OBSERVATIONS

Three’s company? Three’s a crowd? The jury is out.

Screen shot 2014-07-09 at 7.30.21 PM
Because, as I sit here, rounding out the last few dwindling hours of my “due date” and still, formally, the mother of 2, I have some time to write this post, completely in the dark as to the state of the union of the matter of 3. 3 children. It’s been interesting the responses we’ve gotten after letting both strangers, friends and family know that we were expecting 3. Some of the comments or questions we’ve received are as follows:
1. Do you have to move? Or the closely related, do you have enough space? Enough bedrooms? Are kids sharing rooms? Answers: No. Yes. Yes. And Yes.
2. Do you need a new car? Or the closely related, can you fit 3 car seats in your backseat?
Answers: No. Yes. With a little advanced planning I purchased at the outset, the only car seats on the market, capable of fitting 3 across. To answer the obvious question here, yes, we had conceptually planned on a bigger family from the beginning.
3. “Well, god bless you guys.” Shakes head in disbelief. Says the random dad in the park who was with his own 2 who are 18 months apart.
4. “Well, you’ll certainly never walk anywhere with 3 which will make the suburbs that much more appealing.”
5. “Once you have 3, you can just add a 4th and it’s no big deal.” Said by a few mothers of 4.
6. “Once you have 3, you are just really into the kid-thing so it takes the pressure off of pretending like you can have your own life back.” Said by a mother of 3.
7. “All I can tell you is, get enough help. The 3rd turned me into a full-blown alcoholic that first year.” Said the beleaguered, stone-cold, un-smiling, dead serious mom I met at a drop-in gymnastics class. She WAS NOT JOKING. Shudder.
8. “I really want a third child, but I can’t get my husband on board.” Said by a number of San Francisco moms and testament, I think to what happens, particularly in the city. Start doing the math, again, as previously discussed and it’ll never justify going beyond 2.

I love gathering all of the perspectives from acquaintances and strangers alike. Although, as a rule of thumb in life, I take all advice with a grain of salt, I do listen to the little nuggets that are given to me and sort through it all to make my own judgement.

Truth be told, I don’t know what it will be like with 3 kids in San Francisco. I’ve never done it before. At this moment, I’m trying to wrap my head around how the pick-up/ drop-offs go, getting 2 kids to different schools, hauling the newborn around and nursing and shuttling to and from activities of the older children. Hmmm….have it figured out yet? Nope. Not a clue how to do it. But it will come. Will the 3-kid thing mean we never walk anywhere again? I’d like to think that’s not the case. That would be a huge bummer. I’ll let you know on that one.

We are about to enter into yet another new phase of life in the city: Parents of 3 children, all 4 and under. And I’m ready to see what the next year has in store. It’ll be a guaranteed roller coaster ride-style adventure to be sure. And we’re about as strapped in as we’re ever going to be. Here we go…..!

Until next time,

The City Mouse

“But Why?” My existential trip to gain a Residential Parking Permit.

Van NessToday I ventured to the SF Municipal Transportation Agency office to obtain yet another Residential Parking Permit. Having moved 5 times in the 15 years that I’ve lived here, this is certainly a task I’ve done before. This morning’s conundrum was a debate of taking the 2-year-old with me or waiting to go by myself. For those of you San Franciscans that have completed this task, as I would guess the majority of you have, it’s an interesting trip in and of itself. Located at an unappealing stretch of “South Van Ness” the crowd surrounding the area and the actual citizens waiting at the office make up a varied and diverse population. I wouldn’t say that I necessarily feel unsafe going down there. What gives me pause are the not one, but two ARMED security guards, the metal detector to enter, the bullet proof glass enclosed customer service agents with their “safetyCOM” intercom used to communicate with each person. And because this is the office that handles parking tickets and disputes too, WITHOUT FAIL, there is always an altercation of some sort around the paying of parking tickets, booting of cars or disputing of charges. I’ve born witness to these disputes every time and not being a fan of conflict of any kind, count the seconds until I can get my green placard and get the heck out of there. I’m guessing these disputes account for the presence of guns for the security team and employees, carefully ensconced behind a protective barrier.

So, this morning I decided that I WOULD bring my daughter on our field trip and actually have found in the past, that strapping a baby to your chest and trekking to the office ensures immediate if not instantaneous line cutting, as they try to shuttle you quickly through the process. A strategy that I’ve used on more than one occasion. Our trip was easy and uneventful while inside the office. My daughter actually softened up one of the beleaguered staff that helped us who chatted up my daughter through the aforementioned “safetyCOM” and gave her some paper and pen to draw with as I gained my permits.

