I was recently coming out of the Canal Street stop on the A train and had a moment of déjà vu, transported back to the years my daughters did gymnastics nearby, when twice a week I walked up those same stairs. I knew all the places to get coffee in the surrounding blocks, spending an hour or more roaming, reading or handling e-mails and calls before heading back to the gym for pick up.
These days, I’m never in that area and it made me realize the many surprising ways my daughters impact my life, right down to the places I go.
Of course, I knew having kids would change things but it never occurred to me how being a parent would affect my experience of Brooklyn and the world. For years, I spent weekends at the Parade Grounds for soccer games, back when the fields were a mix of dirt, broken glass, and debris, before they were renovated with lovely new turf and a snack stand. There was a period of time we made it to Coney Island regularly, visiting the aquarium, the Boardwalk, or birthday parties at the Plaster Gallery. Ice Skating at Chelsea Piers was big for a while, meeting camp buses in the Bronx, day camp on Staten Island, swimming at the Marriott, school shopping on Fulton Mall, each activity representing a phase in my parenting career.
I turned my girls onto crepes at one point and we found as many places to eat them as possible — the Village, Chelsea, SoHo, Cobble Hill — until our haunts closed or moved and we found a new project to take on. When the kids got into sewing we discovered the button, trimming, and fabric shops along New Utrecht Avenue in Borough Park.
As each chapter in my daughters’ lives ended, where I’d find myself spending time changed. Put together, two kids got me to cover a lot of ground in this big city, from the Queens County Farm Museum, nearly on the border of Nassau County, to driving tests on Father Capodanno Boulevard, running along the beaches on Staten Island, places I’d never have gone without them.
It isn’t like I don’t have my own life, hang outs to meet friends for coffee or favorite places to sit and work. Going somewhere with my kids, though, made me really see it in new ways, and challenged me to notice what was around us, looking in windows or noticing neighborhoods. On my own, I stay in my zone, defined by how far I take the dog for walks or routine destinations.
With the oldest already off to college and the younger one following soon, the city will shrink for me, with no more reason to roam the disappearing fabric stores off of Broadway and Canal, or track down art supplies for a school projects in the stores around Pratt. In my quest to find experiences for them, supporting their interests and enthusiasms, they opened up this wonderful, crazy city to me.