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Parenting Advice From Child-Free New Yorkers!
Plus! Items of Interest!! Used Stories!!!
Welcome to Issue #70 of CAFÉ ANNE!
Good lord. Last week’s issue, which detailed the findings of the international CAFÉ ANNE Peeling Assessment Panel that I convened to determine, once and for all, the utility of peeling various fruits, merely spurred demands for additional research.
Are potatoes worth peeling? Should one peel a banana from the top or the bottom? Is it true you can cook and eat banana peels? What about cooking cucumbers? What about sandwiches made with American cheddar cheese?
I am pleased, however, that one reader volunteered to do their own additional research, and that is Alex in L.A., who promised to try his hand at making banana peel tea. Alex, we are waiting!
I also have to conclude that the endeavor was totally worth it, if only because thanks to my bonkers analysis effort, I now proudly bear the grand title granted me by reader Judge Roy Bean: “Spreadsheet Czarina.” Thank you Judge!
Thanks as well to new paid subscribers Alan S, Elizabeth L, Marcella H and Connie B!!!!! It means a lot to enjoy the support of such fantastically sophisticated, attractive, intelligent and obviously generous people. And as you know, your contribution helps ensure the newsletter stays paywall-free for everyone.
I am very excited for this week’s issue, of course. I hit the streets to produce this week’s feature, “Parenting Advice From Child-Free New Yorkers.” Parents everywhere are going to treasure this story, I’m sure! Also, scroll to the bottom to enjoy some very cool Items of Interest.
PS I am taking next week off to enjoy a mini-retreat and also to “take” “care” “of” “some” “things.” The next issue will publish Monday, May 8. If you’d like more CAFÉ ANNE in the interim, please check out these stories—favorites of mine—published way back in the newsletter’s early days, when no one was reading it:
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“One morning (and it will be soon), when everyone wakes up as a writer, the age of universal deafness and incomprehension will ensue.”
Parenting Advice From Child-Free New Yorkers!
When the headline for this story first popped into my head, it made me laugh. So then I decided I had better create an article around it. Last week, I hit the streets to conduct a little survey, asking child-free New Yorkers what advice they have for local parents. I also asked some of my childless friends. And boy, did I get an earful!
A childless person advising a parent on how to raise kids, is, of course, like a civilian advising a soldier in battle. A good rule of thumb: unless requested, never advise anyone. And this goes a zillion-fold when it comes to telling folks how to parent. You will get stabbed in the neck with a baby fork, and you will deserve it.
But that doesn't mean childless folks don't harbor secret fantasies about how they might manage as parents. And in New York, there are a lot of people who don’t have kids. I suspect it’s because of the sort of person the city attracts. No one moves to New York to help others or because they think it looks like a great place to raise a family. No, whether it's fame, money, artistic ambition or simply the desire to live in an exciting place full of interesting characters, the people who move here are—like me!—typically motivated by self-concern.
No surprise, then, that when these people offer parenting advice, it’s often aimed at making the presence of other people’s children less annoying to themselves.
But the underlying thread, ultimately, was that everyone cares about the city's children, and wants to see them do well. How this might be accomplished, of course, is a matter of opinion...
"Kick them out of the house as soon as they’re eighteen. Or once they graduate high school. Or hell, even sooner if you can figure out how to offload them!
Then, whatever you do, do NOT let them back in. Before you know it, your kid will be 30, with no skills or stable employment, yet many ideas about what salary, job functions and requirements are beneath them. And no, your kid is not somehow immune to becoming an entitled brat.
Also, there’s really no benefit to letting your 13-year old daughter (or your 8-year old daughter) dress like a cheap hooker. Even if it’s Prada."
—Maria, creative director, Williamsburg
"Don't yell at children ever—never."
—Julia, 41, Upper West Side
"Teach them the difference between being out in public and at home. It seems like parents are sometimes hesitant to point out the difference, so their children are out of control and annoying to people.
Perhaps it's best to mention the difference before you go to a public place, so your temper doesn't get in the way.
I probably should be a parent. And none of this would work!"
—Ed, 70, retired furniture salesman, Boerum Hill
"Don't have them if you don't really want them. Because I've seen a lot of people who don't seem to want their children. I think that could have been prevented.
Be nice to them. I've never liked hitting. Because they're little and really have no recourse. Other than that, you're on your own!”
—Shelly Colman, 63, comedian and pet sitter, Brooklyn Heights
"The most important thing is to tell parents, 'It's simple, really.'"
"Being kind goes a long way. Being harsh—drama—is not required. They do need boundaries—their brains are mush sometimes. But show respect!
With teenagers, there comes a time when anything you say will be immediately rejected. The only way you can be effective is by asking them questions and helping them know what they think. You can help them think for themselves."
—Raquel Reis, relationship coach, Clinton Hill
"Please help your children learn that there are other people in the world, even on the sidewalks sometimes!"
—Writer, 47, Park Slope
“Expectations for who we think others should be is the source of our unhappiness in relationships. Spot and stop them, and you’ll be alright. When you stop seeing your kids as problems, they stop being problems.”
"My sister advised me regarding her kids that children do not do well with sarcasm. Suuuure they don't."
