When I moved to NYC after college, I was constantly doing and saying things that made me stand out as an outsider. I made eye contact with everyone. I didn’t know how to ignore anyone. Eventually, I learned. Thank gods I did too because these skills quite useful when dealing with toddlers.
Here are a few parenting tricks I learned from living in NYC:
Avoid eye contact. If you make eye contact, smiling may have unintended consequences. These consequences are unpredictable. You may end up being overwhelmed by the power of human connection. You may be followed around when you try to leave by someone demanding your personal attention. You may get feces thrown at you. Or you may see your soul in their eyes & cry from the beauty of it all. You just never know.
Ignore anyone who is being pushy & demanding/whining for your attention. You don’t want what they’re selling. Do not engage. Otherwise, you end up just giving them what they want so they will shut up – it may be $10 for their crappy CD or letting them eat popsicles for lunch while riding the dog. Either way, if you give in now, it will be harder to stay strong the next time.
Learn to eat everything standing up. The cheapest (& often best) food in NYC is sold out of trucks or restaurants with little to no seating. Sitting down to eat in NYC means you’ve got time and money to spare. As a parent, it means you have a nanny. I’m not judging if you do have these things. I just envy you. A lot.
Master the art of being completely aware of your surroundings. Walking down the street in NYC is a bit like a dance. At any given time, you may have to navigate through people, scaffolding, and dogs in sweaters while avoiding pools of bodily fluids on the ground. Which is pretty much the same thing as walking through my house, except replace “scaffolding” with toys and randomly rearranged furniture. Oh, and our dogs don’t have sweaters.
Finally, small acts of kindness are in your best interest. A clear example of this is what happens when someone has a stroller in a subway station. The best way to get your stroller up or down the subway stairs is to just walk straight for them like they are a ramp. Inevitably, when you are a step away, a stranger or two will grab the front wheels and help you carry the stroller up the stairs. You can say thanks, but they won't hear you - they have places to be & don't have time for the consequences of eye contact.
I have always opened doors for people. It never seemed a big deal to me until I tried to get my double stroller through the ridiculous doors at Barnes and Noble while hurried patrons tried to squeeze past me. I remember thinking, “This would never happen in NYC.” When someone finally grabbed the door and held it, I wanted to kiss her with gratitude. But she was on her way before I could say thank you.
The most important thing I learned from NYC, as a person and a parent, was to be kind to people without expecting so much as a thank you in return.
We are all in this together. If any one of us falls down, we all suffer.