Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The country mice become city mice

My suburban-raised children have many useful skills. They can locate our car in a parking lot filled with hundreds of thousands of startingly similar vehicles. They can spot a parking space that is close to the supermarket entrance from hundreds of yards away. They watch traffic signals and signs and instruct me on the meaning of such symbols ("Mom, the light is green. GO!!!!") But in the city? They are somewhat useless in the city, I am afraid.

City children are raised with an entirely different set of skills than suburban children. They learn at an early age to walk long distances without complaining, to stay close to a parent or caregiver in heavily congested areas, to steer clear of busy people walking by on the street, to enter and exit public transportation in a timely manner and never to step off the curb without waiting for an adult to accompany them. At least, I presume city children learn these skills at an early age. These are certainly the skills that I wish my suburban-children-turned-city-children already possessed. But after 3 months here, it is entirely evident to me that trying to teach my old dogs these new tricks is a "too much, too little, too late" exercise in frustration.

My kids bump into people on the street with alarming frequency. They fail to grasp the fact that the Tube is going to leave the station a minute after it arrives regardless of whether they've yet boarded the train. They are less than enamored with the idea of their feet as a form of transportation. They see nothing wrong with running up ahead on congested streets where it's hard for me to keep an eye them. And if one of them doesn't eventually get hit by a car after stepping off the curb without looking first, it's going to be an all out miracle. We've adjusted pretty well to our move overall. But 3 months into the game, turning my suburban kids into city kids is still turning out to be one heck of a challenge.

True, we have made strides. Julia's pretty much got the London Underground system figured out by now (that's one of us) and she's been walking upwards of a mile without complaining lately. Evan's been walking more, too, and he's doing a good job of stopping on the sidewalk at the end of a block before charging headfirst into traffic. But it has been an enormous amount of work to get them to this point and truthfully, taking them anywhere -- even just to and from school -- is still pretty exhausting.

This morning, on the way home from dropping Julia off at school, Evan stepped off of the sidewalk in the middle of a street. I opened my mouth to launch into the "this is a parking spot, not a play space" speech when he cut me off at the pass. "Look, Mom," he exclaimed happily. "I've parked my shoe!"

Sigh. At least he remembered part of the speech he's now heard a gazillion times, even if the salient point is still lost on him. City Life Lesson # 4,526 ("Why We Do Not Park Our Shoes In Spots Designed For Cars") will commence tomorrow.


Blogger Dana said...

Love Evan's comment about parking his shoe. I very much understand (unfortunately) the frustration that involves coaxing children to walk walk walk. My kids walk a block or two then start to complain. Vociferously.

Hmmm, I think you're right that this says something about city vs. suburban. But it may say something else about our society in general. I'm going to think further on that . . . and probably walk more with my kids.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

My kids would not do too well with city life, I'm afraid. All of the walking, looking where you're going and staying close to an adult? Yeah, that would not go over too well, at all.

I'm with Dana... I need to try to take more walks with my kids. (Including my 5-year-old who still insists on the sit & stand stroller some days....

PS - Have a great visit with your parents this week! :)

9:34 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

My kids have been known to complain when they have to walk through a suburban parking lot. Never mind staying close to me, which is not in their scope of thought. They'd never make it in the city. ;)

9:54 PM  
Blogger Rosemary said...

Great perceptions on city kids vs suburban kids. I am beginning to learn a lot more about walking to destinations and the joys of mass transit (as ou may understand). I'm feeling in better shape already in less than one week. It's a shame my kids never had the benefit of this!

2:39 AM  

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