My kids call any one-on-one time with my husband or me “special time.” In a family with four noisy, active little people and two busy adults, it does indeed require a special effort to carve out time alone. It’s so rewarding and such a force for bonding and connecting, though, that it should be given top priority. Even if only in half-hour snippets here and there. Whatever you can grab.
I had the privilege of taking my 12-year old son on a special jaunt to NY last week. He had been there with his grandparents a couple of years prior, but that was kind of a “grown up” trip–nice east side hotel, cabs everywhere, steak houses, tourist spots, and Broadway shows. He wanted to see the grittier side of NY with me. I had spent nine years of my young adult life there, and he was eager to check out where I’d studied, worked, and lived.
After checking into our hotel, we jumped on the #1 subway and our first stop was Columbia University. En route, we stopped at Koronet pizza at 110th St., the campus mainstay where the slices are monstrous, and hungry, half-drunk college kids stumble in all hours of the night. I didn’t necessarily go into details with my kid, but oh, what memories! His eyes lit up when he was served a slice of pizza three times the size of his head. He gobbled most of it down, a little grease dripping onto his chin. For him, heaven.
We walked up to campus, through the main gates at 116th St., and he marveled at the sight of this beautiful ivied enclave plunked right down in the midst of the noisy city. It really is neat. We headed over to Low Library, up the famous “steps”, and over to Philosophy Hall. We shot his photo in front of Rodin’s Thinker, right in front, and climbed up to the top floor, where I spent years attending seminars, meeting with professors, and just hanging around. It all seemed smaller and dirtier to me than it had in my 20’s, but he thought it was supremely cool, and I didn’t bother drawing any contrasts for him.
We walked all around campus, and I showed him where the various departments were, the hang-outs, and so on. We crossed Broadway and walked over to Barnard college, to check out my freshman dorm and old haunts there as well. He was so thrilled when I picked up a Columbia sweatshirt for him at the bookstore afterwards. Even though it was high 80’s outside, he wore it proudly the rest of the afternoon. I think the experience made him feel he knew me now in a new way–through a window directly into my youth.
For dinner with ate some delicious Thai food on the cheap, and then headed to Radio City for a marvelous Cirque du Soleil show, our one big splurge of the trip. We were completely exhausted by the time we walked back to our hotel, hand in hand.
I won’t go into every detail of the 2 1/2 days that ensued, but they included some great stuff: a trip to Hoboken to wait in a 90 minute line in 95+ heat to get into Carlo’s Bakery (of “Cake Boss” reality TV fame), followed by a complete pig-out on an otherworldly box of pastries at a nearby park while gazing across the water at the NY skyline; hours spent marveling at the Natural History Museum; a nap on the grass in Central Park; walking around Times Square; Dylan’s Candy Bar; shopping at Uniqlo, the NBA and NHL stores; dinner at Katz’s deli and a walking tour of the lower East side; cannolis in Little Italy; and finally, an overnight in Brooklyn with my sister, with lunch, shopping, and an awesome haircut in artsy Williamsburg the last day.
Throughout the trip, we spent a lot of time talking about life, what he thinks about it, and my advice on what he should focus on. We discussed his annoyances with his siblings, what he likes and detests about school, his upcoming bar mitzvah and plans for high school and college, his decision to quit hockey this fall after 8 years, his friends, how excited he is for sleepover camp next month, and even the theory of evolution (sparked by our museum visit with Lucy) and the national debt (he saw a debt ticker on the side of a building, and wondered what was that?).
On the flight home, we made a list of every single thing we’d seen, done, and eaten on the trip, reliving everything in the process. We did a NYT crossword puzzle together, and then before we knew it, were back in Detroit–reality. We pulled into our garage, about to become reimmersed in routine, focused on all of life’s mundane details instead of just each other.
As I was opening my car door, he stopped me and asked: “What was your favorite part about the trip, Mom? “Hmm,” I replied. “It was all so great. What was yours?” “Being with you,” he said simply. “Same here.” What a gift, that special time.