OFFICIAL BLOG

Fieldnotes

Playground Partners Luncheon

Published by Wednesday Martin

The annual Playground Partners Luncheon took place at the Boathouse in Central Park recently. It was a snowy day, but that did not reduce turnout at this popular event. Like grooming behaviors among female  papio cynocephalus (savannah baboons), attending events is an affiliative, pro-social behavior that promotes group and dyadic cohesion. We're weren't picking bugs off each other, but we may as well have been. In attending these events, talking to one another and eating and drinking together, asking about outfits and kids and work, we are essentially reassuring, connecting with and touching one another.


Fashion Friday

Published by Wednesday Martin
In the West we have special clothing for kids, as well as toys, kids’ movies, special food/menus for them and more. All these things serve to define our particular, peculiar version of “childhood,” and separate children and the world of children from the rest of society.
In the West we have special clothing for kids, as well as toys, kids’ movies, special food/menus for them and more. All these things serve to define our particular, peculiar version of “childhood,” and separate children and the world of children from the rest of society.

Who doesn't like Fridays? For many Manhattan parents, Friday is a "partial day" or even a "half day" — because lots of Manhattan private schools have noon dismissal every Friday. At my sons' nursery school, we used to refer to Friday as "Daddy Drop Off Day" because that practice is so common at that particular school — and so many others.


Photo of the Day, Why I love Dutch parents, and NYC happenings

Published by Wednesday Martin
Our Dutch friend’s daughter wore this dress when we met up at the bar at the Mark Hotel. People were really surprised to see the kids there — we have created separate spheres for adults and kids in the industrialized West. How could anyone fail to notice or admire my friend’s daughter’s dress and sparkly headband?
Our Dutch friend’s daughter wore this dress when we met up at the bar at the Mark Hotel. People were really surprised to see the kids there — we have created separate spheres for adults and kids in the industrialized West. How could anyone fail to notice or admire my friend’s daughter’s dress and sparkly headband?

There is so much I love about this photo. As the mother of two boys, I swoon over everything pink, sparkly and girlie. Fortunately my youngest son used to love dress up, including princess attire. And I have twin god daughters. As to this photo, a little context: a Dutch friend was in town and we suggested a meet up at the bar at the Mark Hotel. I love the Mark Hotel. The location on E. 77th St is perfect as far as I'm concerned — the "near east side" is easy for a West Sider and gives the necessary feeling of being out of one's own neighborhood without ranging really far. I've lived at the Mark twice with my kids, each time during apartment renovations. My friend Isabel is the head concierge there, and they always take nice care of our family. (I spent one of the happiest Christmases of my life at the Mark, covered in hives, baking Christmas cookies on trays Jean-Georges Vongerichten let me borrow — the sugar cookies came out smelling like fish, which was entirely Jean-Georges's fault, but he ate them and very politely pronounced them delicious anyway, as did everyone else we shared them with--but that's another story)


City Kids on a Hill

Published by Wednesday Martin
I heard a mom shout, “William, give that snowball maker back. It’s not ours!” The owner showed this peculiar and meaningful artifact to me. What does it say about contemporary childhood and parenting?
I heard a mom shout, “William, give that snowball maker back. It’s not ours!” The owner showed this peculiar and meaningful artifact to me. What does it say about contemporary childhood and parenting?

We had a snow day in Manhattan. That is to say, there were a few inches of snow, and the Board of Ed declared it a day off for New York City public schools, to the jubilation of many boys and girls.


Photo of the Day, Viceroy Sugar Beach Resort, Soufriere, St. Lucia

Published by Wednesday Martin
Across cultures, kids show a strong preference for playing in mixed-age groups. These kids, who range in age from six to 12,  were “building a world.” Kids often play together with a great sense of industry and purpose. Anthropologist Meredith Smalls observes that sequestering kids in schools with kids their own age goes “against the script” of childhood world-wide. Toys and “classes” like cooking, gymnastics and art are also a relative rarity–most kids make their own toys from everyday objects, find their own fun, and learn life skills by observing and working alongside adults.
Across cultures, kids show a strong preference for playing in mixed-age groups. These kids, who range in age from six to 12, were “building a world.” Kids often play together with a great sense of industry and purpose. Anthropologist Meredith Smalls observes that sequestering kids in schools with kids their own age goes “against the script” of childhood world-wide. Toys and “classes” like cooking, gymnastics and art are also a relative rarity–most kids make their own toys from everyday objects, find their own fun, and learn life skills by observing and working alongside adults.

