shirley-temple-wi-0309-old-sm.jpgIt's no surprise that Manhattan kids grow up differently from most. Perhaps it's the plethora of cultures they encounter on any given city block that makes them more worldly than children who grow up in, say, Tuscaloosa (not that I have anything against Alabama. I'm sure it's a swell state).

Pitying me for lack of funds and no job prospects, my former coworker asked me to babysit his 2-year-old daughter, Charlotte, while the nanny is on vacation. I have never met a child as astounding as Charlotte, a bilingual wunderkind who takes naps willingly and insists on listening to classical music when she's getting dressed. Charlotte takes ballet classes, sings American and Korean lullabies, and eats things like soba noodles and tofu. She's 2! Where else in this country, I ask you, do 2-year-olds eat tofu?

I took Charlotte to ballet class. However, I did not realize the effort involved in taking a child from point A to point B in this city. Packing her lunch, snacks, diapers, and ballet slippers left me sweating and exhausted before I even left the apartment. And walking anywhere with a stroller is like going through some kind of boot camp course. It took me 25 minutes to walk 10 blocks, since I was so paranoid that a crazy person would snatch Charlotte out of her stroller or that we'd fall into a manhole.

Despite all the work involved in taking care of a child, it's amazing how drastically different Manhattan is at 11:00 on a Monday morning. I can't remember when I was last out and about in this city actually noticing my surroundings, or had the time to do so. The city is serene somehow. While sidewalks at 9 a.m. are mobbed with Wall Street workers in suits (or what's left of them), 11 a.m. is the hour of parents and toddlers, full of sing-alongs and tutus. I'm not saying I want to be unemployed forever, but a girl could get used to this.

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