Last week we headed to Orlando for Spring Break. As we started our journey (well, actually as we sat at La Guardia for 8 hours due to bad weather), I began to wonder how I would view my relationship with Manhattan after a longer period of absence. Would absence make the heart grow stronger or would I enjoy spreading my wings in the sun and space and be reluctant to head back?
For the first few days it was so lovely to finally feel the warmth of sun on our skin and we all slept like babies in complete (now alarming) silence. No sirens, no midnight roadworks, no wind howling round the side of our tall apartment building. Our bedroom which has an uninterrupted view of the Hudson, also got the full force of all the recent storms, uninterrupted, all night, night after night. It was also a surprise to watch my son (8) literally 'come of age' right in front of my eyes. In the relative safety of our resort he quickly began asking for more and more freedom. 'Mum, can I go and swim in the other pool on my own', 'Mum, can I go down to the arcade on my own', 'Mum, can I go to the store on my own'?. My instinct was still on Manhattan time and thought 'No! You will get hit by a cab/kidnapped/hassled by a homeless person/lost'. But, I quickly realised that we were in a safe (ish) place and that I should really give him the freedom that he so craves and that I just cannot give him in New York. And guess what, the more freedom he had the more responsible, happy and carefree he became. It was a joy to watch but I felt a tightening of my heart as I realised how short lived all this freedom would be. I just cannot imagine scenarios in Manhattan when I can give him the longer leash that his age so clearly needs. Cue lots of ruminations over why Manhattan is so great: I started a mental list of all the things that I love about living there and, ergo, why my kids should too. You know, why they are going to thank me aged 16 for not allowing them to go to school on their own (ever!)...
(1) Good food. I know, it's crap but that is what I missed for all of us. In New York you can eat really good, healthy food anywhere at any time. Orlando, well, Jamie Oliver needs to clone himself and work overtime.
(2) Soul Cycle. I know, again, it's crap you can spin anywhere but the energy and positivity that is generated there is so New York. Slowly beginning to smell a whiff of desperation here.
(3) Good coffee. The Orlando 'cup of Joe' first thing in the morning made me want to go back to bed. Oh, for crying out loud..
(4) Hmmmm, this list is really bad, surely I can come up with a better reason that justifies not giving my kids age appropriate freedom. Must try harder.
So, for the next few days I tried to improve my list to a more sophisticated and justifiable level but the harder I tried the worse it got. As I boarded the flight to head home I tapped into how I was feeling about heading back. Did I feel the same as I did heading back to St.Albans after previous holidays? Was I more excited? The answer was 'Yes', but it was marginal.
As we woke the following morning I began to research a day out in the City with the kids. The answer was simple: it was free, it was ten minutes from our front door and it was one of the best days out I have ever had with the kids. The Madison Square Park Conservancy is currently exhibiting Antony Gormley's (sculptor of the Angel of the North) '31 Naked Men' (note:that is not the official title, but it is what my kids call it), where he has placed 31 life size iron and fibreglass sculptures of his own naked body all around the park, on rooftops, on window ledges, even precariously perched on top of the Flat Iron building. Armed with a tick list to mark off each 'man' that they spotted and a camera, the kids spent the day freely roaming the city, freely talking to random strangers about the exhibit, they let their minds be free to ponder the artist's intentions and what the sculptures meant, they showed zero inhibitions in discussing the relative size of the artist's private parts compared to other real ones they had seen (sorry Daddy!), they too romped freely in the fantastic Madison Square Park play area and as they tucked into their Shake Shack lunch with utter abandonment, I remembered why I utterly love this city and why I want my kids to spend their childhood here.
So, as I think up ways in which I can let my kids spread their wings in this city without getting them clipped by a yellow cab, I am looking forward to our next day out. Which happens to be a big pillow fight in Union Square tomorrow to mark International Pillow Fight Day....hopefully without a naked man insight.
yours, plumping her pillow