back and front yard with trees under which we would sit and play for hours. My mom was in a neighborhood carpool to drive us to school and the only interaction that we had with our neighbors was the occasional friendly wave exchanged while coming in or out of the house from the car.
But, that life is a thing of the past. Now, I am a New York City mom. Life with kids in the city is definitely not tidy, orderly and serene. It is however, always interesting, and now matter how many years I live here, the very essence of a New York City childhood continues to fascinate me. What used to be things that I only saw in movies, are now a part of my life as I raise my kids in the city. So, without further ado, here are is my list of childhood things that are a reality if you are a bonafide New York City kid.
1) Concrete, Concrete and More Concrete – When people call New York City a concrete jungle, let me tell you, they ain’t lyin’. Playtime for my kids involves the pavement. Whether my kids are playing at the park or running around in front of our building throwing the ball, their feet don’t leave the concrete. OK, OK, yes, some NYC parks contain the plastic looking miracle that is astro turf, but it is not even slightly a substitute for luscious, soft, green grass. The main difference that separates astro turf from concrete is that you get an itchy plastic rug burn if you fall on it, as opposed to a bleeding open wound, like you get if you fall on pavement. So, astro turf certainly has its utility, but let’s be real, it still sucks. So, if we want to escape parks filled with concrete and astro turf, and play on real grass, then we go to Central Park or Riverside Park. And yes, we go there for the grass. Because if you are a New York City kid, accessing a “legal” type of grass to enjoy involves public transportation and a day trip.
2) People screaming out of apartment windows – NYC is so crowded that no matter where your kids play someone is going to hear them outside their window and be bothered enough to yell out at you. I am sure that this bit of news comes as a shock, but there happen to be a lot of cranky, angry sourpusses in NYC. Maybe it’s the crowded living conditions, or maybe it’s the searing heat in the summer or the bone chilling cold in the winter, that cause New Yorkers to scream at kids from their windows. Whatever it is, adults can get downright crotchety about kids playing around their buildings. Apparently, this is because these very people yelling out their windows popped from out of the womb straight into adulthood, and themselves never made noise as kids outside on the streets of New York. In my book, if it is the middle of the day and you require absolute silence, then invest in earplugs and stop yelling at the kids outside, you cranky pain in the ass.
3) Old ladies ask you to help them feed the pigeons or the squirrels – First off, these ladies are usually half to full blown crazy. Sometimes they are crazy in a lovable way and sometimes it’s crazy in a “I was just discharged from Bellvue Psych Ward” kind of way. If they happen to be a squirrel feeder then they are usually carrying a bag of peanuts around and calling out to the squirrels in this low ticking “ki-ki” sound. If they are pigeon feeders then they are usually sitting as still as a statue on a park bench and holding a sack of seeds. Now, the mean bird or squirrel feeders will give you a look that screams “STAY AWAY!!” similar to Jack Nicholson in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. However, the friendly ones, though perhaps mentally unstable, are more than happy to interact with children. They will gleefully offer some peanuts or seeds to your young kids and delight in watching them interact with New York City’s version of “wildlife” while chattering away in a high pitched and excited tone about the weather, the crowds, the no-good mayor, etc etc. I usually try to keep my kids away from these ladies because sprinkling seeds and nuts on the ground in NYC also happens to feed another population….and that is the rat population, of which I am not too keen. Still, sometimes I give in because 1) my kids love feeding the animals so much and 2) let’s face it, during that time I can check my phone for an uninterrupted five minutes.