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Teresa Strasser

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City Mom: I Love the Smell of Exhaust in the Morning

Posted: 07/13/11 01:00 AM ET

Maybe because I grew up in the heart of San Francisco, I've always liked the expression "street smart." It's not "gated community smart" or even "farm smart."

You want to know how to get from the Golden Gate Bridge to Twin Peaks using public transportation? I can give you six choices, all of which avoid the 22 Fillmore, and thus minimize the chances of you riding next to a sex offender. Sure, that may not be Stephen Hawking smart or even Elizabeth Warren smart, but it's street smart, and of the three of us, only I would know which seemingly harmless old dude to avoid on a crowded subway. I was a city kid, and now I'm a city mom and I relish knowing my way around. Having gone to college in Manhattan and later moving to Los Angeles, where I'm now raising a two-year old, I can tell you being too far from a metropolitan center freaks me out.

I love the smell of exhaust and homeless man urine and cheap doughnuts in the morning.

That doesn't sound appealing, but my point is that growing up in a city gives you an understanding that beauty and blight can co-exist. After all, if you want to hear the strings of an elite urban philharmonic, you'll have to endure some sirens and jack hammering on the way there.

A new study published in the journal Nature suggests that urban dwellers may "react more vigorously to stress."

I guess they couldn't get the cover story of "Facile Observation Weekly." And since when did it become a bad thing to react vigorously to stress? When it's fight or flight time, I'd like my brain to step it up, not put a piece of hay through it's teeth and kick back looking at fireflies. Make no mistake, life is going to involve stress, and if your brain hasn't rehearsed, it will be going onstage without its pants and forgetting its lines.

When I visit the suburban, borderline rural area where my husband grew up in Pennsylvania, part of me is dazzled by the tidy yards, country roads, convenient strip malls, clean sidewalks and foliage. And I'll be honest, I'm impressed by the diversity when I look around: there are white people, and there are even super white people. Wow! What a great place to raise a child who can face the challenges of modern life and embrace new experiences. Okay, what a great place to raise a child who will be stumped when confronted by a plate of pad thai.

In short, I would rather have Breakfast at Tiffany's than Dinner at Applebee's.

Want to see the Mona Lisa? Well, she's in a city called Paris. Mona Lisa isn't at a county fair or sprawling, suburban chain store. ML is a city girl, and she'll give you something between a smile and stink eye to prove it.

It should be mentioned that the researchers who conducted this study are German, and were probably blasting Hasselhoff as they wrote it. That was a cheap shot, but it was a small-scale study that they are calling "interesting but preliminary," which is German for, "Give us more grant money."

I get it when people feel compelled to leave the city to raise their kids in the country. The word "bucolic" gets tossed around. Like everything to do with parenting, there is no one answer. Bless you whatever you do, unless that's judge me for raising my boy in a hub.

Parents who desperately move to the country "for the kids" remind me of folks who won't let their children into the ball pit at a party. Sure, those ball pits are teeming with germs, but so is the world. You can only protect them for so long. Colds today strengthen the immune system for tomorrow, when things really get dirty. Besides, if you want to have a ball, you sometimes have to slide into a pit of germy ones and take your chances.

 
 
 

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