Raising children is hard. It doesn’t matter how many you have, what gender they are, where you live- parenting is just difficult. But as with anything, every parent has specific challenges that they must face as they bring their child to adulthood. Being a city parent- that’s sort of my cross to bare.
The Daughter has spent her existence on the isle of Manhattan. Do you know what that’s like? Let me give you the playground scenarios….
Scenario 1- Homeless man showers in the sprinkler at the park. What do you wear when you shower?
Scenario 2- A “pretty woman” enters the park with her twins. While all the Mom’s are trying to be blasé, one of the kids goes up to her and asks “Do you know Dora?”
Scenario 3- Apparently, drug dealers were leaving bags of pot taped to the underside of the water fountain. What does that mean? Twenty armed undercover officers raiding the park to apprehend the alleged drug ring. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
This all happened during April of my daughters pre-k year. When she was 4. Literally the good, the bad and the ugly. This is the life of a “middle class” urban child who lives in a “good” neighborhood.
So what was/is my specific parenting issue?
Trying to make sure my daughter is not too jaded. To allow her to have a certain childlike innocence, while remaining tough and street smart.
To a large degree, I think I have achieved my goal. She can navigate the transit system, she’s honing her inner radar as to when a situation just doesn’t seem right. She knows not to leave anything valuable in her backpack, but to keep them in front of her. She knows not to engage anyone who appears a little off – and is aware of our neighborhood shouters- like the man who curses at the mailbox everyday. And she knows a thousand other ways to protect yourself as much as possible.
But she does have certain childlike qualities. She can text with alarming speed and quote pop music lyrics. Pretty Little Liars was a religion to her. The break-up of Anna Faris and Chris Pratt almost sent her into a tailspin. She giggles with her friends, and pets about every animal she comes across and visits the adoption cats at Petco when she has a chance. And when we were on vacation, she wanted to go to the Boston Tea Party Museum because she wanted to “throw” the tea over. She wanted to go to “Plimouth Plantation” and she engaged with the reenactors and listened to what they said, because some of them are really quite knowledgeable. She doesn’t find things like this silly or lame- she finds them charming, and hopes at least a few kids learn a little about history. By seeing other teenagers at these places, I know she is a bit of a rare bird- because there was no eye rolling from her.
(Don’t think she’s an angel though- trust me- she may seem like a great kid- but she tests me at every turn. Because she knows everything. I mean- she practically wrote Wikipedia- that’s how well versed she is in EVERYTHING)
But this year she is about to face a different challenge- she’s what is known as a rising junior. For a college bound child, this is the hardest year. School doesn’t start until after Labor Day, yet I already see the stress on her face. She has an assignment that is actually due on Monday- about 3 weeks before school officially begins. And as I watch her trying to edit her well written evaluative essay from 3 1/2 pages to the required 3 – I can foreshadow how this school year will play out. Hours spent studying. Paragraphs being rewritten in an attempt to chop 50 words off of a paper. SAT books littering the tables. Law Team notes piled on her bed. Figuring out a costume for the required “Scarlet Letter” day. Less sleep than she had last year- which was minimal at best.
I’m not sure how I’m going to parent her this year. I know how badly she wants to go to a top college. I saw her face when we visiting highly selective universities, and I know she felt like it was home. I want her to reach for the stars…..but, I also don’t want to her lose sight of the small things.
So I’m going to try to get her to sleep a bit, stay hydrated (these are my answers to everything). I’m going to insist she schedule in social time with her friends. I’m going to make sure she watches U tube videos and “Riverdale”. I’m going to pay attention to her, to make sure she has balance. I’m going to let her yell at me. I’m going to let her cry on my shoulder. I’m going to make sure we stock just a little bit of chocolate, because I know you shouldn’t eat to feel better, but eating a piece of chocolate while studying is supposed to be beneficial. I don’t know where I read that tidbit, but I’m sticking with it as sound advice.
And I’m going to hope there is just a little bit of childhood innocence left to get her through the next year and a half.