bigbrickelementaryschool.jpg Mike Steere, who blogs work-at-home/stay-at-home fathering at Pater-familias , ponders a major Montclair question that you may have asked yourself…

My friend, full-on Montclair supermom – FL journalist, adjunct faculty in NYC, but still majorly involved in at-home parenting – says it’s so, so maybe it is.
The facial theater is more convincing than the words. Ever so gently she smiles and does a slow “yes” nod. The sad and inescapable fact of life look, right? In this case she affirms the Law of Family Geography, which states that there are two kinds of places and no in-between:

A) Great for children but dull and pretty much sucky for grownups.
B) Vice Versa.

Then, as if to show how deep in A) we are, our progeny pile out of their excellent public elementary school. Our little talk started while we waited for afternoon dismissal. Springlike warmth and everybody’s batso. My first-grade daughter and a couple other girls chase my friend’s younger child, a first-grade boy. After a while, God knows why, he jumps up on a bench, sheds his jacket, then takes off his shirt and waves it around. Boy doesn’t have a clue, but it’s like kiddy Chippendales. Hilarious. Except, of course, to his Mama, who breaks off to establish parental control.
She leaves me wondering if she’s right, that the truth is as simple as A) Here, because of the kids and B) New York, where practically everybody (except for us direct arrivals from elsewhere) used to live, but then came A) Here, because of the kids. Start a conversation and you know, in maybe three minutes, where in the city your interlocutor lived. You also pick up on wistfulness and longing to be back.
So would anybody be here without offspring? Does any grownup actually want to be here? And like it here?
I don’t mean crowing about the 200 (or however many) restaurants and lively arts scene and diversity and groovy blah, blah, blah that set us apart from all other suburbs. That’s realtor promo and local biz booster hype and, I’m gathering, a certain pervasive defensiveness about making the Montclair choice. I mean just, you know, liking it. And being glad to be here.
Strange how little I’ve encountered, because there’s a lot to like. This place is gorgeous.
I, for one, would like to like it like my kid, who’s all hooked up and doing absolutely fantastic. In her skin, her element, 360-degree thriving.
Anybody know how to get to where she is?

Illustration by Peter Arkle.

Editor, writer, social media manager. Food, cocktail and coffee lover. Proud Jersey girl.

9 replies on “The Law of Family Geography”

  1. I’m a fairly smart, well read guy, but I must confess:
    I have NO FRIGGIN’ idea what this babble is about.
    Can someone please re-write or summarize this faux-cool-writer’s-speak gibberish for me.
    On second thought, perhaps this post is just for the 3 folks who 1) care, or 2) understand it, or 3) **most likely** entertain Mr. Steere at parties and playdates.

  2. I had to read this article three times. I think he’s saying he hates Montclair and misses New York City but stays here because in his mind his children like living in Montclair better. I think.
    Which if that’s what he’s saying is his problem.
    Tons of kids grow up in the city and love it and thrive there. We bring my daughter in all the time and she can’t get enough of it.

  3. Thank you CariAnnv.
    With your thought in mind, I re-read it and think you’re right.
    And what a loser, or perhaps, he thinks he’s cool- you know the type: skinny jeans, always wears black, soul patch… at the Soccer dome. Or A&P in the befuddled by the self-checkout.
    I also think he thinks he’s SO SMART and WITTY with his prose. The life of the party, I bet. Or rather, he’s at the suburban party, sitting in a corner, rubbing his soul patch, making fun of folks.
    When the jokes on him……..

  4. I think CariAnnv has correctly deciphered the coded message above… to which I reply: Can this guy write anything that isn’t just bitching and moaning about the choices he’s made in life?
    Upset because he’s a “stay at home dad”… Yup, he let us know that in his first post.
    Dwells on whatever trauma has him hating on baby food? Cleared that hurtle in his second post.
    Apparently upset that he lives in suburbia (such as Montclair is), phew… Glad we got that one out of the way in his third posting here.
    Personally, I think Montclair is just the right mix of urban and suburban… You get a nice mix of diverse cultures and most of the smaller crimes associated with “The City” but with so many beautiful trees throughout and an actual sense of community (so long as you’re willing to actually talk to your neighbors).

  5. On my first reading of this, I had A) No idea about what he was talking about and B) No clue was to what he was saying.

  6. my husband and i moved here when i was pregnant with my daughter. i love this area. both my children are in college now. i could leave if i wanted to. but i don’t want to. i love living here. i’ve met wonderful, smart, compassionate friends here, and best of all, i can have a garden here. and visit other people’s gardens. and sit on my deck in the summertime enjoying a glass of wine by candlelight and chatting with my sweetheart, my family, my friends.

  7. This gem is from his site:
    “Could be I’ll draw more fire from this bunch of anger hobbyists who load up Barista comment columns with strange rants. In this connection, Pater thinks of his twice-a-month Baristakids posts as feeding the weasels. Greetings and bon appetit to them, too.”
    Know what, cool guy– lick my butt. You can’t afford to feed this weasel…
    And really, is it a blog if NO ONE reads it? You have Zero comments. I was going to leave one, but didn’t want to sully my good name on, well, nothing.
    It would be the same as yelling out my window.
    But no, I live on a busy road and if I were to yell out my window, more folks would hear me than read your site.
    So, do us all a favor and move back to the City.
    No one likes you here.
    Because you are WAY TOO COOL!!!!

  8. I just love Fran. Just now she completely transported me to a Summer Garden where I sit feeling a warm breeze while I drink my chablis. Thanks Fran.

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