Learn strategies for navigating public transportation, crowded streets and small living spaces from Manhattan mom Monica Storch.

Parenting in a Concrete Jungle: Raising a Kid in the City

New York's High Line Park
All photos courtesy of Monica Storch

They say if you can make it in New York City, you can make it anywhere. Similarly, if you can make it here as a parent, then not only can you make it anywhere, but make it while simultaneously defying gravity and walking on water. Don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly not saying that parenting in the ‘burbs is a cakewalk, but parenting in an urban environment is often enough to bring even the toughest moms and dads to their knees. And just when you think you’ve figured it all out, a school re-zoning or broken subway elevator reminds you that, when it comes to urban parenting, the concrete jungle will never fully be tamed.

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The challenge begins well before your little bundle of joy arrives on the scene. Navigating the streets, subways and buses of New York City is tricky on even the best of days, but doing it while sporting a gigantic pregnant belly is another matter entirely. On the plus side, expectant city moms find themselves suddenly in possession of a multitude of superpowers, including the ability to instantaneously put an entire subway car of passengers to sleep as everyone pretends to be nodding off so as not to have to offer up his or her seat.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Once a baby makes his debut, things get even more exciting. Rather than zipping around town in a roomy, air-conditioned SUV like her suburban counterparts, a city parent shuffles her kids up, down and across town on crowded city subways and buses, often finding herself capable of feats of strength not previously imagined as she lugs a stroller, child, and fully-stocked diaper bag up and down subway steps and learns how to collapse said stroller with one hand while also juggling a child and a much-needed latte in the other.

Raising a city kid also means sacrificing valuable real estate. Your already cramped apartment will feel even smaller when you convert your dining area (if you’re lucky enough to have one) into a nursery and your entryway into a stroller parking lot. While suburban dwellers are able to store things of all shapes and sizes in basements, attics, and garages, any new addition to a city baby’s gear or clothing supply must be carefully weighed in order to determine whether it

warrants using up that last bit of floor or drawer space. Well-meaning grandparents will be strictly advised not to gift any super-sized dollhouses or jumbo stuffed animals, and you’ll find yourself purging outgrown clothes on a bi-weekly basis. (Our Bugaboo stroller doubles as a Goodwill transport vehicle, as we make our monthly donation pilgrimages!)

First walk with baby brother

And then there’s the ever-present issue of educating your city tot. Whereas folks in the ‘burbs send their kids to that lovely community preschool or excellent elementary school down the block (for which they’re admittedly paying a pretty penny in property taxes), city parents must first navigate the elaborate nursery school process and then shortly thereafter master the even more complex kindergarten maze. Indeed, my husband and I submitted our daughter’s preschool application before she was even born, and she received her positive admission decision when she was just 3 days old (obviously we were beaming with pride at her magnificent accomplishment!). We’re now about to enter the kindergarten application process, which involves no less than 3 different standardized tests and the possibility that she could be assigned to a school miles from our home and requiring multiple subway transfers.

With all these obstacles in our way, why don’t we just throw up our hands and move to the burbs?   Well, there’s the obvious answer that New Yorkers are a stubborn bunch. But beyond that, we recognize that the benefits of raising our kids in the big city far outweigh the challenges.

The famous 2nd Ave Deli

City kids grow up with a level of exposure to and understanding of cultures, cuisines, languages and experiences that might be unimaginable to children outside these urban walls. From field trips to the Met to science experiments in Central Park to taking in a performance at Lincoln Center, New York tots have the world at their tiny little fingertips.

And when it comes to celebrating the holidays, New York City can’t be beat. My daughter thinks the tree at Rockefeller Center is her own personal Christmas tree, and she gets to trick-or-treat in the shops along Madison Avenue and at the home of Mayor Bloomberg. She knew how to hail a taxi when she was just a year old and peeks out our window each night to see what colors the Empire State Building is sporting that particular evening. She also thinks it’s perfectly normal to have bagels and lox for breakfast, dim sum for lunch, Chicken Tikka Masala for dinner and cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery for dessert.

Yep, these city kids really do have it made. That is, until they go away for college, realize not everyone lives in a dining nook and flee for the burbs!

About Monica

Monica Storch publishes NYCeast.macaronikid.com, a weekly e-newsletter and website highlighting the best events going on for kids and families in New York City. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and their 4-year-old daughter and infant son.

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