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Project Dad: Sling in the City

When people think of California, they think of beaches, and traffic. I think of lying on the grass in Central California and looking up at the stars. I never thought I would be an urban dad. I grew up listening to the sounds of crickets at night.

Now, we live next door to a bar in a tiny apartment with no yard, and a constant barrage of noise. At night, I lie in bed with my daughter as she makes up a story about a princess who slays dragons because they aren't nice, and somehow I've been cast as the Monster Papa. This role is similar to the Dragon Papa, the Giant Papa, and even the Evil Stepmother Papa. They all involve me loudly saying, "Roar!"

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But all too frequently, I'm competing with the din that comes with city life. Outside, drunk 20-somethings have deep, loud conversations about life, and that ubiquitous siren wails in the background. Inside, mid-story, my little dragon slayer princess is passed out, her little fingers curled into mine.

We live in downtown Jersey City, sandwiched between two beautiful parks, a very baby-friendly area, with strollers all over the place at all times of the day. In the mornings, after I drop Kavya off at daycare, I pop into our local coffee shop for a much needed hit of caffeine. Usually, a mommy group is just hanging out, chatting, their kids in slings, strollers, or running about the cafe's fenced-in courtyard. But as kid-friendly as life in the shadow of Manhattan is—what with the museums and bookstores and parks—there are still things that make me miss California.

I always end up in a panic as I try and lift the stroller over the turnstiles, and then through the streets of Manhattan.

Case in point: lugging our 20 lb. stroller—with our 30 lb. kid strapped in it—up and down the gazillion steps that seem to lay between Jersey City and Manhattan. We're only a ten minute train ride away, but taking Kavya into the city is more of a workout than I'll ever need. When it's me and the wife, I always end up in a panic as I try and lift the stroller over the turnstiles, and then through the streets of Manhattan. If it's just me and Kavya, I leave that stroller at home. But then she inevitably stops in the middle of the street, raising her arms skyward, face a petulant pout, until she ends up on my shoulders for the rest of the day. Later, when she passes out, I'll clasp her tightly to my chest, like a football, elbows out, of course, as I battle the crowds.

Bedtime has turned into a similar battleground, where there are three of us sharing a bed. Kavya sprawls out on the bed and me and my wife's faces are squashed against the window and the wall. That whole sleep training thing didn't quite work out the way our book said it would, and the mini-crib I took two months to slowly assemble sits in a corner of the room, a storage for laundry.

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I do miss having yard space and being able to look up and see stars from my back garden. And one day I would like to have those things, but in the meantime, it's fun raising an adventurous little girl who is incredibly adaptable. Some days, she has no problem chilling at home, other days she looks forward to hopping on the train for a fun outing to the bookstore or the library, insists on using chopsticks when going to a Chinese restaurant, and boy can she yap it up on the subway.

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