Monday, 21 February 2011

Littleboys & The City

When we first moved to New York, trips to Manhattan were anything but easy with the boys. On our first visit to Central Park, we managed to lose Littleboy 1 for a very frightening 10 minutes in one of its vast playgrounds; then there was that time, described here, where I was so distracted by the boys I thought mistakenly I'd left my purse in a taxi, causing The Doctor to make a mad dash down Fifth Avenue in 90 degree heat. Visits to museums were fraught; at four and two and half, the Littleboys tended to run around frantically touching things they weren't supposed to touch. (A visit to the Metropolitan with my Dad, I seem to recall, consisted mainly of chasing them.)

Although it's an easy train journey from here, by the time you factor in taking two tired boys there and back, 40 minutes each way, and with the two of them usually behaving appallingly on the train itself, the whole day becomes very stressful. On our first visits we were also encumbered by a pushchair, making the subway nightmarish; it was no better in taxis, where the boys tended to crawl around the back seat, delighted by the lack of carseats. Since then, although we've made the odd foray to places like the Statue of Liberty or the Brooklyn Bridge, trips into central Manhattan with both Littleboys have been fairly few and far between.

So yesterday, I am happy to report, was a bit of a milestone. We got up early, got to the Museum of Natural History as it opened, and spent a (mostly) trouble-free couple of hours looking around. Now four and almost six, the boys are fascinated by dinosaurs, partly thanks to Dino Dan, a fab Canadian TV show that has really stoked their interest, and impressed me by identifying not just your basic dinos, such as T-Rex, but stuff like Euoplocephalus which certainly would have had me stumped. Littleboy 2, following his starring role as a walrus in a play about polar animals, was also very pleased with the Hall of Ocean Life, although he did complain that there were no Orca whales. Shocking.

We only had one strop (in the cafe, where a cup of water instead of a $4 apple juice caused a minor meltdown on Littleboy 2's behalf) and saw everything we wanted to see before going off for a slap-up brunch with a friend on the Upper West Side. Even here, the boys behaved well (thanks, partly, to us letting them play Angry Birds on the iPad) while we knocked back Mimosas and over-the-top egg dishes.

The afternoon turned, somewhat accidentally, into a long ramble through Central Park. We had thought we would go there briefly and find a playground; but the park is so much bigger than you expect, and we kept finding new little pockets, such as the Belvedere Castle (view from which is pictured above), which just had to be explored. We didn't find the big playground we remembered (the scene of Littleboy 1's disappearance) but we found a smaller one with a great curving slide built into the rock, down which small children were luge-ing on their coats.

It was almost 6.30pm when we walked back up to our front door. The boys were filthy; thanks to the muddy park and the grimy floor of Penn Station, where they had insisted on playing as we waited for the train. They were tired, of course - but they were still walking - in fact, no-one was carried the whole day - and any whining had been kept to a minimum during the return journey.
What's more, after a hot bath and hairwash, they appeared to be raring to go again - while we were ready to collapse, exhausted, into bed.

So; with just an extra 18 months on our side, the combination of Littleboys and the City turns out to be a successful one after all. And with (probably) half our time here already elapsed, I'm going to have to make sure we make the most of it.


Iota said...

Good for you!

Days out do get easier. I'm now at the stage where I can send the two older kids off on their own to the gift shop, the restroom, to fetch something from the car, to watch their sister while I nip to the restroom, etc etc. They can read the notices on museum displays to themselves. I expect you just can't imagine a time like that, but it will come for you too!

Home Office Mum said...

Having Manhattan on your doorstep must be amazing. And yes, days out do get easier (and you have to carry far less 'stuff')

internet help said...

I have had similar issues traveling from Warminster to London. The underground is a nightmare for under fives although they love the journey itself.

The worst is when people won't give you a seat although you have a three year old who can't keep his balance.

Tanya (Bump2Basics) said...

Sounds like a fab city day now that the boys are that litte bit older - independently mobile but not running off into the distance!

You are so right about Central Park - there is so much to discover there. If the boys were even older I would suggest visiting Chess & Checkers where you can play games for free in a gazebo-style building near the carosel. My sis volunteers there on Sundays.

Penn Station is filthy and it has always been the same since I used to go through it into Manhattan with my friends as a teenager...I kind of like that it never changes though.

You know I'm still very much in the pushchair phase and will one distant day look forward to easier urban navigation (though I did sneak in a workout by carrying LLC in her pushchair and up and down a maze of stairs on the Bakerloo line last Friday....)

Anonymous said...

You can find a complete list of Central Park playgrounds here.

I'm betting you went to the Billy Johnson Playground, just north of the zoo? My father used to take us to watch the clock after we went skating when we were kids. (We left school early to go skating on Thursdays, with the admittedly dubious argument that if it was okay for Jewish and Catholic kids to leave early on Wednesdays for religious instruction, it was okay for us to leave early on Thursdays for skating.) Well, I think it's dubious. My father probably thought it was absurd for kids to leave early just to be indoctrinated. His phrasing, not mine!

nappy valley girl said...

Iota - I dream about that day....

Home Office Mum - I already find it amazing that I don't have to carry much. (Still take a spare pair of trousers, though, in case of 'accidents'....)

Internet help - I have been there, believe me! Negotiating the tube with a double buggy is not something I ever want to return to.

Tanya - ooh, thanks for the tip on Chess and Checkers. We will check it out!

Conuly -yes, it was the Billy Johnson playground! And we could hear the zoo clock. Thanks for the list of playgrounds.

Mwa said...

I'm so happy for you!

(It it evil that I'm also a bit jealous because I SO WANT TO be in NY?)

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Ah, so great to get to that stage. enjoy!
I am now at the stage, believe it or not, of thinking, oh no they are growing up so fast. I iwsh they wd stay littel for longer. They are more independent & need me less, wch has its down as well as upsides!

geekymummy said...

Wow, sounds like a brilliant day out.