As parents, we want to be perfect for our children. We want to always react in the right way. We want to be great listeners, great communicators, understanding, consistent, firm. We want, damn it, to look competent.
So what happens when I take my two kids to New York City on vacation? What does Manhattan do to a scatterbrained parent like me? Reveal my flaws in a very obvious way!
Everything started off happily enough. When we got off the plane and headed for the exit doors of the airport, I knew just what to do. Bus transfers and Metro cards. I felt proud as my kids followed behind me asking questions and taking in the sites. They were the novices, and I was the expert. As a parent, it feels good to be the expert; it’s like, the way of the world.
Our Air B&B was a bit out of the way in Queens. The neighborhood is beautiful. The streets are lined with old homes of varying architecture and manicured lawns. The grass in Florida is built to withstand a daily beat down from our sun, so let’s just say you wouldn’t want to roll around in in. It’s tough and scratchy. But this northern grass is soft and sways in the wind. I kept wanting to take my shoes off and stick my toes in it or lay down on it. Really, just walking around the neighborhood felt like a treat; I mean, look at these beautiful trees.
Unfortunately, our Air B&B host didn’t allow check-in until 3pm, but it was only 9:30am when we landed. So what did we do? We went straight into the city, backpacks and all. It wasn’t long before the misery of that decision reared it’s ugly head.
Although I’ve been aiming to pack lighter and lighter throughout the past couple of years, and although I encourage my kids to do so as well, it seems that our shoulders were not pleased or ready for the ceaseless weight… on it’s shoulders?? So we did a lot of walking.
Our first train exit got us here, on the other side of where we needed to be.
This was not intentional. I had no damn clue why we ended up on this side of the river because my sense of direction is a bitch who likes to leave me high and dry. So we stopped on a grassy hill and made a picnic of our snacks, cheese and grapes and crackers, while we tried to figure out how the heck to get to the other side.
I decided before the trip to buy disposable old school wind up cameras for the kids to document their own journeys, so this was the perfect time for my son to try it out.
Thankfully, I spoke to a passing construction worker and he recommended we take the tram to cross over. “It’s right around the corner,” he said. Oh, I had no idea.
Just a side note: New Yorkers have a reputation for being tough, mean, whatever. Every time I go to New York, I find the people incredibly nice, warm and helpful. I suppose they’re accustomed to tourists asking for directions and such, but I’ve never been made to feel like I was bothering anyone by asking for help in finding my way.
It’s a good thing I asked because taking the tram was a new experience for all of us and a lovely one.
We made it! And we’re off.
Our first destination was The Museum of Natural History and again, it took us some time to get there, but goodness were we happy once we made it!
One thing that I learned is that most larger museums have coat checks where you can leave your bags. They do not accept luggage (very important to note) but our totes and backpacks were acceptable. Thank goodness for light packing! Once I had realized that we wouldn’t be first stopping at our room upon arrival, I had decided to leave my adorable suitcase behind and bring my backpack instead.
There’s nothing like the joy of reaching your destination. This statue was glorious to my eyes.
When I travel alone, I tend to take things slow, but being that it was their first time in New York and I wanted to make the most of it, I went against my nature by rushing on a few occasions and twice, TWICE! got us onto the wrong train!
And guess who it was that saved us? My son. “Momma, he say, we’re on the wrong train.” “Why do you say that,” I ask. “Because it says R right there.” Damn. Seriously if I could get through one day looking competent that’d be great!
Those of you who’ve followed me for a bit know that I had a freak out some months back over his habit of not applying common sense. We ended up in the woods building fires because of it. But I just want to pause here and say that he was the best wing man that I could’ve asked for on this trip. He was so vigilant, responsible, independent, helpful.
He was using common sense when I wasn’t. I’m so proud of him. Sometimes we need to put our children in new environments to see the sides of them we didn’t know existed.
When vacationing with kids, we have to remember that they don’t have the stamina that we do, even if they’re almost as tall as we are, so we were always looking for pit stops- though they would argue not nearly enough.
Taking in the sites. They’ve never walked so much in their lives. I’m a bit more used to it.
There will be lots of walking, so be prepared. This may sound crazy and overboard, but sometimes when my feet hurt, just a simple change in the shoe I’m wearing alters the pressure points in my feet and really helps. If you or the kids are carrying a decent sized bag, consider tossing in an alternate pair of sandals. Just an option.
If you, your children, or whoever you’re traveling with doesn’t want to spend hours of your day at the Statue of Liberty (though she is spectacular up close) you can always take the Staten Island Ferry for a loop around the statue.
There are many companies that will charge to take you on various routes by boat around Ellis Island and to various point of Manhattan; however, if you are on a budget and would like to save, the loop around is free.
Because we didn’t go around rush hour, there were longer waits to get back to Manhattan, but thankfully my son brought along his chess set and we stayed busy in the terminal that way.
View from the ferry.
First ferry ride! He’s too chill to beam with excitement, but it’s in there.
Lastly, kids like to go out and have adventures, but just like us, they feel comforted by reminders of home. It’s always nice for them to bring along some of the things they love on vacation.
These little guys have made it far from home and are exploring the world too.
Thanks so much for coming along on our vacation to New York City. My takeaways from this trip are that as parents we cannot be perfect; vacations are rarely perfect; even when things go horribly wrong (like me losing my unlimited Metro card after the second use) we can still have a great time; if you ever get lost don’t be shy to ask for help; there’s always a train nearby that will lead you to the one you need, just be patient; our children are full of surprises if we give them the chance to shine; our next vacation will be somewhere with a lot of sitting or laying down.