How to Be a New Yorker: 10 Things One Mom Wants to Teach Her Child


mom with kids

Being a born-and-bred New Yorker has always been a point of pride for me. In my mind, I’m strong, tough, and savvy, thanks to where I’m from. I’m special and so are the almost 9 million people that also call this city home. But life has an interesting way of working out…in 2015, my husband (also a born-and-bred New Yorker) and I picked up our mini doxie and one-bedroom-apartment amount of stuff and moved to Phoenix, Arizona. We were two 30-somethings who never imagined we’d ever live anywhere else, but when a job opportunity called, we answered, eager to take on the new adventure. How bad could it be?

Talk about culture shock. Everything felt unfamiliar, and I felt different from everyone I met. It seemed I talked faster, walked faster, and thought faster than anyone I came in contact with. Was this how people felt when they moved from their quaint little towns to the Big Apple? I suddenly felt empathy for all those transplants. It took some time, but we eventually learned to appreciate the slower pace of the southwest, its more relaxed lifestyle, and the drastically cheaper cost of living. And then, having been unable to get pregnant in New York, we threw ourselves into trying to have a baby. The money we were saving in rent went instead to our fertility specialist. For almost four years, I was poked, prodded, and put under, my body a veritable pin cushion and my emotional state as fickle as the fashion trends that sauntered in and out of season. But after four IVF cycles, the greater purpose of our stint in the desert was revealed when I finally gave birth to our beautiful daughter, Francesca Maggie—who we affectionately call Frankie. We’ve been back home in New York City for the past year, but here we are again, with another move around the corner, this time to San Francisco and this time with a clear mandate: to make sure our daughter (no matter where we live) is a New Yorker through and through.

Dear Frankie,

New York is already part of your roots but I want to make sure you grow up to embody the mindset, values, and grit of the place your father and I call home. You might not have been born in New York, but here are some rules, tips, and advice on how to live your life as if you were.

1. Never drive when you can walk. Walking will cause your heart rate to go up and your carbon footprint to go down—good for your health and the planet, a true win-win situation. When you walk, do it at a brisk pace, in a straight line, and with a sense of purpose, but all the while, be aware of your surroundings, look both ways, and if you bump into someone, just keep going. If you need to stop to smell the roses—or read a text, or plot your route on Google Maps, or to literally smell some beautiful flowers— that’s fine, but please do us all a favor and pull over, preferably to the right. Oh and never look up. What are you a tourist?

2. The best food in the world is pizza. And the best pizza in the world is in New York. That is all.

3. Don’t be afraid of hard work. Hard work will get you places, it will get you noticed, and it will get you closer to your goal. One of the best things about New Yorkers is their work ethic, which I will do everything in my power to instill in you. In the age of influencers and Instagram, VIPs and podcasts, you have to be extra careful, sweet girl. I wouldn’t blame you for thinking all it takes to be successful in this world is some luck, some followers, and some well-edited content, but trust me when I say that is far from the truth. Don’t ever forget about what goes on behind the scenes, about the hundreds of photos it takes to get one winner. But any goal worth having is worth taking a hundred pics for, so put in the work. You’ll be happier for it, even if there’s no guarantee you’ll get the winning shot every single time.

4. Having a washer/dryer in your apartment is an absolute luxury, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. So be grateful every single time you do a load of laundry.

5. You must develop a thick skin. Frank Sinatra once sang “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere” and he was right, but not because New Yorkers don’t face hardships. He was right because we bounce back from them. Hardships are inevitable, so be resilient, sweet girl. When you get knocked down be sure to always stand up and try again. This is how you’ll become tough, this is how you’ll become bold, this is how you’ll work up the endurance to withstand whatever life throws at you.

6. Always carry a small umbrella in your purse. You never know when it’s going to rain, and frankly, neither do the meteorologists.

7. Sweet girl, always remember differences are beautiful. New York is filled with many different types of people and that’s what makes it the greatest city in the world. No matter where you live down the road if you meet someone who is different than you, talk to them, connect with them, and try to find your common ground—and I promise there almost always is a common ground. Because one of the most important lessons I can teach you is that people are actually more similar than they are different. Good people come in many forms, and they won’t always look like you or act like you—it doesn’t matter what language they speak, what culture they are from, how much money they make, or who they love. Good people are good people, no matter what.

8. Rush hour is not an hour. It’s four hours. Refer back to number 1.

9. Don’t fawn over celebrities when you see them in public. Ultimately they are just regular people, and they love this city because everyone here treats them as such. You might see them at the coffee shop, on the street trying to hail a cab, or on the yoga mat next to you but no matter what, be cool. Don’t be that person.

10. New Yorkers are strong, tough, and savvy, yes, but don’t forget that above all New Yorkers are nice. They will give you directions, help you get on the right train, hold a door open for you, give up their seat on the subway, and return a wallet to its rightful owner. Just don’t ever walk slowly in front of one.


Your mama, forever a New Yorker

Cris Pearlstein currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband, 17-month-old daughter, and mini doxie. She is a veteran of the magazine industry — serving as a fashion editor and stylist for over 12 years — but now is a full-time mom and part-time writer.

Most mornings, you’ll find Cris in the kitchen, cooking up tasty kid-friendly meals for her toddler daughter.


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