No matter where they are and no matter where they're from, when kids land together in a community, they all do pretty much the same thing. First, they find each other. Then they form a rangy mixed-age group (a universal preference among kids). And then, they play. Their play will often resemble some type of "work," with an industrious edge or a theme of struggle and overcoming. If the group is big enough, they might form teams and work together or at odds on some imagined "task."


Photo of the Day, Manhattan

Published by Wednesday Martin
If you live in an “attended” building in Manhattan–one with doormen and elevator operators –and even if you don’t, you are tipping big time right about now.
If you live in an “attended” building in Manhattan–one with doormen and elevator operators –and even if you don’t, you are tipping big time right about now.

The holidays are here. In Manhattan, many members of the tribe I study go away on a "winter break vacation." These vacations come in two varieties: ski and warm. Popular ski destinations include Aspen, Jackson Hole, Deer Valley, Sun Valley and St. Moritz. Popular Caribbean and warm weather winter break destinations include Anguilla, Turks & Caicos, Half Moon Resort in Jamaica and the One & Only Ocean Club in the Bahamas. If you are a glutton for punishment you might take your kids to Atlantis. Some people in the tribe I study do a "double" vacation over the winter or spring holiday — a week of warm weather vacation somewhere in the Caribbean and a week of skiing. Talk about over the top. Members of the tribe of Manhattan parents I study are currently packing, packing, packing and happy, happy, happy. At parties, everyone seems more relaxed and friendly than usual. But they're still also busy as can be. As any parent (let's get real, it's the mothers who do it) knows, it's not easy to pack yourself and your kids.


Why Do We Send Photo Portraits of our Kids for the Holidays?

Published by Wednesday Martin
These contemporary artifacts demonstrate that children, our most precious possessions, are on display during the holidays
These contemporary artifacts demonstrate that children, our most precious possessions, are on display during the holidays

Across the country, it's holiday time. That means holiday cards. These cards often highlight family and particularly children. Usually the card itself is a family portrait, or a portrait of the kids. Ever wonder why? (article continues on psychologytoday.com)


"Sorry!" Cats from 30 Pounds in Shoreditch; Snow in Manhattan

Published by Wednesday Martin

One of my favorite British-isms is "Sorry!" When I first started spending time in London, I noticed it was used all kinds of ways I wasn't used to. For example, being American, it took me a while to get the hang of walking to the left rather than the right, so I was frequently in someone's way on the sidewalk. "Sorry!" they would say, meaning, "You're in my way." It's more polite than the thing New Yorkers say in the same situation: we issue an exasperated, angry "Excuse me?!" which is not much of a euphemism for "Effingmove it!" Other times in England "Sorry!" is used if you make a mistake, to simultaneously acknowledge and gloss over the social awkwardness. "Sorry!" the flawless concierge at our hotel would say if I knocked a pen off the counter. That sort of meant, "Sorry that happened and rather than ignoring it, which would be potentially even more awkward, I'm going to sort of take responsibility for it myself." As we rushed to get on our plane at the end of our trip, I "bumped queue after queue" simply shouting over my shoulder, "Our flight is leaving, sorry!" In this context it meant, "Thanks for understanding my boorishness." Thank goodness someone has written cogently on the the uses of "sorry" in British idiom. I love this hilarious piece, "A Poor Apology for a Word" by Henry Hitchings in the New York Times.


Photo of the Day, London

Published by Wednesday Martin
A “children’s table” would be a foreign concept in many cultures, where separate spheres for kids and grown ups do not exist. I loved watching these boys and their mums enjoying themselves, adjacent, apart, yet together, at a cafe in South Kensington
A “children’s table” would be a foreign concept in many cultures, where separate spheres for kids and grown ups do not exist. I loved watching these boys and their mums enjoying themselves, adjacent, apart, yet together, at a cafe in South Kensington

As I sat working in a cafe in South Ken, this group of four mothers and six boys came in. The boys seemed to be eight or nine years old. Maybe it's because I'm the mother of two boys....but I love mother/son outings and was drawn to ask the "mums" if I could photograph them all. I explained that I was a social researcher from New York City who studies childhood and motherhood (obviously I'm not a photographer), in London doing a little fieldwork.