Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Room to Grow
May was to bring more than flowers this year: my first print byline was scheduled for the May issue of Birmingham's B-Metro magazine.
Accepting a job in Atlanta, however, meant that I had to give up the Birmingham gig before I got my big debut.
So, here, ladies and gentleman is my first and last column on parenting in Alabama's Magic City.
Priorities are funny and malleable things.
What was once of the highest importance – things like primetime television, brushing teeth, and sleeping in on weekends – quickly falls by the wayside once kids are part of your everyday life.
Most of those adjustments are happily made. But there are some that are difficult to acknowledge, much less address. These are usually the things that defined “you” as a person before “you” became a parent.
My job and my city defined my adult life. I was a New Yorker in the entertainment industry, spending my days in the soapy confines of “As the World Turns” and nights in Manhattan seeing theater or coaching actors.
I was happy to see my husband in the very off hours and content to be hundreds of miles from our families. Our large-by-New-York-standards (and miniscule-by-everywhere-else-standards) apartment felt like more room than we could ever need.
Then came one kid. And another.
Suddenly, our “large” apartment was bursting at the seams. Broadway shows came and went without my notice. Guilt weighed heavily on me when my daughter didn’t recognize grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. And New York’s non-stop pace – the very thing that used to fuel me – left me winded and sputtering.
All new parents find themselves tossed into a completely foreign landscape. But my landscape limited my children: with no room to run they contented themselves with short sprints down small patches of sidewalk.
New York was the place that defined me. To say I actually wanted to leave the city upset the applecart of my self-identity. But I didn’t want New York to define them; I wanted more for them than this sprint-and-stop life.
And I needed to spread my wings. I needed to see who I could be when I wasn’t rushing for a bus that would either come too early or too late. I needed space to breathe and figure out how to be a mom and still be me. I needed to have family around. Manhattan is an island, but my family didn’t need to be one, too.
So we moved south, closer to family, hoping that everything else would fall into place.
We’re trading bagels for biscuits and terrorists for tornadoes, leaving behind a six-month winter in exchange for a six-month summer. We’re teaching the kids Birmingham manners, which are, unsurprisingly, a little more, well, mannered than Brooklyn manners. And we’re rolling down the windows and cranking the music, enjoying air far sweeter than anything in a New York subway tunnel.
The four of us are still making adjustments and re-ordering our priorities. But this time we’ve got plenty of space, and, most importantly, room to grow.