Just one recommendation.
Go: I have a schtick that I never take on both my children alone. My husband took care of them for their first years, and it feels like he has more of an aptitude for their chaos. I’m scared of it, or more accurately, I’m scared of what it brings out in me. I get impatient, overwhelmed, frustrated (“dragon mommy” is what my son calls it). They fight with each other more around me. They seem more desperate to get their needs met.
I was supposed to be in New York City this past weekend on one of my beloved solo jaunts, but plans changed in my family and it became clear that I couldn’t go. Matt was on a surf trip, and alternative caretakers weren’t available. I told myself to be a grown up about it. Yet time went by and I didn’t cancel my ticket. I made plans for us in LA: dinner, babysitter, children’s birthday parties. I had it at the top of my list, “Cancel NYC” and I did not cancel a thing. Such denial. I kept dreaming of the city in June (literally I had dreams about running in Williamsburg, and getting off the subway at west 4th and peeking into the Waverly Diner), and seeing my friends there. Then one of them suggested I just bring the kids.
Bring the fucking kids???? A four-and-a-half-year-old and nearly three-year-old? On a plane? By myself? For 72 hours in NYC? And what…all of us sleep in one bed? And what, I just find a double stroller and like…push them around the city? The suggestion did not strike me as “fun.” It struck me as delusional. Unnecessarily difficult, exhausting, terrifying. I have my way of doing the city, and it’s not kid friendly.
But after that initial response (“lol ha ha yeah right”), the idea had its barb in me. The Monday before my potential weekend I was on a rollercoaster: back and forth, go or stay. Finally, another friend hyped me over the edge and tickets were booked with points. This was Tuesday. For Thursday departure. Wednesday night I woke up in such a panic, I almost threw up. Why was I so stupid? I told Matt it was proof that I was a selfish, irresponsible mom (the impetus for a trip was, it must be said, a party). He told me that this trip - the spontaneity and desire for the world it implied - is why I’m a great mom.
My 72hrs in New York City was a living example of that “mommune” piece in The New York Times. I stayed two nights with a friend who has a two-year-old - she gave us her bed, made her home my home. I stayed one night in a friend’s apartment (six-year-old and three-year-old) that came with a stock of toys. I was rescued mid-day by a friend with a five-year-old, whose apartment was an oasis of Joe’s pizza, raspberries, and Legos. The same friend messengered over a left-behind dinosaur figurine. Mothers shared babysitters, strollers (we used a Yoyo with a jump seat and I was happy not to have a traditional double stroller), travel car seats (the Wayb was amazing), airport recommendations (“red light green light” was a big hit to get their energy out). They shared their seaweed snacks and yogurt pouches. Strangers rolled our suitcases to the curb. They talked a melting child off a ledge by explaining the “thestrals” from Harry Potter. Flight attendants gave wing pins and extra cheese plates. At the Bleeker Street playground, mid-push at the swings, I realized I had forgotten to put in a tampon and was heavily bleeding into my white shorts. I yelled out to another mom: “Can you watch my kids for two seconds, I got my period!” and when I came out of the public restroom, she was pushing them on the swings.
I did not take my children to New York City alone. I took them to a village of parents, to friends I love deeply. I only wish I had more time there.
It was so hard. My back is throbbing from carrying shit. It’s a special horror to see your child lying face down on a New York City sidewalk, screaming. Or to have your child up in the middle of the night, jet-lagged, sobbing, “New York is not a beautiful city!” and “Why did you make us get so tired?” Or to get home from the aforementioned party at 1:30 am, still very high on mushrooms, and have a child tap you at 6:30 am asking to go on the swings.
You can imagine the highs. If you love any place the way I love the city, then you understand that bringing them onto the subway, unleashing them into the green of Central Park, being out on the sweaty, filthy streets all day, no naps because there were too many playgrounds to see, left me in actual tears of wonder/joy/gratitude. All the lives I’ve lived there. To live this one too.
I’m home. Though I’m always leaving New York with a hangover, this one included a delayed flight and was particularly brutal. I feel more capable than I ever have as parent. I feel more like myself than I have in years. I chafe against a lot of the motherhood racket: packing the lunches and drop offs, the organization required, the performance of gentle parenting, the idiocy of bounce houses (when has a child ever emerged unhurt?). I twitch at the constant yelling, whining, crying. I’m a selfish creature. I want everything and I don’t want to compromise. I have an unhinged appetite for travel and movement. But four and a half years in, I’m not trying to pretend those things aren’t true. I’m trying to marry those parts of me with the stability Matt and I created for the children.
For various reasons I’ve been doing more caretaking for my own mother. When I’m with her, all I see is death. I’m turning forty in exactly six months and have never been more desperate to live. To do that living with Julian and Paloma.
So what the fuck is my recommendation? Embroider “do something that scares you everyday” on a pillow? Heed every reckless urge in the name of “experience?” Make your children’s sleep schedule second to your social life? No (maybe?). This isn’t for everyone, and neither is the camping we’ve been doing with them since they were born. But if you are interested in what happens when you’re uncomfortable…if you can’t stop thinking about going, despite all the reasons you can’t and shouldn’t…I really believe you probably can and should.