A New Yorker’s Response To ‘A Mother’s Note To Her Daughter’

139853426I read a piece this morning on Huffpost Parents, What I Hope I Never Teach You: A Letter To My Daughter. In it, a mother talks about how much she loves that her daughter interacts with everyone they see. I couldn’t help but filter it through my own experience with raising young children in the city. My letter would look so much different:

Dear Beautiful Girl,

You’ll find him on the train. You’ll lock eyes and as you are too young to recognize a sociopath, you won’t look away. I’ll be mumbling Crap! under my breath because now he’s moving towards us and I’m going to have to think of a way to keep his black fingernails from touching your coat. No luck. Now I have to stop at CVS for bleach.

You yell. You echo your tiny little screams across the Q train. You wave your chubby arms until the lady who has two empty seats around her in all directions sees you. Your little brain can’t concept the significance of vacant seats on a rush hour train. You win her over, and I have to spend the rest of the ride hoping she doesn’t come near us.

She isn’t the first or the last. The next door neighbor who steals our mail, the drunk guy on the sidewalk who is now following us, the creepy corner store guy who I am certain has a makeshift gravesite under his store – I can’t warn you about all of these people yet. You do not have the power of speech or comprehension.

No one has taught you the rules. We never lock eyes with people on the train. Ever. We don’t smile at the man yelling obscenities on the corner. We never admit to being a voter in this county. We always buy candy off kids on the train and give money to subway buskers.

There are so many things I can’t wait to teach you. You will learn how to sidestep someone creepy on the subway platform without falling on the tracks and how to avoid talking to a cabby for your entire trip. And when anyone asks how you became so proficient with avoiding allowing people into your personal space on Amtrak, your answer will always be “my mom.”

You’re welcome.

(photo: Getty Images)

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  • jcq


  • Mystik Spiral

    I don’t get it. Is this supposed to be satire of the original piece? Or are you serious? Because it reads as a heaping pile of xenophobia, classism, and good old-fashioned judgement.

    • Paul White

      Nah. Learning to avoid people that are truly dangerous/crazy is a pretty good life skill and toddlers do not have it.

    • Mystik Spiral

      I admit I’ve never been to NYC, and the only time I’ve been on a subway is in uberclean Toronto. The part about not talking to cabbies especially kind of made me sad… I don’t take cabs often, but usually I like talking to the drivers.

    • pixie

      Toronto? Uberclean? When was this? (Though the new subway trains are pretty clean and really nifty)

      I love that city, but right now it’s not exactly clean in the majority of the downtown core. And it does have its fair share of creepy people.
      I also like talking to friendly cabbies when I take a taxi, though it’s rare, though I have met a couple who get a little…personal.

    • Mystik Spiral

      I was in Toronto in 1998, so… a while ago. I just remember the streets and the subway stations being really, really clean.

    • pixie

      That would be why lol. It’s not filthy right now, or anything (at least last time I was there back in November or December), just a lot of construction taking away a lot of the cleanliness.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

      Compared to NYC, the Toronto subway system is pretty damn clean. There’s a reason film crews have to scatter trash all over the place when they’re trying to make this place pass for New York.

      I love New York but it really does just reek like pee in the subway. Probably because of all the pee.

    • Shea

      True! I live in Montreal, and our metro is relatively clean and well maintained. I was shocked when I went to New York and saw rats running around the subway tracks.

    • pixie

      Oh yeah, I’m not saying it’s not clean, just not what I’d call “uberclean”, though I guess if you’re used to New York or other cities like that it is in comparison.

      Maybe it’s the big hole and constant construction in front of Union station that makes it seem less clean than it is for me (if I take the subway that’s normally where it’s going from). Yay for giant holes!

    • brebay

      Toddlers don’t need it, that’s why they have parents. You don’t teach a baby to diaper its own butt either. You just make sure they aren’t out of your sight until they develop it naturally like most of us did. Some kids don’t, but most do. It’s not a skill toddlers are supposed to have.

    • Tinyfaeri

      Yup. The last time my daughter tried to change her own diaper, there were wipes hanging from everything in her room and diapers all across the floor. She got an A for effort, though!

      But seriously – you can’t expect a toddler to defend him or herself or ID dangerous people on their own.

