Oh well. Too late for regrets. We were there and we couldn’t walk everywhere.
The first few steps outside of Penn Station were filled with trepidation, as the sights, sounds and odors of Manhattan greeted us. “Why is that woman almost naked?” asked my oldest, gawking at a “clothing” ad as tall as our house. “It’s loud! And it smells!” declared my middle child as we passed a sewer, then a recreational marijuana dispensary. “Mama, hold me! I can’t walk anymore!” declared my youngest after three blocks, as if on cue.
New York is like any big city when it comes to vices. Seeing public urination, drug use and public nudity in the span of one city block is normal, and we got all three out of the way early on.
I could sense my kids’ senses were on overload. But we made it to our hotel before anyone experienced total collapse.
My kids, who seldom travel anywhere other than to visit family, believe that the hotel room itself is the primary feature of any trip. I worried our view of the building next door would be all of the city we’d see.
But the promise of ice cream sundaes and frozen hot chocolate after vigil Mass in Manhattan’s iconic St. Patrick’s Cathedral was motivation enough to walk more than I ever thought they could manage.
We rose early the next day to indulge in far-too-expensive pancakes and to climb every giant boulder in Central Park.
The Statue of Liberty was the only thing my kids had requested to see, so the next morning we ventured to catch a glimpse of Lady Liberty on the Staten Island ferry. The subway ride there, to my surprise, was pleasant. People smiled at us and no one complained when my kids, who thought standing was cooler than sitting, fell into them when the train lurched forward.
As we passed the Freedom Tower, I tried to describe the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
When we spotted the Brooklyn Bridge, I told them how it was an amazing feat of engineering for its time.
I asked my kids to listen for all the different languages spoken by passersby. We quickly lost count of how many we heard.
We spent almost four hours perusing the galleries of the American Museum of Natural History, seemingly endless rooms of insects and fossils and meteorites.
I answered lots of questions — about things and people we saw.
As a home-schooler and a conservative, there are things I prefer to introduce to my children when developmentally and spiritually appropriate. That’s hard to do in a place where nothing is off-limits and everything is on display.
To my surprise, the trip sparked some meaningful conversations. And in a few short days, we saw and experienced more than I anticipated. My worst fears about traveling to the city had not come to pass. My kids walked away with a sense of awe for what they’ve seen — and a greater appreciation for life back home.
When we boarded the bus to the airport, we were all exhausted but there were no regrets. After all, if you can make it in New York with kids, you can make it anywhere.