As an aside I always walk up to the window when my number is called and want to give a preamble explaining that I’m NOT there to rip them a new one, I promise to be pleasant, cordial, have all of my documentation in place and simply want to complete this transaction quickly so that they, too, can take a break for their lunch or whatever next respite they have from this evil window. Inevitably they all start out the transaction the same way (a) either, dukes up, assuming you’re a slightly hysterical or crazy nut, ready to tear into them for a parking infraction that they had nothing to do with or (b) already rolling their eyes at what they assume to be an ignorant newbie to the city without the proper documentation to obtain the required RSP (Residential Parking Permit.) “NO! You CANNOT use a printed check as proof of residency, no your driver’s license certainly doesn’t count and can’t be used either. And where is your updated car registration?!” DENIED!” I actually can’t think of many more unpleasant jobs in the city. But I digress….

So, this morning’s interesting twist came as we left the office and my daughter, embracing the freedom of walking and the desire to do much by herself, ambled out of the building down South Van Ness avenue, wearing a backpack and sunglasses that she insisted upon and true to her nature, started to try to engage everyone we came upon. It really wasn’t that big of a deal until we passed a homeless man, curled up on a backpack, taking a mid-morning nap on the sidewalk. I KNEW intuitively that she would find this fascinating. And of course she did. Despite me taking her by the hand and trying to distract her and move her along, she started yelling (which is her version of talking), “SLEEPING!” “SLEEPING!” She pulled away and went for a closer look. “SLEEPING!” If left to her own devices I’m sure she would’ve squatted down on her little legs, cocked her head to within a few inches of this man’s face and tried to wake him up. A trick she’s mastered at home on various family members. Because she’s only two I was able to simply respond with “Yes, he’s sleeping. He’s sleepy and taking a nap.” And that was that, we moved on to engaging with the nice man at the Goodwill drive-thru cleaning the driveway with a blower. FASCINATING! According to my daughter.   As I drove away I began to think about my 4- year old and how his questions around the man sleeping on the sidewalk would have been more sophisticated, more numerous- one after the other, eventually leading to, “but why??” as most questioning sessions do with the 4 –year old. As a parent I find that what starts off as a simple question and answer session, can turn quite existential after the 4th or 5th “but why?” And the tired mom in me sometimes has to resort to the “I don’t know. It just is.” “Just because.” Sigh. Having done no research on the best way to talk to our children around the homeless population I was curious what other people do. Certainly, as kids reach school age there are more appropriate ways to cover this topic, but within the 3-5 year old age I’m at a bit of a loss in how to deal with it. “Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a home.” “But WHY?”…. And you can see where this leads after the 3rd, 4th, 5th “but WHY?” Raising kids in the city, this is something that I’d like to get ahead of, but haven’t given it much thought. And now it has me thinking….without many answers. Candidately, I think I could host an adult dinner party, broaching the topic of the SF homeless population and really dig into some serious issues by following the lead of the 4-year old and pushing into the “why” of it all.

Until then, I’m interested in figuring out how other parents have dealt with this in the city. Do you have a good response? City Mouse would certainly love to hear.

Until next time,

The City Mouse

Should I stay or should I go? An Introduction.

ggb

Clearly, it’s a matter of the stage we’re at as parents in San Francisco. But every parent peer that we know is currently engaged in an ongoing conversation with their spouse about whether to stay in San Francisco for the foreseeable long term (read, putting their children through school and laying down more substantial roots) or leaving the 7×7 urban cityscape for one of the suburbs to the North, South or East. The data shows what usually happens, San Francisco has the lowest percentage of children of any major city in the country.  And, anecdotally my husband and I know this to be true as well. Every 6-12 months, after developing fun, meaningful and bonding relationships with other friends, parents and families, one of them decides, sometimes inevitably to leave the city. And we are left, yet again, rebuilding our friend base for the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th time. It’s depressing, I’ll admit. And frustrating. With housing prices at an all time high and inventory at an all time low. With a sub- standard public educational system and private school tuition that can run tens of thousands of dollars a year, it’s NO WONDER that most families simply can’t make the math work or can’t justify the financial reality of staying in San Francisco for the long term. And another great many, that do have the financial resources to stay, simply find the dream of the suburbs (a large backyard, bbqs, square footage, perhaps a good public school) too appealing to pass up. And I totally get it.

There seem to be big inflection points in the lifecycle of the young adult to adult transition in San Francisco that causes one to pause and reflect on inhabiting the city by the Bay.

