There are some things that all parents need to teach their children: how to communicate, how to brush their own teeth, or how to tie their own shoes, for example. Then there are things that are more important to know depending on where you live. If you’re living in a small fishing village, you might want to teach your child how to catch and prepare fish. Or if you’re raising a child in Manhattan, you might want to teach them from an early age how to read a subway map.
In Miami, we’ve got our own set of lessons that are especially important to learn from a young age. Some of these have to do with our location and geography, or with our year-round tropical weather. Others have to do with our culinary inclinations (which draw influence mainly from the Latin American and Caribbean cultures that dominate South Florida). And still others of these lessons deal with learning about things that are highly specific to the Magic City (did you all know we call Miami "the Magic City"? Lesson #1!)
If you’re raising your offspring here, or if you’re perhaps just considering making the move to sunnier climates, you might want to use this as a checklist for all the things you’ll soon find are necessary knowledge for anyone growing up in Miami.
How To Swim
Although swimming is a good skill to have no matter where you live, it’s especially important to know in Miami. For one, we’ve got incredible beaches (which I always took for granted until I hit Rockaway Beach — no offense, New York, but nope!), which your child will likely visit numerous times throughout their life. And when they aren’t taking trips to the beach (which honestly don’t happen as often as the movies will suggest), they will likely get invited to swim in a friend’s pool. In my own life, I recall living in at least four different apartment complexes, all of which had pools, and attending a ridiculous number of pool parties in between those times. Except I didn’t learn to swim until I was 21 years old, which caused quite a bit of childhood (and teenage) trauma for me. Please, please teach your kids to swim.
A Lesson In Timeliness
Time is a constant issue for those living in (and from) Miami. We are notorious for always being late. I’m not entirely sure why that is, but here we jokingly refer to it as “Cuban time." When you invite someone to a party at 7 p.m., most folks will likely not show until 9 or so. Everyone here has been late to work multiple times, and many have probably been fired for it. You’ll want to teach your kids that there’s a time and place for running on Miami Time versus being on time. Jobs? Always, always be on time. Class? Be on time. Your friend’s getty? Probably Miami time, since your host will probably be running late as well.
How To Appreciate Cuban Coffee
Cuban coffee is the lifeblood of Miamians. Sure, you don’t want to teach your kids to drink coffee right off the bat (wait until they’re in their mid-to-late teens, please), but you’ll want to be the first one to share a colada (like a crazy strong espresso) with your child. Show them the creamy sweetness of the cafe con leche (Cuban coffee with milk and all the sugar in the world) and they will undoubtedly always have the energy to clean their rooms, study for finals, and go to their best friend’s birthday pool party (see what I did there?), all in the same day.
When To Avoid South Beach (And Other Neighborhoods)
Unless you live on South Beach, you probably won’t find yourself going there very often. And if you do, you’ll want to make sure it’s at the right time (unless you’re a fan of swarms of tourists and absolutely zero parking, that is). The winter months bring in the snowbirds from the north. Art Basel in December makes both SoBe and Wynwood a bit hellish to navigate. March’s Winter Music Conference (plus Spring Break) bring hoardes (mainly obnoxious) party kids into town. And then of course, there’s Memorial Day Weekend, which is notorious for bringing out the worst in Miami’s police force (a whole other topic of discussion since it coincides with Urban Beach Week). If you’re not getting the point yet, you’ll want to teach your kids to avoid SoBe unless it’s maybe June on a Tuesday.
How To Survive Driving In Miami
If you raise your kids in Miami, they will be fairly immune to things like stop-and-go traffic, people making left turns from the far right lane, tailgaters, anyone giving the finger, and everyone’s inability to use a turn signal. Still, you’ll want to teach them a few things before they get their permit, and even more things once they finally begin driving in the city with the worst drivers in the country. First of all, teach them to keep their cool. There’s no point in cursing out the guy who swerved into your lane at the last minute and then hauled ass away in a split second. You’ll also want to teach them to drive defensively.
Driving in Miami is a perfect example of Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong (someone’s car breaking down in the middle of US-1, someone texting while swerving into oncoming traffic, a drunk driver making a u-turn on the highway, multiple cars illegally using their hazard lights during a storm) will go wrong. Teach your kids to be smart, safe drivers, and please teach them how to use those damn turn signals.
How To Greet People Who Aren’t From Miami
People in Miami aren’t friendly on the whole, but they will seem like they are when you meet them. This is because everyone (even and especially the shady ones) are affectionate as hell. Those not from here will often back away the minute a Miami person leans in to kiss them hello. Teach your children that it’s OK to greet Abuelo or their ballet teacher with a kiss on the cheek or a hug, but to merely say hello or extend their hand for a shake if and when they go up north in order to avoid awkward situations.
Spanish (Especially For Ordering Food)
Although Spanish isn’t technically the official language (or second language) of Miami, it might as well be. You will hear it spoken everywhere: school, restaurants, clubs, the beach, hair salons, the grocery store. And depending on what neighborhood you’re in (Little Havana or Hialeah, for example), you’ll hear it spoken more than English. Teach your kids Spanish. It’s awesome and incredibly useful to be bilingual, especially when it comes to ordering from your favorite Cuban cafeteria or Nicaraguan fritanga. You don’t want your kids missing out on delicious Latin American cuisine because they can’t explain what it is they want, do you?
Networking, AKA, How To “Know A Guy”
In Miami, who you know is everything. When you’re a kid, you make connections at school or the playground or your Gymboree class. As you get older, it’s important to always “know a guy” (although this really just means know someone, period). A/C broke? I know a guy. Need tickets for a sold-out sporting event? I know a guy for that, too. Need a good mechanic? Got someone for that as well. Teach your kids the power of networking in Miami and they will A) save lots of money through the years, and B) be one of the lucky few who enjoy a comfortable career as they get older.
Parents in Miami will want to teach their kids a thing or two about the city’s past (since they won't learn about it anywhere else). They should know about the Tequesta, who were the original inhabitants. They should know about Hurricane Andrew and the earlier massive hurricane in 1926. They should also know about Julia Tuttle and Henry Flagler, the Cuban Missle Crises, the 1973 Dolphins undefeated season, the Mariel Boatlift, the McDuffie riots, Gianni Versace’s murder on Ocean Drive, the Elian Fonzalez debacle, the disappearance of Jimmy Rice, the OJ Simpson trial, the list goes on...
This does not only mean people who were born in Miami, but also those who are highly regarded in Miami (often these people are famous Cubans). Everyone knows Pitbull, and love him or hate him, Miamians recognize him as one of our own. Then there’s Miami Heat player Dwayne Wade, who helped us win multiple championships to the point that we unofficially call our little home Wade County. Other notable people include Celia Cruz, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Dave Barry, Don Francisco, Gloria Estefan, Flo Rida, 2 Live Crew, Walter Mercado, Tony Montana (OK, he’s a fictional character, but still!)... Teach your kids the important people. It's just crucial stuff to know.
Love For The 305
Miamians are inordinately proud of their area code. I don’t know when it began, but we are all about the 305. You’ll want your kids to understand this, too, in order to survive the politics of tweendom. Know how to do the 305 gesture with your hands. Understand that once you start working, many folks will offer you a cafecito at 3:05 in the afternoon. You’ll see (and maybe even wear) some 305 swag. Teach your kids to know and love their roots, especially if they move away. Sure, we can make fun of Miami all we want, but you don’t let others disrespect the 305.