    • brebay

      Yeah, I really have no idea what to make of this either. There are probably some good points in there underneath a lot of classist shit, but some things sound better in your head than on paper, I’m filing it in there.

    • MellyG

      I have mixed feelings. I’ve lived in Boston, visited NYC for work frequently enough that people ask me for directions, and I’ve lived in DC. I also grew up in suburban Detroit. I didn’t grow up avoiding anyone in Detroit, but the first time i moved to DC, i quickly learned that you can’t be friendly with everyone. Same in Boston and NYC. There has to be a balance between not judging everyone based on looks, and knowing that someone makes you feel creepy for a reason.

  • TwentiSomething Mom

    Ahhh yes, locking eyes with a sociopath, my tot is guilty of this. He’s also guilty of getting involved in fights that have nothing to do with us just because he needs to be in the middle of everything. My dear son, please look down and keep quiet on the subway.

  • Robotic Arms Dealer

    Man, I am thankful I live in a city where I don’t have to take the subway around

  • Bethany Ramos

    Haha I love this. Sometimes overly sappy moments are a bit too sweet for me. I’d raise my kids like this if we had a subway instead of horses in Texas.

  • Alex

    I read the original article, and I may end up being the only one who thinks that you completely missed what it was trying to say.

    The original central theme was about acceptance and attempting not to unfairly stereotype who we meet based upon what we think we know; the author hopes that her child never learns “the rules” we use to judge each other by our behavior every day.

    This article seems, well, the exact opposite of that.

    • Rachel Sea

      The original article also missed that sometimes people creep you out for very good reasons, and that trusting your instincts is a survival skill.

      There are 7 billion people on the planet. We don’t have to have Special Moments with every random stranger on public transit to have beautiful, warm, open lives. We can all go our own ways, and be just fine.

    • Alex

      No but I don’t think it’s a poor lesson to encourage that sometimes, strangers aren’t who they seem. Awareness is great until you walk around afraid all the time because you’re convinced everyone is out to get you.

  • Rachel Sea

    Seems a little arrogant to think that random strangers give a crap about whether her kid interacts with them or not. I hope her daughter does learn the rules, or she’s going to be stalker bait.

    • chickadee

      Dude! Her baby makes everyone’s life better….didn’t you read the article? God and heaven and grace are all mixed us in her Precious Snowflake Awesome Baby.

    • Bethany Ramos

      I seriously could not even handle that original article.

    • chickadee

      HuffPo has been having a lot of sappy open letters lately — that kind of sappiness makes me want to hurl.

    • Bethany Ramos

      I was just noticed the same thing and wondering if I’m all dead inside because the sap annoys me so much?!

    • chickadee

      Well, that makes two of us. We can start a club!

    • Rachel Sea

      I think some people are prone to an as-yet undiscovered neurological disorder brought on by Pinning too many inspirational quotes, typed over soft-focus photos.

  • brebay

    I also think it’s dangerous to teach kids that strangers/bad people look creepy/dirty/wild-eyed. Pedophiles don’t look like that; they go out of their way to look like someone your parents wouldn’t teach you to fear; kind of the whole point.

    • chickadee

      Heh. In New York City, though, wild-eyed people are usually giving away the game about whether you should approach them or not…

    • Shea

      True, but it’s still not a good idea to approach the wild-eyed stranger stumbling along the street yelling obscenities. He might not be a pedophile, but he’s probably not the safest person to interact with.

  • Aldonza

    Haha, I want to give this to all of my friends and family who used to visit me in NYC.

  • Mai

    I have never lived in a big city and one could say I am a bit naive about people in general. I have always been a little too trusting.
    A few months ago I was out on a walk along the road just to get some excersize. I was alone. Some distance from home, a car pulled up near me that had 4 men in it. They started yelling and harassing me. I just kept walking but I was terrified. I mean, what could a lone woman do to defend herself from 4 men? It was at that moment I truely understood why a person would want a gun for self protection. They eventually left me alone and drove off. A near miss. Had these guys decided to hurt me I wouldn’t have stood a chance. It was at that point I realized just how stupid I can be trusting strangers will be good.
    I only hope I can teach my child to be smarter about strangers then I was.

  • Steph

    Ugh…that original article was just puke-bait.