Sometimes it seems as though every few years we’re looking at moving -if it’s an even number year, we’re looking at houses. And so it is this year that we’re once again looking at listings and figuring out what we can afford. We’re also trying to figure out what kind of community we want to live in. While many of our friends are sending their babies off to college and downsizing, we still have babies at home, and are caught up in the never-ending conversation of where we want to raise our family. Because we’re still raising family.
This summer is no different, and our traditional “maybe we should move” house search is underway. As always, wheelchair friendly is at the top of our list, followed closely by a big yard, and walls. You’d think walls would be a given in a house, but apparently not. Have you seen how open open-concepts can be? Why don’t people like walls any more? I need space away from the people in this house.
But mostly we want a house in a place where kids still get a childhood, if places like that still exist outside of memory and imagination. The kids who live in this part of the world don’t have childhoods as much as they have jobs, and that job is “get into college” and “get a scholarship.”
There are very few children here who have the luxury of unscheduled time. They all have bikes and scooters, but not the time to ride them. They live in neighborhoods with playgrounds, but aren’t home to use them.
Instead, they’re at practice. It doesn’t matter what kind – soccer, volleyball, baseball, piano, ballet. Lessons and classes eat up their summer days and school year afternoons. Their parents admit the craziness with an apologetic shrug of the shoulders before returning once again to their day planners and digital calendars, carefully orchestrating the dropping off and picking up of their super stars-in-the-making.
It’s a dizzying merry-go-round that never stops, and I want to get off and bring my family with me.
It’s not that I don’t want my children to play sports or have hobbies, because I absolutely do. But I want them to play them. My children are not great athletes. They are unlikely to become great athletes. (Ella aside, but her life is weird already.) They are not going to be professional dancers or basketball players. And I’m okay with that. In fact, I love that about them. I love that they aren’t amazing at the sports they play, but they play them anyway. Not for the scholarships or accolades that may come from them, but because they just like to play them. Because I want my children to grow up knowing that it’s okay to do things your just okay at, that they don’t have to be the best at everything they do in order to do it, and that the things you love don’t have to eat up your life.
Balance. I think that’s what we’re looking for. Balance and sanity. And I think we may have to move way out to a small town to find it. Far, far away from the hyper-competitiveness of big city suburbs, in speed of life if not in actual miles.
We have spent years building a life here in our little corner of Texas, but as our town has grown (doubled in size in five years) the pressures on children and families to live up to impossible standards has grown with it. The wealthier and more upwardly mobile the community, the more insane the standards seem to become. And so we’ve built a life, but I’m not sure it’s one that we want to live. Because it doesn’t actually seem like living at all.
We want to live somewhere where children play because it’s fun, where being on the team doesn’t cost the equivalent of a mortgage payment, where games are friendly and traveling is not required, where kids ride their bikes in the afternoons and chase lightning bugs in the evenings. Those places still exist, don’t they? That’s where we want to plant our roots and raise our family – in a place where childhood is lived and not merely a whistle-stop on the way up the career and social ladders.
photo credit: By Aleckoh [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
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