This past weekend we all flew to Houston, Texas for a very good friend's 40th birthday. For the kids and I, it was our first time in Texas and we had a ball. Admittedly, it was as much about the company than the place, but the one down side was that we came home with more baggage than we had bargained for. My kids now want to live in Texas. REALLY want to live there. As in, sobbing in the cab as we drove over the Brooklyn bridge into Manhattan "WHY?WHY?WHY Can't we live there Mum". "You are so mean! I hate New York!". I felt so much conflict, sitting in the back of that cab. I was excited to be back and still got the buzz as we swept along the east river with views of the Gotham skyline.....why weren't they?
So, I took a deep breath and asked "Why?". According to my eight and six year old, the fact that there is space (vast sprawling acres of it) and warm weather, the fact that our friend's house was not just big, it was palatial, the fact that they had a swimming pool, a fountain in the front garden, a cinema room, the fact that they had the dog that my kids are desperate for, was enough to tip them over the edge. Well, yes, I reasoned, of course those are things that you would like, who wouldn't? I dug deep into my 'things parents should say' knowledge bank and talked to them about turning envy into something positive. " You should feel glad that our friends are happy, healthy and thriving in Texas, pleased that we live so close that we can go and hang out for a weekend. Why don't you think about the things that you have in New York that make you happy, then you will be able to put these material things into perspective." I gave it my best shot.
You get to go to a unique, amazing, progressive, inspiring school in the West Village, these types of schools are not as accessible in other parts of the world. Answer: BUT THEY HAVE LIGHTS THAT TURN THE POOL DIFFERENT COLOURS! More sobbing.
You get to walk to dozens of parks within five minutes, you have music lessons with the same teacher as the Edge's kids (for crying out loud!), you walk to the most amazing supermarket with the best, healthy produce money can buy. You are learning to be street smart, confident, all while you are getting exercise. BUT THEY HAVE A CINEMA ROOM WITH REAL CINEMA SEATS! Helpless tears.
You are getting to learn about different cultures, languages, points of views, art, music, fashion all in the first hand not through the editing eyes of the media. BUT THEY HAVE A TRAMPOLINE, A CLIMBING FRAME AND A SLIDE INTO THE POOL! Accusatory silence.
I then swung between lecturing them on the dangers of putting their material desires above all else, to explaining the concept liberalism, to why George Bush was a bad president (sorry, Texans, I know he does not represent all of you, but I was desperate), to the how the theory of economics means that Manhattan apartments are small and expensive . Obviously, all good parenting guides had gone out the window at that stage. By the time the cab pulled up at our building, I was exhausted and the kids were confused and sulky. So, I went into hyper warp speed and had them bathed and in bed in twenty minutes so that I could throw myself into a hot bath and let the bouncing marbles in my head begin to settle.
As the hot water started to soothe my mind, I too tried to turn it into something positive. They have just had a chance to remember what it was like when they had more space, a garden...but no pool! It is a kind of grief. But more than that, they now see themselves as mobile citizens of the world. They do not see any barriers to uprooting and moving. "Why not move to Texas, we moved to New York?". I hope that they hang on to that view of the world and apply it to their adulthood. In fact, on the way to Texas on the airplane I had listened to them discuss where in the world they would want to live. Israel, Morocco, France and Fiji ran off their tongues as if they were only a cab ride away. That sense of adventure and worldliness is something that moving here has given them. Sure, kids get that in other places, but my two have had the crash course.
The next day as we arrived back in our building after school, there as a notice in the lobby with instructions on what residents should do if the doormen were to carry out their proposed strike (they reached a deal in the end). As we rode the lift up to the 21st floor, both kids looked at me in horror as I read the list of instructions to them. What we would have to do with the rubbish, how to operate the lift call button (umm push it?), how to access the building. " There will be no doorman tomorrow??", " No one to open the door?", "No one to wish us a great day at school", " No one to make our trash room as clean as a hospital ward?". I jumped on the opportunity with the speed and grace of a lioness 'HA! Who doesn't want to live in New York, now? You two are having a melt down because you might actually have to feel the weight of your own door!". It was a low, cheap shot, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
So, throughout, this week I have watched the kids gasp in awe at the sight of the TriBeCa film festival red carpet. I have listened to one of them discuss with their friends how they want to be an author/artist/inventor/scientist/poet. I have laughed with them as we witnessed paparazzi literally falling on their backside trying to get a picture of a celebrity. As I listened to them talk with passion about the unique experiences, field trips, science fairs, that they have experienced just this week alone at school, from which they have bound every day declaring "I have had the best day ever, not just in the world but in the whole UNIVERSE!', I know that wherever we lay our cowboy hats, that's our home. Even if they don't yet know it.
yours, with a 'yeeha!'