A Blogazine, based out of Park Slope, Brooklyn, that features fun and interesting articles. Topics include: parenting, society, real estate, career, style, spirituality and more. Written contributions are always welcome!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Brownstone Brooklyn: A College Town with No University

By Alison Lowenstein

When I had my first baby a mom of an older child said, “You’re going to love being a parent in Brooklyn. The community is awesome. It’s like living on a college campus; we are all about the same age, and are all doing the same thing.” I thought about the concept and dismissed it. Wasn’t every parent on planet earth having kids and doing the same thing too? How was Brooklyn different? I lived here for a long time before I had kids, and never felt this way.

Within weeks of being at home with my daughter, I was invited to a variety of new moms groups and mommy/baby happy hours. There were so many baby-centric social events. With this influx of new friends, my lack of sleep, and absence of an office job, I did feel as if I was back in freshman year of college, meeting new people and trying to adjust to my new life. I bit my tongue realizing that the woman was right. Although I didn’t apply and certainly didn’t study for any standardized test, I was inadvertently attending the Brooklyn campus of Baby University, where everyone seemed to be majoring in Organic Parenting.

As my daughter grew older, my neighborhood seemed even more like a college campus. No, we didn’t hang out on the campus lawn playing hacky sack, but instead spent leisurely days in the playground playing with whatever friends happened to be by the swings. Instead of grabbing a beer at a campus bar, we’d meet up with friends at the Tea Lounge or Naidre’s. All over the neighborhood, there were groups of mothers with their babies in slings, having heated debates and discussions on everything from sleep training to politics. I couldn’t walk down Court Street without running into somebody I knew or whose child wanted to stop and play with my daughter. Just like college, it took me forever to get anywhere and there was no reason to get dressed up.

No, I wasn’t in Freshman Comp, but I did have a full schedule of mommy and me music, art, sign language and movement classes. Just like in college where folks wore college tees, many of my fellow mommy and me classmates and their tots wore a wide variety of Brooklyn garb from t-shirts to sweatshirts to hats. We supported our campus’ team by buying up tickets to the Cyclones. On Sunday nights when the kids got to run the bases, we’d run into other people from campus in the bathroom or on line getting a pretzel.

We made friends with people in our building simply because they had kids. We invited these people into our homes like we were living in the dorms. I grew up in Queens and spent a major part of my adult life in Manhattan and there was never a time when I’d invite anybody from my building into my apartment for fear that I would not come out alive. Things were different here on this Brooklyn Campus, which had the feel of a small liberal arts college rather than a big university, which I found quite odd given the big city location of the campus.

We all know having kids changes you, but I never thought it could also change an entire neighborhood. It did.

Alison Lowenstein is the author of City Baby Brooklyn: The Ultimate Guide for Parents From Pregnancy to Preschool and City Weekends: The Greatest Escapes and Weekend Getaways in and around New York City, which comes out this March. She runs the site www.BrooklynBaby.com and is at work on another New York Guidebook. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their two children.