Single to married. Sure the city was G-R-E-A-T when you could cab or walk easily to whatever bar, club or party you wanted to, meeting an endless array of other likeminded singles. Most of these fun, young professionals were transplants themselves, open to meeting new people and having a great time, which offered countess opportunities for an array of social engagements. But now, that one finds themselves married is this really still appealing? Or is it too appealing for one spouse vs. the other? What’s the expectation of the “married couple?” Is it settling into the “forever” house and never setting foot inside a drinking establishment again? Is it only mixing and mingling with the marrieds and staying far away from the singles and their scene? And so, a conversation is had and a decision is made. One way or another. To stay or to go.

Married to married with kids. Sure you found it. Your married bliss in the city. “We LOVE exploring every new restaurant opening, and popping down the block to our local movie theater, and hosting dinner parties where everyone drinks WAY too much wine, but no cares, since no one has to drive anywhere thanks to everyone living in close proximity. And, we adore scouring the local event guides for museum exhibits, local street fairs, musical performances and take pleasure in the conundrum of a whole weekend ahead with nothing planned…What should we do? There are just SO many options!” And then the kids come. And the conversation changes. What is the expectation of “the family,” of family life of being a parent? Is it providing a big grassy backyard? A room for every kid? A man-cave for the husband’s retreat? “Will we ever eat out at one of these restaurants again?” And so a conversation is had and a decision is made. One way or another. To stay or to go.

Married with kids to school aged kids. Sure, you did it. You braved the shock and awe and incredulous comments from outsiders of having a kid in the city and really, really embraced it. “Hey, this little peanut actually doesn’t need THAT much room. Wow, we can port them quite easily to our favorite restaurant and, early on, they just sleep! While we eat and drink! Awesome!” The many parks and playgrounds that you NEVER noticed before seem prolific and walk-able distance and this city with the kid thing seems, well, brilliant! And then, they close in on preschool age and kindergarten is now right around the corner, too. “Crap! I thought we had more time!?” And you start talking to friends and associates and the local coffee patrons about wait lists and feeder schools, and essay questions and letters of recommendation and kid screening interviews and college level tuitions. For PRESCHOOL. And you and your spouse go home and cry a little and drink a bottle of wine. And swear that you’ll discuss “your plan” but right now you can’t stay in your house any longer than needed on this particular weekend afternoon, because your now TWO kids are starting to climb the walls and destroy the home and you start thinking, “wow, square footage does make more sense now that these bundles of peanut seem as large as elephants bumping through our fantastic, quaint city dwelling.” And so, a conversation is had and a decision is made. One way or another. To stay or to go.

Or maybe it’s not quite that simplistic, but painting in broad strokes, we have observed these scenarios on a repeated basis. Certainly, there are nuances. Having hurdled step #3 and nestled into square footage and outdoor space that supports our growing family in the city, we still have conversations around community, geography and lifestyle; values, long term planning and our friend base and we are still making the choice to be here.

It reminds me a bit of Aesop’s Fable, The City Mouse and The Country Mouse, where the City Mouse journeys to the country and can’t quite grasp the appeal of country living and the Country Mouse, then travels to the city and beats a hasty retreat back to the comforts of the country. The moral of the story being, a way of life suitable for one person, may not be suitable for another.   I have come to the realization that I am a City Mouse. And I am married to a City Mouse. And while we do love our journeys to the “country” our bones are more comfortable back in the city with the soothing sounds of the foghorns and sirens to greet us upon our return. In some ways, it feels remarkable to undertake what we are trying to do and yet, many, many fantastic and brave families do it every day: Raise their families in San Francisco. But when you look at the stats, you realize you are one of the tiny minority that are really giving this a shot. And sometimes, that can seem daunting.

My goal here is to provide a little glimpse into life in San Francisco through its various stages and celebrate it, in a way that’s often not talked about or covered in popular media. My conversations and debates with my spouse over the years regarding the pros and cons of staying or leaving San Francisco are no different than the conversations had by most everyone we know and I’m quite certain, by most others in similar life stages. I often hear the benefits of leaving San Francisco touted by many, but rarely hear the flip side talked about. How another may have traded square footage and the convenience of big-box retail for the richness of life in an urban environment. Perspectives change with age and that to me is the fun, dynamic nature of life.  As such, this is a snapshot of both the here and now and the journey we’ve taken so far. Thank you for taking the journey with me and beginning the dialogue.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here we go!

The City Mouse

%d bloggers like this: