An Alienation from Cricketsong: Raising Manhattan Babies + Summer Childrenswear Finds.

By: Jen Shoop

It dawned on me the other day that some of the quintessential childhood summer experiences — camping, roasting marshmallows, running through a sprinkler with bare feet, shivering in a too-small towel by an over-chlorinated outdoor pool, sprinklers in a driveway (read to the end), cricketsong at dusk — will be difficult to come by for my Manhattanite children. Most of the summers of my youth were passed out of doors, trailing my older brother in our backyard, pumping my legs vigorously on the backyard swing set my father installed when I was seven or eight, participating in summer camps and pool days at my parents’ country club, hiking or horseback riding when we relocated to Colorado for the month of July during the bulk of the years that stretched between 1990 and 2000. Of course there are opportunities to travel with my little family to more rustic locales on vacation, where such pastimes can be indulged (and we intend to do so), but these experiences will be novelties rather than normalcies–brief departures from the concrete jungle, the stink and swell of August humidity in New York City. And the compression of space we experience as urban apartment dwellers entails unique considerations when I muse on this subject. For example, camping involves bulky gear: tents, sleeping bags, backpacks. Where would we stow this when not in use?! Even an inexpensive sprinkler seems like a burden. (“Do we keep the sprinkler in the closet, or use that space for out-of-season clothing?” Etc.)

Of course, this is the tradeoff we signed up for, and there are many unique upsides to living in New York that — for now, as far as we can surmise — balance the scales. But, it’s an odd thing. And there is a thick layer of Norman Rockwell-esque nostalgia that coats my memory of my own childhood and leaves me hoping for similar experiences for my own brood. For some reason, I equate proximity to the unvarnished simplicity of the outdoors in summer with a kind of inborn down-to-earth-ness. The fact that my two children might not know what it feels like to run their toes through overgrown grass on a daily basis curls up alongside a worry that they might become too frou frou or overly-cultivated for their own good. I don’t want them to be coddled urbanites who look on with puzzlement when friends from out-of-town marvel over the fact that “taking out the trash” in our building means calling a service elevator and having a porter remove the bag just feet from our door. (This remains, to me, an exceptional shock, even nearly two years into our life here.) Or that taking a subway or cab to school is de rigueur, or that there are doormen to hail cabs, receive visitors, and carry up groceries and other parcels on our behalf. How will they ever understand these as eccentricities of our lifestyle? Mini pointed to an enormous pillared building meant to look like a courthouse in a book the other day and described it as “a house.” A house! What skewed vision of the world has she already built — or have we in some way co-constructed with her?

These concerns are not overly meaty in the grand order of things. I trust myself and Mr. Magpie to keep our children from growing up too cloistered, and we visit family often enough to keep some semblance of “the real world” (New York is other-worldly, to be sure) impressed upon them. But they occur to me in fits and spurts, as I am switching mini’s clothing to her summer wardrobe, pulling out the strawberry-print blouse I ordered for her while fleetingly, improbably, imagining her wearing it in a field somewhere, and I catch myself wondering: but where?

How do you feel about raising your children in the home you have selected for them? Reservations? Concerns?

Summer Childrenswear Finds.

Most of the pieces I’m sharing here are more casual than you’ll usually find me featuring — because not every day involves a smocked, ironed dress around here (although, if that’s what you’re after, I shared a bunch of more traditional/formal pieces for the entire familyhere). Many of these are more inspired by a rustic aesthetic to match the yearnings outlined above:

+I fell in love with the strawberry blouse mentioned above after pining after La Coqueta’s very similar, far more expensive style. I’ve been waiting for a good La Coqueta promotion to pounce on a few pieces…

+I hadn’t imagined I’d be super into the more West Coast vibe of this label, but I’m loving pieces by Rylee & Cru for micro these days. I have my eyes on these overalls in particular. (Get the look for less with these.) Also — to coordinate without matching, this for mama.

+OMG — Dodo Bar Or has a special childrenswear collection on offer at Matches. If you were one of the chic peas who loved this caftan from my roundup the other day, check this mini-sized version out!

+I love that Jacadi carries their styles even in the ittiest-bittiest of sizes. I find that many labels start at 3M, but micro will be scarcely a month on the fourth of July — and so I have my eye on this for him.

+A sweet linen-blend jumpsuit.

+How darling is this peplum rashguard?!

+Every mini needs some white denim shortalls in her life. So cute with a striped tee!

+Loving the Liberty prints at Harbour this season. This dress! Separately, this striped sunsuit for a boy is adorable (and can be monogrammed with his initials).

+Darling monogrammed trunks for a little boy.

+This swiss dot situation for a little lass.

+$13 t-strap sneaks for a dapper little gent. Love them in the gray.

+RUN. $29 for a pair of RR jammies!

+Also into the sweet, subdued pieces from Quincy Mae as some last-minute additions to micro’s layette. I bought him an entire head-to-toe star print look, some pointelle leggings, booties, and some bloomers. So sweet.

+Bought mini this gingham pinafore.

P.S. My favorite sleepwear brands for minis and micros.

P.P.S. My troubles and treasures.

P.P.P.S. 10 life-changing baby products. (Go for the post, stay for the comments — lots of great reader additions!)

