Proud to be a city mouse

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Why Manhattan is the best place to raise kids


  • Playing in Central Park. Photo: Rain0975, via flickr

  • Photo: Steven Pisano, via flickr

If you’re thinking of moving out of Manhattan to a) get away from those Upper East Side moms satirized on “Odd Mom Out,” b) have a yard that you believe will be superior to Central Park, or c) live what you believe will be a simpler life (where you envision yourself making your own jam), have I got a summer read for you.

The newly published “City Mouse” by Stacey Lender follows the move of Jessica and Aaron, along with their two young daughters, from Manhattan to Suffern, where we are reminded that momzillas, posers and mean kids are everywhere. If one’s skill set includes gossiping and fundraising, pull up an Adirondack chair.

Aside from the entertainment value of this fish-out-of-water story, (Jessica, as well as I, were a bit taken aback by the whole backyard party/hot tub scene), the story reminded me of why I’m glad that my husband Neil and I stayed in NYC to raise our now 22-year-old son, Luke and 19-year-old daughter, Meg.

• Although everywhere go you there will be ice skating and Little League, or whatever activities your children are into, one of things I liked was looking up from Wollman Rink and seeing the CPW skyline, or looking around and thinking that Central Park is truly an oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle.

• I never had to rely upon a car to take my kids to the dentist or a playdate, let alone to buy bread.

• Neil’s “commute” has always been a nice, head-clearing walk from his midtown office to our Upper East Side home.

• My kids have always known what a real bagel tastes like.

• Even though the Time Warner Center, Pier 17, and the Manhattan Mall are all indeed “malls,” it never occurred to Luke or Meg to hang out in them.

• My children learned early how to travel via public transportation. When Luke was a junior in high school, a friend from Westchester was going to come to Manhattan to spend the day with him and some other guys. The boy’s mother insisted that Luke meet her son at the MetroNorth gate in Grand Central, so that Luke could escort the kid uptown on the subway. They were both 17.

• We never needed the services of ADT or an electric fence, because we have a doorman.

• I would have rather walked my kids across the park to the Museum of Natural History to look at the big whale or the butterfly exhibit for the umpteenth time, than ever have them step foot in a Chuck E. Cheese.

• We can all sleep at night, even when there’s noise. Sirens. The rattle of the garbage truck. Music to our ears.

• Luke and Meg learned early that not everyone looks like them and how to get along with different types of people.

• Life is competitive, whether it be getting into a school or on a team. Better to learn this sooner rather than later. Both Neil and I are native New Yorkers, from Queens and the Bronx, respectively. When we began our careers, working with other recent college grads who’d moved here from suburbs near and far, it was hard for us to believe their disbelief that the rest of us weren’t getting out of their way, so their career paths could be one boulevard of unbroken green lights.

• Even when there’s nothing to do, there’s always something to do.

• More space means more stuff and more to clean. The lure of a basement and an attic escapes me.

• Sophisticated serves kids better than sheltered.

• We share our home with 8.55 million other people. Waiting our turn is not a foreign concept to any of us.

• Carl Schurz Park is our backyard and I’ve never had to remind, aka nag, Neil to mow it.

• And for those moms who work outside the home like Jessica, who kept her 9-to-5 theater-district publicity job, when something happens such as the fender bender her nanny and girls were involved in, there’s no hopping in a cab or running several blocks to the scene. You just have to hope you’re in time to catch the 3:07.

Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels “Back to Work She Goes,” and “Fat Chick,” for which a movie is in the works.

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