I probably should have known it would come to this.
ASTORIA, NYC- When I was a kid I would aimlessly walk around in the fields daydreaming about how I would someday move to NYC. I would sometimes get pissed at my parents for choosing to live in boring ass farm country rather than a metropolitan center with culture and stuff to do. I would say to myself that if I ever had kids I would raise them somewhere globally central — a place where it was happening, where they could learn about their world, engage culture, experience the Other, and have the pride that comes from being from a place that has an impressive ring as it rolls off the tongue.
I moved my family to NYC on the Fourth of July, 2019 — to the cultural center of the world. My kids go to a premium Montessori / alternative school on the Upper East Side, they hang out in Central Park every school day, they are regulars at the Met, the Museum of Natural History, and the Guggenheim, the zip all over the city exploring things that most other kids only read about in books or watch on a screen, they are set up for more opportunities per square meter than pretty much anywhere else in the world.
This is to say that I kept my end of the bargain.
However, I paid a wager that my oldest daughter doesn’t really place much value in. She isn’t impressed with the bright lights of Manhattan or the almost infinite array of international cuisine in Astoria or going to places almost daily that most people travel across the world to visit. She shrugs at the potential opportunities that come from being at the place where so many creative products are made. As far as she’s concerned, she’d be better off on a farm in ultra-rural Ohio.
Literally. That’s where she wants to go.
I told my kid to start looking into some high schools to go to and she came up with a Montessori boarding school in Nowheres-ville, Ohio — a place that’s very much like the one I left behind with distain at 18.
But this is just what kids are programed to do. It’s their prime objective to find their own way and to separate themselves from their parents and that which is familiar to them … and it is a basic human tendency to want exactly what it is that you don’t have.
As for me, I just have to laugh and my presumptuousness. Why wouldn’t she want to go to boarding school in Ohio? Usually, kids need to do something real bad to get sent away to boarding school. Mine is begging to go. She wants to get away from us. She wants to go out on her own. She’s 13 years old. It makes sense if you look at the way she grew up:
She was born on her grandparents’ living room floor in Maine. She rode across the USA before she was two months old. She got her first passport stamp in the Dominican Republic at three months. Her first words were in Spanish. She took her first steps in Mexico. She ate her first solid food in El Salvador. Got her first amoebas in Central America. Learned to speak fluent Mandarin in China. Climbed her first mountain in Lianyungang. Became a good traveler in Yangzhou. Got her first mohawk in Malaysia. Started her first blog in Greece. Went to her first Bills game in the Meadowlands.
So we got into the car on Saturday and began driving. We stopped by Rochester to visit my family and the next day Hannah and I went to the Bills game. It was a spectacular loss. That night we drove through the snow to Erie, got a $60 hotel that was so perfect that there’s nothing to mention about it, and then the following morning we went to the school.
It was on a real farm. The kids work on the farm; the kids cool the meals; the kids run the businesses; the kids do everything. “We don’t have janitors here,” the director told us on the tour. But they do have horses and goats and chickens …
From New York City to midwest farm country. Honestly, I wouldn’t expect anything else. I always wanted her to live a story.
Like I did.
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