Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Is NYC a Good Place to Raise Children? -- by Laura Houston

A few weeks back I had a conversation with my younger brother Joe who lives in a suburb of Kansas City—the same suburb where we were raised. During that conversation he mentioned he was surprised I had been willing to move to New York City last year with my eight-month old twins. His reason? New York is a terrible place to raise children.

He’s right and he isn’t. Ultimately it all boils down to what your values are as a parent, your resources, and your ability to find a healthy balance amidst it all. This week I am going to discuss why I like raising my boys here.

I did a lot of research before I so much as packed one box before the move, and what I discovered was that the city seemed completely geared for kids – especially the Upper West Side of Manhattan, which is where we ended up living. Here is my list:

  1. 1.) The resources. Within a half a mile radius of where we live there are more than 25 preschools, daycares, kid gyms, and playgrounds. The preschools are ranked some of the best in the world. Most of them are designed to get your child into a prep school. Almost all of them teach second languages.
  2. 2.) The diversity. At 20-months of age, my boys have played with kids from almost every nationality. Everywhere they go they see different races, different cultures, and hear different languages. As the global economy evolves, I believe having this exposure will be of great advantage to the children who are exposed to such variety.
  3. 3.) Central Park. Every weekend we head to Central Park. There the boys watch all kinds of dance performances, listen to live music, taste all kinds of good foods, and play with kids from China, Iran, Brazil, and Russia. The park is New York’s backyard, and it has an energy unlike any place I have been before. Amusements range from playing in a stream under a handmade bridge to watching Albanian acrobats do flips down the path.
  4. 4.) Discovery. In New York there are so many new things to find and learn about. It’s impossible to get bored in this city, which means teenagers here don’t hang out in shopping malls and 7-11 parking lots in order to further their social skills and satisfy their thirst for knowledge. Instead, they can cultivate enriching experiences in a city that offers endless opportunity for the imagination.
  5. 5.) The standard for excellence. Let’s face it -- New York is where you come to get your A-game on. There’s a reason they say if you can make it here you can make it anywhere. The bar here is set incredibly high for everything: business, art, music, food, entertainment, education and living. I want my kids exposed to this. I want them to know what happens when you decide to keep going and discover even more of what is possible by adhering to a standard of excellence – the very standard that made this city so vibrant and full of dreams.
  6. 6.) The awareness. New York City is not an easy place to live. You had better learn how to stick up for yourself or you’ll get taken advantage of. You learn to pay attention to your surroundings. You learn how to move from one place to another safely and efficiently. It’s a great skill to have in life. The 12-year olds who ride the subways to attend school possess a sophistication most college freshmen lack.

So there is my list of why this is a good place to raise kids. The Upper West Side is very family friendly and kid focused. I don’t buy into the preschool hubbub, but I do have my boys enrolled in play and language classes. They are taking Mandarin, and it’s affordable and accessible. The class is taught by a former pediatric oncologist from China. She speaks Chinese, Japanese and English, and you can’t ask for a better teacher. By the way, all of the kids in the class speak at least two languages except for my boys.

To make up for the lack of backyards, the city (and a few kid businesses) runs soccer, baseball, and softball programs all summer long all day long. And in my neighborhood there is a playground every five or six blocks, and these playgrounds are surrounded by ten-foot iron fences to keep your kids in and the creeps out. Recycled tires pad the jungle gyms, slides and swings. In the summer elaborate, creative fountains help mothers and kids alike keep their cool. Afterwards, you can pick up fresh snacks ranging from empanadas, dumplings, egg rolls, or a panino at the food carts on Broadway.

There are few places in the world where I can expose my kids to so much, and I have to say right now I am happy for them to have all of this. What about me? I am an outdoor person more than a city person, but I am making the most of it, too.


Blogger Margi Shindler said...

This makes me wish I was raised in NYC!

9:50 AM  
Blogger Cara Meyers said...

I lived in NYC for a few years when I was finishing up one of my degrees. I agree that there is a vibrancy in the City like no where I have ever lived! That energy made me want to excel in school and later in work! Not to mention, you get tons of exercise walking everywhere and racing for subways or trains!

I also learned, very quickly, how to become "street smart" and avoid danger. And the variety of EVERYTHING in NYC is like no where else in the world!

I'm glad I live close enough to the City to hop a train and be there in roughly 30 minutes. And my son just stands on the city street and is in awe of the "buildings that touch the clouds!"

NYC definitely is like no other place in the world!

2:10 PM  
Blogger The One and Only Shawn Dean Campbell said...

Thank you so much for this blog! I have battled with the decision to move to New York for a while, I am a single mother of one in my late 20s and I've wanted to move to New York for all the experience it has to offer for myself ( I write) and my son who is big into music and instruments. I haven't told a lot of people because I know a lot of pessimist but I've been praying and talking to people that will give me credible feedback. My question is how did you locate the place you reside in, in the West side of Manhattan my son will start elementary school soon so I want to find out the process of transferring him. Thank you for any information you can give and thanks again for this piece you wrote.

9:03 PM  

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