With all the distractions of the city, it seems there’s never really time for much of anything—particularly not for enjoying those very distractions. You and your kids have your hands in this and that, lending your limited and often sparse attention to a cultural event here, or a social gathering there, but when was the last time you forgot about the ticking hands on your watch face and took joy in the simple act of being together?
For the next seven weeks, we follow families that do.
Each day, with every meal and chore, these New Yorkers take a step back from it all. From neighborhood outings to museum visits, we connect with parents and their kids about how they keep their busy schedules in check and make time for what matters at the end of the day, when soccer season is over and to-do lists are crossed off: each other.
We also look to Houston, Miami, San Francisco and Chicago to see what they have to offer families who are searching for ways to be a part of each others’ everyday lives.
When it comes to your family, who doesn’t have a moment to spare?
Week One: From the Comfort of Your Front Yard
Week Two: Fashion, and Family: A Lifestyle
Week Three: Art and the City: A Family Affair
Week Five: Around the World in So Many Ways
Week Seven: The Tradition of Coming Together
There’s something to be said for feeling at home. Whether that’s an old sweater or mug, or mom’s famous lasagna, you just can’t say enough about being comfortable, feeling loved. It clears the mind and offers a strong foundation that makes the rest of life a little bit better. But it doesn’t always have to be in the comfort of your house.
This week, we take a look around—just outside the front door—at the local ways that parents can teach their kids strong community values and the importance of making a neighborhood a home.
Photo Credit: Jill Carvajal
Like many city families, the Kopsovas find themselves always on the move. However, between busy work schedules and their children’s various activities, they make time to come together as a family, often staying close to home in their neighborhood. For over seven years, the Kopsovas have called Fort Greene, in Brooklyn, home.
The neighborhood’s tree-lined streets and park, local markets and grocers, as well as its many restaurants, offer the Kopsovas—and other New York families—opportunities to eat, play and just spend time with one another. In exploring and uncovering the local treasures of Fort Greene as a family, their neighborhood has become an extension of their home.
On weekends, the Kopsovas head to Fort Greene Park, one of New York’s many neighborhood parks, and spend the day playing tennis, running the trails and even skateboarding—just being active. There are times when they don’t all want to serve up a match, or go for a hike, but the bottom line is that they’re not all cooped up in their separate rooms, or a cellphone call and subway ride away from each other. Instead, they’re there together, a city family spending time outdoors.
When considering ingredients for their latest home-cooked meal, the Kopsovas are big fans of the Fort Greene Farmers Market just around the corner from their house. They grow fresh basil, rosemary and other herbs in their rooftop garden, but buy the majority of their produce—all local—from the year-round market.
“It’s easy to scoot down to the park, gather what you think you might need for a week, and often I find it’s cheaper,” said Mr. Kopsova. “It’s rather fun … social, but not a huge ordeal.”
Even when not shopping at the outdoor market, they still buy most of their groceries locally. “We make smaller purchases at Greene Grape Provisions,” said Mr. Kopsova. “What I like most about [Greene Grape Provisions] is that … they’re close and they actually care about the community; this is key for us. I don’t mind paying a little extra if the quality and service is there.”
CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, brings fresh farm produce to your doorstep for when you don’t have time to stop by a local grocery.
If the weather’s good, the Kopsovas go home and hang out on their deck—a year-round favorite pastime of theirs—testing out new recipes on the grill.
“It’s rarely too cold on our sun-lit terrace, and we’re lucky to have outdoor space,” said Ms. Kopsova. “I think we’re good at enjoying things together that we actually like doing. We like the outdoors, wine and food, so we host a lot of families here and grill whenever the weather permits.”
The Fort Greene Flea Market is another favorite of the Kopsovas. They can spend all day Saturday browsing the goods and tasting the delicacies of over 200 vendors. Mr. Kopsova and his son Max often stop by the Pizza Moto stand for a slice while they shop for ’60s-era home stuff and kitchen oddities. Sorting through repurposed furniture, jewelry, art, clothing, bikes and local crafts, the Kopsovas often find themselves sharing stories from their past with their kids.
Photo Credit: Kate Glicksberg, Brooklyn Flea
For all families, chores are a challenge. The Kopsovas encourage their kids to participate by paying attention to what they like, and afterward they treat themselves to dinner at a local favorite when they all pitch in.
“We always have a lot of fun eating together or people-watching,” said Max. Olea and Walter’s are staples. “Olea seats tables late into the night, so if we are feeling famished after an event we can pop in. It’s healthy, delicious and chill, and everyone can find something to nosh on,” said Ms. Kopsova.
Like the Kopsovas’ Fort Greene Farmers Market and Greene Grape Provisions, Green City Market in Chicago provides families with locally sourced and locally grown food, promoting the importance of farmers in the surrounding region. The nationally recognized greenmarket makes a point of educating its patrons on where their food comes from, and has worked to improve the availability of high-quality produce and protein in the Windy City. With instructional programs and hands-on experiences, it’s the ideal afternoon for the family hungry for something a little more substantial.
Not everybody has a rooftop garden like the Kopsovas. But, don’t fret, if you’re out near the City by the Bay, take the family out to the Garden for the Environment. This half-acre organic garden, nestled in the Inner Sunset, demonstrates sustainable gardening techniques to San Franciscans of all ages. Founded in 1990, the garden educates visitors on the possibilities of urban ecological food production and low-water-use landscaping. Garden for the Environment also offers training programs for gardening and composting, making these activities easy and accessible—the perfect day trip for a family that doesn’t mind wiping off their brow after some fun, hearty work.
Photo Credit: Blair Randall
Teaching children about the environment is one thing; instilling in them the importance of protecting this natural landscape is another thing altogether. Growing up in the city, it’s often hard for kids to imagine gardens. But in Houston, there is Urban Harvest, a network of gardens across the city. Championing urban gardening and agriculture, the grass-roots initiative is dedicated to empowering city residents to grow their own food. They teach Houston families how gardens develop stronger neighborhoods and better the environment. Urban Harvest makes creating and participating in a local garden simple and easy, encouraging families to embrace not only each other, but also their communities as well.
Photo Credit: Paula Murphy
Going out to dinner is an occasion. When families jump in their car and go out for time away from the refrigerator and stove, it should be special. Leave the rush behind. Feel free to laugh with the kids. For Floridians, Miami’s Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink is the dining experience to take the daily hustle and bustle down a notch and enjoy a meal without the worry of who's washing the dishes. A pillar in the slow food movement, with a menu that changes daily, the restaurant showcases the best from Florida’s agriculture and surrounding seas. They are dedicated to working in tandem with their suppliers to deliver the very best to patrons and to ensuring that fresh produce is available to all Miami residents. No one will be saying, “Check please!” here anytime soon.