To Whomever Is In Charge

I’ve spent a large part of the last year and a half measuring my pre-child expectations against my actual experiences of fatherhood, and obviously most of what I had imagined hasn’t come even close. However, there is one thing that hasn’t really changed at all.

Before I had a child, I hoped sincerely that I wouldn’t become one of those simpering whiners who felt the world had to clear a path for their special child. I had always believed that you can’t make the world safe for children, you have to prepare your child for the world… and nothing about having a child has changed that point of view one bit.

New York can be especially dangerous. Even the New York that we live in now, which is obviously far cleaner and safer than it was in the 70s and 80s. But just taking in to consideration the fact that we all live on top of each other, and that we all want to live our lives in pursuit of our own happiness, we tend to live somewhat shared lives with our neighbors and strangers, and all of that can lead to unsafe circumstances.

As such, my son has needed to learn things earlier than I had to, growing up in places like Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He has to know that the run off from storms on the street is full of stuff he shouldn’t put in his mouth, that even a short bike ride is a life-threatening situation, and that when he yells and laughs at the top of his lungs, it affects his neighbor’s homes.

I have raised him, so far, to understand that he’s a member of a culture for which he has to have respect. That culture exists on many levels, it starts with him and us and our immediate family, but it extends further into being a part of Astoria, a part of Queens, a part of New York and a part of America. He is being taught that the small things he does in defiance of that cultural responsibility effect the entire chain, all the way up.

Now, I point this out because I am becoming more and more aware of the fact that while he is holding up his end of the responsibility, there are many ways in which the cultural responsibilities he is owed are not being met. And what is absurd is that none of the ways that his life is being affected adversely are culturally accepted acts on the part of those doing them. The very things that are dangerous or frustrating to my 18 month old son, are also the things that are dangerous and annoying to every other member of our little society.

So, I’m asking not for special dispensation, I’m not asking that my lone son, one of ten million people, be given untoward consideration. I’m simply asking that the rules that are in effect be enforced.

The park, which is a playground for thousands of people every day, almost all of whom are on foot, has streets that lead to it. According to the law, people have to drive on the right side of the street, they have to stop at stop signs, and they have to give pedestrians the right of way. It may seem absurd to ask that people simply stop at stop signs, it’s the first thing one learns in kindergarten, but there are trucks barelling through stop signs with people *in the crosswalk* every single day.

The park is loaded with children, as it should be, the pool is packed with kids, which is only right. There are paths and lawns and a track and areas to play ball and run around… and there is also a very small playground for little children. All we’re asking is that the rules posted on the playground be followed, no smoking, no bikes, no adults without children.

Am I asking too much? Am I being too precious? Maybe, sure. But if my 14 month old get hit with a bike because I’m letting him walk where people are allowed to bike, then I have nobody but myself to blame. Whenever our little kids are walking around the park, I know it’s our responsibility to keep them safe. But in the tiny playground, built for kids under 4, with the rules specifically banning bikes… it’s one little place where a kid can get his ya-yas out.

The park closes at eleven, and there are laws against cruising. So, why is the park packed with people, going up and down the waterfront, at midnight? This used to be a place where drug deals happened every five minutes, then Astoria cleaned itself up and we agreed that this wasn’t where that happened. Now… the economy is going to shit and there are people milling around, bored, at midnight.

If the law needs to be changed to allow a place for bored teenagers and twenty-somethings to hang out at one in the morning, then, by all means, let’s introduce legislation making it legal to tool up and down the waterfront at five miles an hour, but as long as its illegal, is it too much to ask to enforce it?

Motorcycles are fun and awesome and girls with tattoos on their butts love them. But we have laws that dictate how loud the engines should be, and above a certain level, it’s against the law. That’s because we all live right up next to each other, and it’s just unfair to try to break the windows of my son’s bedroom at 11:30. I don’t care if you have a loud car or motorcycle, I just want it to be *legally* loud.

I don’t know. Maybe I have changed.

I just want the rest of our little corner to try as hard as my son is to be a good member of our society. If everyone agrees that these laws and rules are wrong, then I’ll go with the new rules, but as long as the rules are what they are, I just wish they would be enforced.