There it is. My tiny, bubble window frames that triumphant, iconic skyline. It never fails to give me a thrill in my gut, a rush to the head. This vast metropolis is comprised of anonymous multitudes who dream to be known, discovered and found. So much hope and promise pulsing through the subways, rising up the dizzying elevators, and reaching higher than Freedom Tower. I've admired this place from afar, lived in it up close, and today, for the first time in quite a while, am just a visitor. This time, though, everything is different. My arms are carrying the 15 most important pounds of my life and he has no idea what he is in for.
I brought my baby to Manhattan. And here is how it went.
Last week we took our first family trip to New York City. I'll admit it. My excitement and anxiety for this trip were equally yoked in the days leading up to our departure. I mean, take a baby on a plane? With recirculated air? During FLU SEASON?! Ew. Ah. Oh.
We Conquered. (Not Without Casualties.)
I'll just go ahead and get to the punchline: the trip was sublime. My child did as well as a spirited 4-month-old can. Was he a perfect traveler? Oh no. HE'S A BABY. There were two screaming restaurant incidents that I'd like to pretend never happened. But for the most part, he behaved wonderfully and went with the flow so, so well. It was almost odd, because, as I've shared before, he's not the lowest-maintenance baby. But his plane rides were so good, they were almost uneventful. And our time navigating the city together was actually super sweet and special. It was a delight sharing it with him, watching his eyes widen in awe at the enormity and grandeur and shimmer and grit.
|// The foliage was perfect. Gosh I love New York. //|
|// Central Park was as perfect as I remember //|
|// I got free balloons! It was really fun to walk around with... until it wasn't anymore. I might have tied them off somewhere in the city... //|
|// His puffer coat was like a magical cloak of sleeping properties. He yelled every time I put it on him... and then he did that ^. //|
|// Narnia. //|
|// Breastfeeding in the park (lets normalize it, people), some cute guy snapping photos, and me with my Everett bus loaded down with practically everything we own. //|
How We Played.
What did we do while we were there? Mostly, we just enjoyed the park and visited some dear friends. Ate some rad sandwiches from the deli around the corner (several times :)) Took Everett to FAO Schwartz to pick out a Christmas toy (we ended up with a book.) Had some random girls give us balloons while we meandered through the park (I know - what??) Had a few too many treats from Magnolia Bakery (thanks, Jess!) Did a bit of Christmas shopping on 5th Ave., although this time I found myself wandering through the baby sections and chatting it up with the other moms in the store. It was kind of a surreal weird moment (like, am I old enough to even have a baby??) Watched the Veterans Day parade. Drank coffee and dreamed of what it would have been like if we were still living in our little 1-bedroom on the Upper West Side. As much as I love this crazy mess of a town, I am so glad we aren't living there now.
Sound too harsh? I'll give you an example. Each time I came back to the hotel after spending a few hours outside, I had to wipe a layer of grime off of Everett's face. He literally had a gritty pacifier mark from just, I don't know, the outside air? It grossed me out. When I walked with him in the stroller, I desperately wanted to shield him from the everything-ness of walking down 6th Avenue, where our hotel was located. Just so many people shoving by, jaywalking, cursing, smoking, yelling, cabs honking, exhaust fumes and wayward bikers every which way. It was just a lot. A whole lot. Everett took it in stride, but he definitely had his moments where he was DONE.
Moments That Surprised Me.
I definitely found myself holding my breath as we rode in elevators, anticipating him screaming in an airless, lightless space, squished awkwardly between strangers, but that moment never came. He was calm. I kept him out a little bit late one evening to meet my friend Deb for dinner, and he let her hold him for a loooooong time, so happy and content. I mean, it was like 9pm! And he was just chilling, completely content to be surrounded by the ardent aroma of pasta and pizza. That's my little Italian. And walking around the park with him was honestly dreamy. The leaves were raining down on us with every cool shimmy of the breeze, and in one bend of the path there was a saxophonist crooning, "Autumn Leaves", while we were surrounded by the mesmerizing autumn leaves, and ... well, it was truly a moment I will never forget. Like one of those moments that isn't significant for any obvious reason, but stands out so strongly, you almost lose your breath when you remember it. It was just a tiny slice of our time, merely a fraction of the day's experiences, but I will never forget that bend in the path, with that jazz saxophone, and looking down at Everett's eyes, knowing he was taking it all in.
We stayed in Midtown, which was perhaps a nutty choice (since its the busiest area of town), but I'm grateful that we had such a central location and could go back to the hotel throughout the day when we needed a break. My child, who typically doesn't nap well, took two two-hour naps each day - that's how stimulated he was! (Unfortunately, he was just preparing to turn the tables on me, since we have been sleep challenged ever since we returned home from our trip. No one told me that coming home from a trip is actually the hardest part of traveling!)
Thankfully, we had a lot of friends who came to the hotel to see us - thank you all so much for making those visits so easy! It was so much fun sharing him with all the wonderful souls who were so invested in him all last year, long before he was even born. These are the beautiful friends who celebrated his gender reveal, showered me and Stevie with so much love and affection, and kindly lied to me when I kept asking if I was really as gigantic as I felt. Everett was a lot more relaxed and able to interact with everyone in the hotel room than in a crowded restaurant.
Even though he was slammed with work almost the entire time, Stevie and I had bits of time to enjoy some of the New York splendor, too. We scoured the lower east corner of the park, an area we hadn't discovered much together. We ate really really excellent takeout when Everett was too fussy to go out, but even the takeout in New York is spectacular. We got to see what it feels like to be parents, traveling with a baby, which... let me tell you what, it is DIFFERENT than being all fun and fancy free on your own. Remember these times? It's safe to say those days are over. At least for a while. But it's more than okay, we are embracing this season with with big thankfulness.
|// Everett and all his friends :) //|
When We Were DONE.
By the last day, Everett had taken Manhattan - and decided he'd had enough. He pretty much lost his mind in a restaurant in the Flatiron area (sorry, Jenna & Tara, for all the stares for all the wrong reasons), so I was happy to take my screaming, wriggling, huffing and puffing child into a cab and call it a day. Overall, I feel proud that we managed to make our way in the city without too many meltdowns.
I'll share more details about traveling with an infant next week. So many of you shared your tips and tricks with me, many of which worked beautifully. With the holidays coming up (and Thanksgiving right around the corner!), I know tons of you will be traveling with your kiddos, and I am excited to share about what worked and what didn't.
Also, many thanks to all of you who offered up such helpful advice about the 4-month sleep regression/transition that we experienced coming back from this trip. We are still in the throws of it, but thankfully the waking up every hour of the night has stopped. Living on a prayer, baby. And coffee. Lots and lots of it.