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12 thoughts on “An Alienation from Cricketsong: Raising Manhattan Babies + Summer Childrenswear Finds.

  1. I agree with Anna – their experience will be different, undoubtedly, but so is everyone else’s! I grew up on two acres just outside the city and remember absolutely just LONGING to be able to have a neighborhood with sidewalks and paved streets to ride bikes. In hindsight, I got to have my horse at home (!), a pool in the backyard to splash around in, the ability to play in as much dirt as I wanted and endless exploration of the outdoors. But (semi-embarrassingly) it was only last week, at the age of 27, I learned you could put outgoing mail in the mailbox at your house and public transit is still a slightly baffling experience for me.

    1. This is such an interesting alternative perspective on the topic! Love it – thanks for sharing.


  2. The thing I most want for my sons is not so much a simulacra of my own childhood, lovely and barefoot as, in many ways, it was—but the (bounded) independence it offered. From about 5 on, I’d spend hours alone in our forest and fields, and it stings to think that my sons won’t be able to do the New York equivalent, because there isn’t one. And it’s less to do with actual safety (the city is safer than ever) than with the wrath and judgement that befalls the absent mother. Bah. On the other hand, diversity! Walking over driving! Street food! Hopefully these make the sacrifices worth it.

    1. Such good points, all of them. I especially (self-servingly) liked the litany of pro-Manhattan selling points…


  3. This is such an interesting thing to think about, and I am in agreement with Anna here — there are so many options in terms of where to live, but no matter where one lands, it remains important (to me, and to anyone, really, I would hope) to raise children with a well-rounded host of diverse viewpoints, whether that comes in via different friendships, exposure to other cities/countries/etc. via travel, or even just through reading books featuring stories from people living under different circumstances. There’s a lot more I could say on this topic, but I think you are doing a lot by being conscious of the way that living in NYC may skew your children’s perception of the world.

    At the same time … I, too, have such nostalgia for my suburban NYC upbringing, where I was simultaneously able to run through the grass barefoot every day in the summer, but also hop into the car/on the train and be in the city within an hour. New York loomed large in my childhood as well, although I don’t pretend that it had as much of an effect on my upbringing as friends/family who grew up in Manhattan itself. I think some people are just drawn to it more than others (case in point: my sister, who rarely rarely visits the city even though she lives much closer to it than I do! Haha)

    OK, I’m rambling. Love those Jacadi overalls for the 4th of July! So sweet. xx

    1. I hear you; I’m having allll the similar roaming thoughts on this topic. I think I land close to where you and Anna do, although…the whole notion of raising kids unaccustomed to bare feet in backyards is so bizarre to me.


  4. This is so interesting and I have wondered about how New York parents feel about this. I find myself nostalgic for the long summer days of my own childhood, wanting to recreate that for my children. But truth is, it’s just not the 80s anymore. Our children can’t leave the house after breakfast and come back for occasional meals without sending parents (myself included) in a panicked state over their safety.

    Our current primarily upper class, caucasian, country-club-going town is far different from my own childhood, and I do worry it gives my children a distorted view of the world. I often feel like the odd mom who doesn’t sign her kids up for all the camps and lessons, or gives them cell phones in elementary school, or forces them to figure out what to do with themselves when they’re bored. It doesn’t feel like a popular choice nowadays, but I am hoping it’s the right one.

    1. Love this — and that you’re following your instincts as a parent regardless what the Joneses are up to. That takes stamina and conviction! I hadn’t thought about the generational gap; running around outside for hours may be a vestige of childhoods past…


  5. True story:
    I came home from work one day and my husband informed me he had booked our next family vacation at a Dude Ranch in Colorado! I threw down my Gucci purse and stomped my foot saying, “A dude ranch? Are you crazy?” . I don’t even own a pair of jeans!
    He insisted (I kicked and screamed as much as I could!). I even told him he could NOT take his beloved Stetson cowboy hat! Period!!! No way!
    Well, let me tell you how wrong I was about that vacation! It was the vacation we all still talk about with so many fond memories. The outdoor activities abounded for the kids and they had a BLAST! They cried when we told them it was time to leave.
    So, please consider a Dude Ranch vacation and relax and go with the flow! Soooooo much fun!!!

    1. I love this!! I agree that sometimes the best experiences come out of nowhere. A dude ranch has been officially added to my vacation list 🙂


  6. I don’t yet have children, but this is a topic I’ve thought about a lot. My father grew up on the UES but left the city for good when he became an adult. His siblings all stayed and raised their children (my cousins) here. They are all lovely, smart, wonderful, caring people who I love very much, but they have given me a front row seat to all the ways in which growing up a New Yorker is to grow up a bit strange. It’s quite a paradox- you can grow up in this incredibly huge and diverse city and yet still have some major blinders about the world. And of course, the same could be said for someone growing up on a ranch in Oklahoma. I think at the end of the day, all you can do is choose your choice and make an effort to expose your kids to as many viewpoints and ways of life as possible.

    1. Hi Anna — I think you are absolutely right on that front. Go boldly into your decision and make every effort to demonstrate the wide variety of walks of life and lifestyles outside of your own…


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