Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Rest of the World

Some days in New York are very exciting. Traffic is jammed, there's some kind of dignitary visiting, a worldwide protest of something is going on at the U.N., or there's a huge sporting event. It's what makes living in the city fun, interesting, and sometimes overwhelming.

I grew up in a suburb in South Carolina. Not much went on there and I was really anxious to get out and explore the world. Since then, I haven't exactly done a world tour, but I've lived in or near several big cities: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Baltimore, DC, and of course, New York. Each has its own unique charm and benefits, as well as drawbacks. As a father, I recall always wanting to raise a family close to a large city for the cultural benefits as well as the world prospective it would provide my children. Granted, New York is a lot bigger, faster, and more expensive than anywhere I would have chosen to settle down, but it is home and I'm feeling mostly comfortable now.

I guess I'm thinking of this because of the recent Facebook contact I've had with old high school friends. A few of them, like me, got out and explored the world not turn. A few left for a while but returned to raise families. Most stayed and haven't lived anywhere else. While that's a nice thing for them (erg. stability, roots in the same place, predictability, etc.) I find it somewhat limiting in scope. As I've talked to some of them, they are amazed at things that I now take for granted: living in a high rise apartment building; not owning or needing a car; the sheer volume of people; or the ethnic diversity.

I want my little one to grow up with a "world view," primarily because when I got to college, I realized how small the world had been for me the 18 years prior. Most of the kids I went to college with were from the DC area. They knew a ton about politics, economics, different cultures, and the arts. I felt really behind. Miss M, growing up in NYC, obviously isn't going tho have that problem, but she will be missing out on how most of the rest of the country lives.

NYC is so unique in it's every day experience and I've noticed people who grow up here (Manhattan specifically) are just a bit "off." They're almost afraid of the rest of the country. Seems strange right? That's not how I want Miss M to be. I've been doing my best to show her "Normal America" by visiting my parents and sister in SC but there has to be more.

I think attitudes and values start at home. There are a plethora of things to do here with my little one and exposing her to all of it I feel is really important. I want her to be a well rounded person who feels comfortable in any situation, in any place. Traveling to other places, experiencing other people and cultures, and teaching acceptance of those "different" seems the way to go.

So parents, how do you teach your little ones about the rest of the world, especially on a limited single parent budget? How do we show our kids the world, teach them about others different than them, and make sure they are well rounded enough to make informed decisions about their own path in life? My question for the day...


Travis said...

I've been all over the US. And, I'm going to Boston and back to NYC in less than 2 weeks. I grew up rural, but I think it helps that I can understand all sides of a coin. My kids have walked with me in NYC and we lived in Wyoming, while having my little girl and I spend time around Westwood in LA.

Been to Mexico City, and Costa Rica, and it's amazing at the cultural differences. I love it. And I love teaching my kids it too. But I love forming those roots and having my kids remember where they are from.

BigLittleWolf said...

Your choice of preschool/school is critical - and I realize that there again, in Manhattan, you are in a very special situation for so many reasons, that is nearly unique in this country. (I'm guessing San Francisco may be the other city that holds many parallels to your schooling choice challenges.)

You will have to use the advantage of your Southern upbringing and that "face" of America to provide some balance to Miss M's perception of the world. And in your home, and in the friends you choose to gather there, you will need to expand that experience of diversity and acceptance - and also curiosity.

To the extent that you can, as she gets older, traveling with her (or encouraging her to travel) outside of NYC is going to be key. As one who was raised in a large northern city (with "culture" a stone's throw away), and subsequent moves to areas both urban and suburban in the US, and several stints overseas, the more she exposed to, the more she will have the ease and openness you wish for her.

Senorita said...

I am not a parent, but I have all of my mother's side in Austria. My grandmother and aunt stepped up and offered me to live there when I was 10.

Then I lived there again with my grandma for a summer when I was 18. I learned German, I learned how to waltz, I learned about the culture. It was a great experience. After that I traveled on my own. I decided to live in Spain for a year.

Maybe see if her mother's family will let her stay for a little while.

bad mummy said...

I live in Toronto, which can rival NYC for multi-culturalism. The Mook recently spelled out 'roti' with her magnetic fridge letters. No wonder - there are 3 roti places within 5 minutes of our home - Jamaican, Indian and Guyanese.

We are members of Postcrossing.com, so with every postcard we sent and receive is the opportunity to look at the map, find out the language, etc.

Our memory game is of kids from all over the world. And there's a great Canadian kids tv show called 'are we there yet?' that follows siblings on their world adventures. Great for sparking questions/discussion about kids in other countries.

We also attend cultural festivals when we can. Aboriginal Canadian pow-wow. Polish Festival.

The Pipster said...

I need to start showing my children the world, but it is hard on a single parent budget. I was just on craig's list and saw a post about a home exchange in Paris. That would be such an experience for the boys, but unfortunately, I cannot take the time because of work. They want to see Washington, DC and NYC, so I think those are the two places high on my list at the moment.

jules said...

I dont think you need any help at all. In fact, this post made my heart smile. I grew up in the country about 45 minutes south of DC and I think it's tragically sad that so many of my classmates have never ventured out. My parents took us to museums and traveled tons as a kid. (All road trips because my mom is afraid to fly, but those experiences are wonderful educational, learning experiences. And fun! Because of that, I have a love of traveling and trying new things. Because you have the will and drive to move and around your daughter will inherit that from you. Even things as simple as traveling back to SC to see fam. NYC has so much to offer there will always be new things. Def try to get her to the DC museums though! I have no doubt your daughter is a very lucky girl!

Nicki said...

Lead by example. Horizons are not expanded simply because of travel and other big budget experiences. There are tons of cool inexpensive things to do. All it takes is a little imagination and our secret ingredient...lean in...it's love. ;)

My kids embrace people from all walks of life, they stand up for others, they would never dream of being homophobic, and they are great at expressing themselves. And I wish I could take credit for it, but mostly I just encourage them to dream and work hard to make those dreams come true.

Jack said...

LA has every ethnic group you can think of. We make a point of traveling around the city so that the kids are exposed to lots of different people.

Beyond that in my experience a lot of New Yorkers have this misguided idea that Manhattan is the center of the world.

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