This morning, I rushed my kids out the door (running our usual five minutes late) to make the 30-block commute to their school. They are 6 and 9. Ten seconds in, they had both stepped in swirling pools of polluted water that rushed like a river at every corner. Block after block, there was no other way to cross. Forty-five seconds in, my older one was screaming in a panic thinking we had lost his little brother, who was nearly invisible a foot behind us with my bodega-bought umbrella over his face. We made it to the M15 bus stop and by the time they got on, they were soaked — shoes squelching and backpacks drenched. We rode the bus, walked two blocks, then transferred to another bus. They walked into school looking like two drowned rats — but hey, at least we didn’t see any actual drowned rats.
Did I mention it was school-picture day? For a brief moment, I thought about going to the school lost and found to find my kids someone else’s clothes, but as I watched the other stragglers walk in, it was clear the entire student body was soaked. I decided my kids would have to deal with it like everyone else. “Is the city going to flood?” my fourth-grader asked, another note of panic in his voice. “No! Of course not,” I said over the pelting water, not wanting to engage in a climate-crisis conversation right now.
Of course, the city is flooding. More than six inches of rain have fallen here since midnight, about 150 schools have experienced flooding, and at least one Brooklyn school had to evacuate. Kids who did make it to school are now soaking wet, some of them crammed into classrooms on higher floors to avoid the flooded lower levels.
And after struggling to get their kids to school and day care this morning, New York parents now face the daunting task of picking them up again — some unexpectedly early as administrators are making the call to send everyone home before the end of the school day — while most subway lines are out of service and some streets are impassable to cars.
At a certain point in the journey of raising your kids in NYC, rather than feeling guilt for depriving them of a big backyard and a bucolic drive to school, you start to take a certain pride in the way they can walk by a pigeon carcass and barely comment, or balance their cello, backpack, and soccer bag while standing in a city bus without falling down. This is grit, you think. This is good for them. They’re turning into real people. They won’t be soft.
And then there are days like today when the torrential rain is biblical, the school’s start and end times are inflexible, the babysitter is stranded in Westchester, and you have only two thoughts. One: Why do we live here? And two: I hate everything and everyone.
Now, like every other parent, I’m heading out again — in the midst of the flood warning — for school pickup. If you see me and you don’t have children, don’t make eye contact. Trust me on this one.