Home > City mama, motherhood > Things only I worry about

Things only I worry about

I think a lot about etiquette. Humanity, IMHO, needs manners and little social conventions to grease the wheels between us. We’re grind and slice each other up if we didn’t hate these rituals, understood-but-not-articulated boundaries, little graces.

Today, The Child and I walked to the T station and took the train to Harvard, bought her a hat, and came home. As we walked along the sidewalk, she kept saying, “I want to be tall, please!” For her, “being tall” is walking on anything elevated at the side of the sidewalk: railroad ties, decorative curbs, stone borders, low brick walls, any of those tiny things that people use in the city to designate their scrap of land from the sidewalk. Sometimes on the very bottom stair of a stoop, if it abuts the sidewalk.

Walking on these things is a new obsession for The Child and one that I remember enjoying when I was even older than she is. (So does The Husband.) I’m very careful not to let her walk on any plants, anything delicate, never on grass or gardens.

But I can’t help but think that, no matter how careful I am, we’re still trespassing. Many people in the city work very hard on their little 2 by 4 little garden, they lovingly build these small decorative edgings. And I’m sure the get it violated by vandals, drunks, careless litterers, and other scoundrels all the time. And I’m sure it pisses them off. I don’t want to contribute to that at all and I worry that these little excursions do just that.

Then again, The Child really really really enjoys the height. She is very careful and does no harm at all. But that all sounds like moral prevarication to me.

On a similar note, we took the subway today. We often do. And now that we’ve abandoned the stroller for anything but heavy cargo, we skip the elevator and take the escalator. Now, non urbanites may not know it, but there’s a strong convention in the city, especially during busy hours, that if you’re on an escalator, you should stand to the right so that those who want to walk can pass you. I, myself, have been know to mutter dire imprecations at people who casually block the whole width of the escalator. Especially those who don’t move when you say, “Excuse me.”

But when I’m with The Child, I don’t want to set a bad example and ride backwards (dangerous for a child). And I certainly don’t want to let go of her hand. So we stand, shoulder-to-shoulder, each of us with a hand on the railing, blocking the whole width of the escalator.

But then, of course, people who want to walk build up behind us. On a very long ride — the one at Porter Square — I will pick her up and let the rushers stream by. But the act of picking her up is both nontrivial — she’s nearly 35 pounds at this point, and I’m usually carrying several bags — and a little tricky on the narrow moving stairs, especially if she’s squirmy, so it takes a little bit of time. So I don’t do it on the short rides. But I feel bad — I’m violating city etiquette.

I know I’m the only one who worries about these things. And it’s not like I’m staying up at night, gnawing my nails over them. But I do wonder if there’s a solution.

Categories: City mama, motherhood
  1. Juliet Bravo
    April 22, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Hah! You are not the only one, I have been thinking about both of those things! On the walking on stuff side, I agree that it is tough. Especially, because the lion cub really likes to walk on grass, so when we pass someone’s front lawn, he likes to try to swerve into it. My take on it is that I try not to let him do anything that will cause harm (like walking on grass) but I don’t see a problem letting him walk on a brick border for example. As for the escalator, either I carry him or we take the elevator (if there is one). If there are only stairs and I am carrying bags, then I take up the whole staircase, but that’s more the T’s problem for not making all their stations handicap accessible.

  2. elcynae
    April 22, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    Here’s my take on walls: don’t do damage, sure, and don’t litter… but the people who really care about their little spot of outside generally want others to enjoy it too. Usually by looking, not touching, but most gardeners would delight in a small person taking joy in their yard. If ever someone objects to my little one walking on their wall, I will surely remember it and keep her off that wall. But in the meantime, even the people who step out their front doors to find her playing on their stairs break into smiles.

    On escalators, if there’s no one around we just stand side by side. If there are others, we both step on, and then I take a step down or she takes a step up, and I ask her to move to the right. It’s slightly awkward holding hands with her in front of me, but not too bad. If I’m not carrying things, I sometimes switch hands.

  3. June 10, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    It’s so nice to see that I’m not the only one who thinks about these things! Such a lovely post.

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