"Boil them? Serve them to the neighbors? Give ‘em away as soon as they start making trouble?…They’re such a pain in the ass. So glad I never craved them."
—S, Cobble Hill
"First of all, for all you who think that people who don't have children don't have a right to say anything about child-rearing, you seem to have forgotten that we were reared, and were children ourselves, not that long ago.
Also, we're not caught up in the madness of raising a child, so we can step onto the sidelines and watch the game. You should listen to us a little more than you think you should, because we actually have perspective on the game. That doesn't make us experts, but it doesn't make us not experts, either.
My advice for parenting is actually do some f—ing parenting. There's been a trend in allowing the child to kind of run crazy-wild all over everything, and what I see is a lot of bargaining between the parent and child to try to get that child to behave when you're in public.
Now at home, I don't know what you do. But in public, what you're mostly doing is teaching this child to bargain for everything and accept nothing. And that is causing the world to fill up with a bunch of people who can't just do stuff. Everything's negotiated, everything's talked through, everything's understood from an emotional point of view.
But life isn't like that. You know life isn't like that. Raise your children to accept some s—. If you set a boundary, hold them to it. Even if they throw a f—ing fit. Because you're teaching them that the boundary's not real. That every boundary can be negotiated. And that's why no one wants to hire your children!"
—Allen Farmelo, 53, cranky journalist
"Don’t try to pay your kids to wear clothing from their gender assigned at birth. It won’t make them feel great about themselves. Or capitalism."
"Care about them."
—Homeless man, Brooklyn
"Bring them to church. The church I take my mother to, the priest asks the kids to come to the front of the church, and he asks them questions. You can tell from the answers they give that they were raised right—the respect they have for people.”
—Lawyer, Downtown Brooklyn
"They say you don't know until you have them. But to young parents: don't over-indulge the children and tell them everything is wonderful—'Great job! great job!'—and don't reward them if they do something that's not good.
Not to be critical, but they have to know right from wrong, presented in a language they can relate to. If you don't, God knows what you're going to end up with."
—Trade union administrator
"I think my advice is that your kid will never be able to control their world, and you'll never be able to control the world, so stop trying. Relax and let bad things happen. Those are things that will help your kid build resilience and grow.
As everyone knows, there's been an explosion of anxiety among youth. Partially they're learning that from parents who are anxious, because you emulate your parents' behavior. But partially they're having that because they have an expectation that everything will be perfect. So when things don't go that way, it seems really problematic, even when it's super-normal and not that big a deal.
I have students, fourth-graders who are throwing up because they are so anxious about taking a test. And yeah, they might do bad on the test. That's true. But people do badly on things. That's something more to accept than to get anxious and worried about."
—Elementary school teacher, 40, Brooklyn
"Let the baby have a latte. What could go wrong?"
It's only fair to turn the tables, of course. So on the occasions where I encountered an actual parent, I asked what advice they had for folks who don't have kids....
"I don't know what to tell them. You wonder why they don't have kids! They don't desire, or don't want to leave a legacy? You gotta leave somebody behind in order to have a legacy!”
—Yvonne, city worker, Red Hook
"If you can't have kids, but you want kids, you should make sure you are clear on why. And if the answer to you is something unchangeable deep inside, you should look into other ways of building a family. There are lots of ways.
But if you can't have kids and don't want kids, that's good luck, right? I think so!
Concern about old age is one of the many reasons people have kids, but there's a lot of other ways to set yourself up, if you will, to make sure you're taken care of when you're very old. And that's largely based on the relationships you build before you're 90, right?
I know plenty of queer people who don't have kids, and straight people who don't have kids, but they are such good people who are so giving and wonderful and close to me. They're going to be fine because people like me, and other people who feel the same way about them, are going to take care of them and check in on them and make sure they are okay when they're older.”
—Cheo, 37, performer, Crown Heights
"Don't have kids! Get a dog instead. Life is much so easier without them."
—Andrew, attorney, Upper West Side
“On public transportation, when you see someone coming with a carriage or who’s pregnant, just give up the seat! Also, don’t be annoyed if someone comes in with a carriage and there’s not enough space for it. Just think about the difficulties with even having the carriage, and what they have to go through bringing it down the steps. It’s a tough process. It’s very heavy!
If you’re leaving the train station, offer to help carry the carriage up the stairs. Regardless of gender. Even if it’s a man, offer him help.
And don’t smoke weed in the park around kids. You want the child to remain innocent as much as as possible. Smoking weed, you force the kid to ask their parents, ‘What is that?’ And then there’s a conversation about the reality of things. Most parents, as much as possible, want to create this safe world for their kids. There’s lessons they don’t want their children to learn about too soon.”
-Will, 46, social entrepreneur, Sunset Park
"Enjoy your life! Kids are wonderful but it's a trade-off. There are things I couldn't do because I had children, but it's the best choice I ever made.
I have a couple female friends who chose not to be moms and they are very happy with their choice and have a wonderful life. Not everyone should be a mom.
As far as support when you're older, save for retirement! Be really nice to your nieces and nephews. Pick one or two and be kind and generous to them.
And it's great to have a furry friend. You can leave your dog home for hours with just a dish of water. You can't do that with kids!”
—Evy, 55, makeup artist, Brookyn Heights.
ITEMS OF INTEREST
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