Welcome to Kiddieland

I still haven’t decided if the suburbs make me happy or not. I can drink coffee on my front porch. But there are no people walking by. Dirty dishes and socks no longer oppress me. But it takes longer to vacuum the house. There are seventeen other children on our block. But the mothers never leave their houses.

Some good. Some bad.

For the kids, though, moving to the suburbs was an unqualified success.

Jonah loves school. When the bus drops him off at 3:30, we walk down the block together and chat about the day. I force the boys into the kitchen for snack time. Their bikes will still be there when we’re done.

While the kids munch on apples that we picked at Davies farm on Monday, I open up Jonah’s blue folder. His teacher has stuffed it with his work from the day. He matched the lower case n with the upper case N. He drew a picture of us picking apples. He circled the big squares and xed the small ones. Easy stuff, but Jonah likes getting everything all right.

In the city, soccer class required a forty minute subway ride to central park and a bucket of cash. On Saturday morning, Steve walks Jonah to his soccer practice at the middle school field. Jonah is the star of his team. He scored a goal last week, and the coach told Steve that Jonah was very talented. Of course, Steve also over heard the coach describe Jonah as a lunatic because he was fearlessly charging boys twice his size. My boy, the lunatic. We’re so proud.

After hours of work dealing with the state bureaucracy (a post in the future), Ian has been set up with speech therapy. The therapist came to our house last week and showed him some new tricks. She sternly told me to throw away his sippy cups because they have been linked to speech delay.

I also made a dozen calls to find a nursery school program for Ian. He’s ready for a little finger painting and circle time. In the city, we had only two options for nursery school. One was $8,000 for part time; $15,000 for full time. The other was $5,000 for a mediocre program. The teachers were mean, the space was small, and there were 18 kids in the classroom. We had to send Jonah to the bad place.

Here, there are a dozen nursery school options. I observed a great program for two years olds this morning with 9 kids and parental involvement. We’re signing up immediately. Next year, there’s a Montessori part time program that only costs $3,000. All have large spaces and young teachers.

And then there’s our block – 17 kids and most of them are under 6. There are quadruplets and two sets of twins. When the bus driver unloads them with a sigh of relief, the kids tear down the block over everyone’s lawns shouting Let’s meet after snack time. When it’s time for dinner, I just yell out the window for Jonah to get back in, while Ian chases the cat.

Sure it’s crazy. The quadruplets have already knocked down our fence, and Ian likes to ring the neighbor’s bell. But if they’re happy, I’m happy. Jonah’s bad nursery school drove me to distraction. After I finish filling out this paperwork for Ian’s schools, I can stop worrying about the boys and concentrate on myself. When he’s at nursery school, maybe I can finish those articles. Maybe the suburbs are going to work out for me, too.

11 thoughts on “Welcome to Kiddieland

  1. I’m a 61 year old mother of three sons-two married- and one daughter…and I’m new to the mother-in-law and soon to be grandmother role. Any thoughts? I have many questions for my daughters-in-law..and have good relationships with both…but they’re really quite generic and thought perhaps your blog conference friends might deal with this….how can your parents help? as parents and grandparents….. Enjoy your blog….spent several years in Manhattan and Maplewood, NJ…

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  2. Do you live in my neighborhood–sounds very similar? I love it but I’m a little angst-ridden about it too. It has some pretty conservative elements. I don’t really fit the stay-at-home mom model (I work.) I also don’t care too much about decor–outdoor or indoor. Would this mentality go over better in the city–don’t know? City wasn’t an option for us because we couldn’t afford private school and moved suddenly from a rural area where there was no school situation. I like cities though and want my kids to like them too. So we visit a lot–and so far that’s working.

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  3. Tim – Yeah, sippy cups are bad. Who knew? They were only designed to be used for two months after the kids transitions from the bottle to a cup. But everyone, including myself, has their kids use them for years and that is causing problems with their palettes, resulting in lipsing, and it also doesn’t strengthen the right muscles for talking. So, the therapist just had us send away for $40 fancy straws. For $40, those straws better be damn fancy.
    Laura – I know the suburbs aren’t perfect, but they have excellent services for the kids. I’m in shock right now with all the options.
    Pat- Advice for future mother in laws? Oh, my. What if my mother in law found this blog by googling my name? No way. Staying very far away from that topic.

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  4. Laura….my point exactly….you can’t talk to or about your mother-in-law….seems the only relationship discussion is a caricature…I was a very difficult daughter-in-law….could have learned a lot with a little perspective and a little openness…not with my mother-in-law herself…but about the topic in general…how can we learn if we cant’ talk….

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  5. The hard thing about in-law (esp mother-in-law/daughter-in-law)relationships is figuring out how to support the grandchildren without appearing to question the parent’s judgment, especially when the parent displays what is in your view bad judgment. My mother errs on the side of disretion, which is seen by my wife as festering disapproval, I think wrongly.
    Parents-in-law should be moderately frank with the parents about what they will and won’t do, and what they WANT to do, so that negotiation is possible; while acknowledging that they just have much less at stake than the parent does.
    I say all this, with some ideal in mind of what I’d want from my children’s grandparents. In my particular case the help is all the other way — my own m-i-l has made and continues to make lots of bad decisions in her life, and her daughter is very vulnerable to those bad decisions. I feel like one of those sandwich people — raising kids without support, and simulatneously supporting the older generation.

