Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Quite suddenly, it seems, one era has passed and another has started. The previous era lasted for six years and involved a lot of time traveling each weekday on the subway, and now...
Let me explain:
Since 2006, I've been living in Bed Sty Brooklyn. "Bed Sty Do or Die," as the saying used to go. Spike Lee immortalized the area in a particular moment in time in Do the Right Thing. That was 27 years ago, and since then things have changed a hell of a lot. Not only in Bed Sty but in Brooklyn as a whole. Still, contrary to what HBO TV series show of the borough and what people in other parts of the country often seem to think, Brooklyn is not one vast stretch of urban hipsterdom. Williamsburg does exist as advertised and yes, even Bed Sty is gentrifying rapidly, but evolution, if you can call it that, doesn't proceed evenly in all areas. A few pleasant bars have come to my area in the last 5 or 6 years and now there's a dog run in the small park around the corner from my house, but the public schools near my house haven't changed - improved is a better word - with quite the same alacrity.
In 2010, my son turned 5 and had to start kindergarten. There's a school a three minute walk down the block from us, but both my wife and I rejected the very notion that we would put him in this place. Not to be a snob but...The best way to put it is to say my wife and I would have quit our jobs and lived out of a car to homeschool our kid before we put him in that school. If that sounds callous, well...whatever. There's no time or luxury for niceties when the education of your kid is involved.
To make a long story short, we had the opportunity to put him in a charter school in Manhattan, and there on September 8th, 2010 he went, for his first day of kindergarten. The charter school wound up having a ton of problems and we transferred him out of there after 2nd grade, but the new school too was in Manhattan, a regular public school this time, on the Upper West Side, near Central Park. The upshot: from kindergarten through 5th grade, we traveled to schools a good one hour and ten minutes away from our house. For six years, that commute was made, back and forth, back and forth. Either I did it with him both ways (when my wife's work hours didn't allow her to take him or pick him up), or my wife and I split the drop off and pick up duties. However you cut it, we all spent a lot of time on the subway, and the result was six years where we were tired from commuting and had nary a minute of spare time Monday to Friday. Up at 6 am, then my wife or I would leave the house with him by 7:20 am, and either of us would return home with him around 7:30 pm. That was the routine.
Whatever writing I did, I worked around that schedule.
The upside was all the time I got for six years to spend with my kid. When you spend that much time every day on the train, you do get to talk about countless topics, joke around constantly, play all sorts of games together. It made the commuting worth it.
But enough's enough. For middle school, we decided to ditch Manhattan. We selected and got a Brooklyn school fifteen minutes away from us by subway (though still not in Bed-Sty, mind you), and thus did the new era begin. School this year has been going about two weeks, and how much more relaxed it is. Though I was planning to take that short trip with him each morning, it's transpired that he can go with a classmate who lives around the corner from us. No need for me or my wife to take him at all. Let the process of independence begin. It's what's supposed to happen, and I can't argue with that. Besides, now that I don't have to do so much commuting, now that the gruelling subway routine is over, now that two extra hours a day for me are free, I have (what a change of life!) more writing time. This is what I've been wanting for years! As I tell myself, I can get so much more work done.
And yet, I still feel a little bittersweet. I'm very glad the period of endless daily travel is over and happy I have more writing time, but a part of me will miss those hour long rides with my son. The laughter, the bickering, the discussions...
And so, on to the next phase. Just like that, a new era begins. I actually have some breathing space and I can't but find it hard to believe I'll have additional time to write.
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I am with you on this, Scott. For each phase of my boy's life, I'm always bittersweet when the new phase begins...because, just like you are experiencing, it typically means less time with him. Now, he's in high school and carpooling with friends. Less time. And, in four years, he'll be gone. As proud of him as I am, that day will be very difficult for me. So, I feel for you. But at least you get more writing time. There's that. Perhaps a new character for you will be a dad with a son who now commutes to school...
Great post here, and bittersweet indeed. Even reading about those hour-long rides, I was projecting myself and my own son into the situation--and feeling great warmth about it all. He's only four and our drive to pre-school only about 20 minutes, but they're fun times. Next year is kindergarten--and a bus? We're hardly ready, for that or any of those next milestones ahead.
Hang in there--and yes, enjoy the extra sleeping time and writing time!
We have a friend whose granddaughter (11) travels by subway from Brooklyn to the Hunter College School. Alone. It's a great school but such a long time to spend commuting for a kid. When will we make all schools good enough for all our kids. Why isn't that a priority. Best wishes for a great experience for your son.
Sounds a bit like falling off a metaphorical cliff. We home school so I'm home with the kids full time until they're done with high school. On the other hand, there's no commute, but there is a lot of chauffeuring....
Scott, Yes, with all that time spent on the subways, I've had a few ideas percolating that involve commuting.
Art, Thanks. And yeah, I shouldn't underestimate how nice the extra sleeping time also is.
Patti, Couldn't agree more about the school situation of course. It's great now in NY to have the option to go to schools out of your area, if that means going to a good one, but that shouldn't be the only way some people can even find a good school for their kids.
Rick, I always thought of homeschooling as least as something that allows flexibility with schedules, but I'm sure you have to stick to a very regular routine to get actual schooling done.
I think if you weren't bittersweet, you wouldn't be the Scott we know and inherently love.
That kid has more of his superb, loving parents now in him . . . making him a better individual for ALL his journeys ahead.
And yes, good share,
all of you guys. ~ Kate
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