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The life lessons I learned in NYC

This weekend we spent in New York City to celebrate Lorelei’s 12 years on Earth. We walked close to 15 miles in two days exploring the city of immigrants. We walked across the Brooklyn bridge, in the footsteps of many travelers, across the 150 years of history packed in to 5,989 feet. Two dozen people lost their lives over the 14 years of it’s construction, and united two boroughs with the most excitement the world had yet seen. As I walked across the wooden pathway from Manhattan to Brooklyn I imagined the day that 21 elephants were led across the deck of the bridge to gain the crowds trust, and 250,000 people followed on a deck that Roebling designed expressly for the enjoyment of pedestrians. The history and meaning of NYC is not lost on me as we substitute the mundane birthday party of 10 screaming 12 year olds for a trip to walk in the footsteps of American History. I am so thankful to live in a place easily accessible to such rich American history, and an appreciation for all the immigrants that made America what it is today. I look forward to the day when Alina is granted her American papers and joins the trek across the Brooklyn bridge herself, as an American.

New York City is such a thought provoking place. I find myself unable to dodge all the feelings, smells, and endless pondering that assault me from every direction. In a place with 8 Million people it is hard to feel anything but awe and wonder about how these 8 million work, sleep, eat, and play together. There is something to be learned from the efficiency that NYC offers, and perhaps the enticement people feel to participate. The expertise, the inspiration, the endless places to explore rekindles my desire to learn and master as many things as I can in this life, it pushes me to think outside this small town mentality and force anxiety to the back seat. If millions upon millions of people have left their lives, their families, their countries and come to NYC to find a better way of life, how is that I let fear control so much of mine? I think there are clear reasons why Maine is called “Vacationland” and why the rates of depression are so high, aside from the lack of vitamin D. The lack of resources, competitive jobs, entertainment, and stimulation have certainly made me yearn for a place that can offer me more opportunities to excel. The slow life in Maine is certainly conducive for vacation, but it feels like its holding me back with both hands as I run against the current of the unmotivated while moving only at a snails pace. There are so many interesting things to learn in this age, being in  place where they are all accessible is so tempting.

When I think about childhood, about things that are important to teach them early on, it expands far beyond the novice parents breakdowns of cloth vs. disposable, formula vs. breast milk. In my journey of collecting all these children, we have used nearly every variable between them all. We have some that were exclusively formula fed, down to the one that wouldn’t quit nursing till after 2 years old. Turns out when they’re even to school age you can’t tell which kids are which and all those tears I shed for my last baby in his disposable diapers were grief I brought on myself from the pressure I felt from the competition of other novice moms. Raising children is extremely important. If you let them cry it out or you let them sleep in your bed until college really doesn’t matter, its all about convenience for you, and how you can help yourself survive until they move on to school. We need to be mindful in this community of young families always to support and reserve your judgement because I can tell you from experience having  a baby every other year can nearly kill you all on its own.

We are well over 2 dozen birthday parties in the last 13 years, a dozen Christmas celebrations, Easter, and endless other reasons why Americans are pressured to spend money. Of all the holidays and celebrations we have to our history I can’t specifically remember one that stands out beyond the others. I have memories of vague locations but nothing that specifically makes the memories fond. We didn’t learn anything, acquire new skills, or add anything to our lives but more ‘stuff’. After a weekend in NYC it has pushed me even more to strive to de-clutter my life, and my mind, and chose more wisely where I spend my time and money.

Since we have been married we have always celebrated our anniversary with a trip. We use any excuse we can to travel, even if it means spending days in the airport. There is a refreshing freedom that comes with exploring new places, and meeting new people. Traveling isn’t done easily without experience however. It can be a daunting process to navigate maps, airports, and subway terminals. The expansion of your mind to see things unfamiliar to you, and break out of your daily routine is inspiring, and the confidence gained reminds you that you can achieve anything. Travel experience from packing your bags, all the way through booking an airline ticket is something we can teach our children. Preparing my kids to take on the world starts with the gift of experience. Teaching them new skills with each trip how to pack a bag, how to wait patiently, how to order in a fancy restaurant, how to navigate maps, and how to tip, are a few of the very important skills we need to teach the next generation if we hope to ever give them the confidence to participate in and take charge of this world. Taking the clutter out of your house to replace it with photos and memories of a grand place, of a time spent together, is so much more valuable than the latest toy. We are happy in our decision to replace typical American obligatory celebrations for meaningful interactions, preparing the kids for the world while they still have their training wheels to fall back on. Parenting is like being a conductor, teaching them how to play in time while focusing on each child individually, each with their own skill set and struggle. Teaching them how to move past their blocks, how to be ready for the next movement, and challenging them to be ready when the works crescendo. There is multitasking beyond driving to dance class and swim team, how to get them to learn enough responsibility to handle the real tests life gives in its own timeline is the most challenging task. When to push and when to give breaks is the most delicate song I dance to.

If I had to give any parenting advice to the parents just starting out, I would tell them to focus on the qualities you want your children to have mastered when they go to college. Treat them like mini adults, hold them responsible, teach them integrity, and let them fail. Teach your children to think like scientists, to have the confidence to explore the world, and the courage to make it theirs. Let them fall down, let them fail, and be there to hold their hands when they stand back up to try it again. Kids are resilient, they don’t need to be wrapped in bubble wrap, they need to know it’s ok to feel the pain, because it lets you know you’re still alive, and being alive means you can work harder to break the highest of glass ceilings. Children are the future, teach them to be the future you hope you live in.