Parenting has always seemed like a constant adjusting to shifting variables, most of them outside of your control. And to be frank, that’s a pretty good crash course in life.
I think this is why that initial drop into parenthood is so jarring. In the before kids years, it’s mostly easy to brush off the quirks and challenges you encounter as “other people’s problems” and keep on going your merry way. Then you become responsible for a child, and everything actually IS yours to handle.
It’s not just your stuff anymore, but also guiding this little person into society with all of its rules and structures. You are not just in charge of your own actions, but also this person’s actions. And that’s not even the hardest part!
You eventually (or not) wrap your head around the realization that this little one already is who they are. You try to show them how to navigate this world as best you can, but in the end, they learn from their own mistakes, as hard as that lack of control is to adapt to if you adapt to that, at all!
I am usually an adapter, for better or for worse. Now I find myself needing to adapt again, in a big way. We’re moving to Westchester from New York City, where my husband has lived since 1996, and I have lived since 2008. In many ways, NYC is like the pre-kid days, filled with eternal strangers who offer fleeting moments of connection and separation, allowing for easy shifts between reaching out and self-absorption.
And hey, I’m not knocking New York – it’s fabulous. Urban living provides a lot of opportunity for exposure to diversity, different cultures, and a street-smart attitude that gets in your bones if you learn it at such a young age. My daughter will always have that memory of living here, and I hope she grows up to appreciate it.
For us adults, it so wonderfully provides an oasis of self-expression and experimentation, the best of which comes from the ability to self-absorb, far easier to do in an urban setting. (I digress, but I need to stress that self-absorption is not always the awful thing society makes us feel it is. The hope is that you find a balance between yourself and others, but I firmly believe there are phases for these things depending on where you are on your growth journey. And after all, kids need to start “self-absorbed” to learn who they are! Maybe that’s a big reason those early years are so exhausting!).
We realized that the city had stopped mirroring who we now are during the worst of the pandemic. Maybe it’s getting older, maybe it’s having a child who is finding herself in the world now…but my husband and I had quietly stopped needing the city at some point. In the most isolated moments of 2020, it hit me that I wasn’t longing for the glimmering streets of Manhattan, loud and crowded late-night bars, or the adventure of an ever-changing cityscape.
No, I wanted hikes in the woods. Quiet. Space. Small towns where we know most people and always know they have our backs. I wanted to stop the quest of the self and instead, have to accommodate other people into our little life. To be interconnected in a way only possible when you start looking outward at how those around you are who they are completely outside of your control…and you adapt to that. I’m very much looking forward to that aspect of being in a smaller, less anonymous community! Westchester’s incredible mix of wildness, history, and a diverse blend of people will provide the perfect setting to practice and learn.
Much as I see my daughter entering a new phase of childhood, navigating social structures and friendship dramas (7-year old girls, am I right?!), so am I entering a new phase of parenting and connecting. This move represents so much to me – not just wanting more space, a place to make our own, and a yard to enjoy some summer sunshine in…but also a shifting of the soul. I’m yearning for space to find the next piece of myself amongst others where it is witnessed. Not just a speck of humanity in an urban expanse, but a fully fleshed being in a small village where my actions are felt and seen.