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  6. I just have to say something about the mother-in-law thing. Neither my husband nor I got a good deal in the mother-in-law category. I’ll just discuss my own here. My mother-in-law is a wonderful, caring person. The kids love her. I love her, but . . . she does not listen to us. The main thing she doesn’t listen to us on is purchasing for the kids. The toys stream in throughout the year–and Christmas is like a ball pit of toys. We have been very straight with them and said, “Do not do this. One toy for each kid.” Didn’t work. This may seem like a minor thing, but it’s really creating a lot of problems in my life. Toys are everywhere. We live in a small house and we end up spending a lot of time sorting the toys, putting away the toys, finding toys, finding places to put the toys, deciding what toys to throw away. So my mother-in-law could have helped a lot by not sending all these toys. The amount of money she’s spent on toys could have sent the kids to Harvard.

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  7. I take everything with a prove it attitude–especially after Allison’s first tutor recommended (a href=”http://lizditz.typepad.com/i_speak_of_dreams/2003/12/irlen_lenses_sc.html”> Irlen lensesso here you go:

    Parents who love those brightly colored sippy cups and their unstained carpets and rugs can breathe a sigh of relief: The cups are not bad for their toddler’s speech development.
    Recent news reports that the sucking action on sippy cups causes “lazy tongue” and that they can cause delayed speech development are not accurate, says Diane Paul-Brown, Ph.D., director of speech-language pathology at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
    “Parents are being needlessly alarmed and don’t need to add this to their worry list,” she says.

    More: http://toddlerstoday.com/experts/answers/149.htm
    No.
    I am in the “no” camp, personally. I believe this sippy cup deal is another example of a case report, or very small N study, that later is disproven at the scholarly level but the original study report –“X causes Y!!”– is fixed forever in the practioners’ minds. I am not sure why that happens–maybe they heard or learned it while qualifying.
    Think of the “refrigerator mother” or parento-genic model of autism–it still lurks around in some older practitioners.
    Having said that, the $40.00 straws may be a cheap investment in getting your speech therapist to regard you as a conmitted, compliant mother. (See, if you aren’t paying the therapist’s fee yourself, they have a tendency to regard the parent as part of the problem. {Heavy sigh}. We ended up doing all of Allison’s remediation privately out of our own money. The Irlen thing was one reason we paid for it, homeopathy being suggested was another (the school-based person really had some thinking problems when it came to scientific proof).
    That, however, has nothing to do with suburbia. Happens everywhere.
    Oh, new grandmother mother in law? (1) Physical presence (when requested) is good–neither my mother nor my MIL was much on physical presence in the kid’s life. (2) Ditto on the no toys. Fun craft stuff yes–Crayons! Edible Fingerpaint!–but toy kibble, no. (3) Special trips with just one kid at a time–not necessarily a long or fancy trip–take one kid to say a bakery and buy…a cookie. I have the strongest, clearest memories of going perfume shopping with my grandmother….just me. To the drug store. Delerious happiness.

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  8. My grandmother used to have me and my sister over for slumber parties every few months. We would play penny-ante blackjack and fall asleep listening to her radio playing e-z listening. It was the greatest thing ever, and it did not occur to me until I was in college – seriously! – that it had anything to do with my parents wanting us out of the house for a bit. It was like she was just delighted to have our company. I really miss her.

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  9. But there are no people walking by.
    Oh lordy. My lovely urban girlfriend and my still-fooling-her-into-thinking-I’m-lovely urban self are talking about producing some rats for our rug, and it’s the loss of urban vitality – should said rugrat production occur – that scares me as much as anything. My neighbourhood is populated by, in order of preponderance, Orthodox Jews, Turks, Kurds, media-type hipsters, and the occasional hooker. (I’m in London; don’t know if a similar mix exists in the US.) It’s wonderful! Candy as far as the eye can see, and pretty much every time I leave the house I run into something I’ve never seen before. But we could never afford to own a place here, and in the parts of London where we can afford to buy (where the hooker to Orthodox Jew ratio is inversed and then some), the schools are… well, as i said earlier, oh lordy.
    I’m a latecomer to this blog, so don’t know your history. Obviously you’ve moved from a/the city, but the category “suburban wasteland” only has two entries (this being one). Have you previously discussed the decision to abandon the wonderful world of litter and grime and sidewalks and corner shops and multiple ethnicites and adult-oriented pleasures? ‘Cause I’d be interested in the decision-making process you – or others – went through.
    Though in my heart all I want – geographically speaking – is the chance to stay in the city.

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  10. The falling out between myself and the city occured because the rugrats arrived. I adored urban life before, but it became too difficult after the kids arrived. My old blog, Apt. 11d chronicled our move from New York City to New Jersey.
    We’ve only been here for two months and I miss the city terribly. But without millions, it is very difficult to raise kids in the city. It really is much easier out here. So, I’ll have to make do with weekend jaunts in the city with my friends and fantacies about the brownstone in the Village.

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