Raising Happy Kids in the Country
From city life to small-town living
For those of us who swore we’d never leave the bright lights of the city—not to mention sophisticated friends, the plethora of art and culture, and the proximity to anything and everything of interest—it undoubtedly caught us off-guard the moment we decided to pull up our roots and transplant them to country soil.
Environments with the strongest gravitational pull in our earliest parenting years don’t always solve the lifestyle equation that evolves as our kids start growing up. Carmen Pelaez of St. David’s, Pennsylvania, remembers her Upper East Side apartment well: widely accessible to everything, it offered both her and her husband easy walking access to their respective offices, corner grocery stores, and the dizzying liberation that accompanies life in midtown Manhattan. After her first baby arrived, she adjusted to parenthood there, schlepping groceries up narrow flights of stairs, hauling laundry with one baby on the hip and a basket on the other, and of course, a daily stroll to Central Park for sunshine and fresh air.
Her attitude changed after baby number two arrived: these errands got more tedious, their previously adequate quarters got unbearably cramped, and the yearning to be out in nature tugged at her.
But it’s not always mere inconvenience of city life that appears to be the driving force behind the exodus to country living. The trend is pushed by parents reassessing their lives and opting for simplicity. Having tasted the byproducts of a success-driven lifestyle and of the frantic pace it inevitably demands, they are anxious now to find a slower pace. Simple pleasures. Fresh air and fresh vegetables. Safe streets and safe neighbors.
Leslie Boris of Haverford, Pennsylvania, admits it was not necessarily an organic lifestyle that attracted her to a rural environment. Living in center city Philadelphia, first as a single working woman, then as a working newlywed, and then as a working new mom, she walked outside only to witness her horrified next-door neighbor, who ten minutes earlier had been attacked—at gunpoint—just outside her own front door. With one new baby and a full-time nanny inside her downtown home, she quickly decided it was time to make the shift. “I wanted to raise my kids with lots of green space, lots of fresh air and sunshine, and less concern for their personal safety.”
Devoid of serious crime, the country offers kids opportunities to explore nature and enjoy the bucolic surroundings that families who have made a similar choice crave. Our tiny town not only feels like it fell out of a Norman Rockwell scrapbook; it looks that way, too. Wide boulevards shape tiny Main Street, lined with white-steepled churches and freckled with the Town Hall, the post office, fire department, hardware store, pharmacy, and library. If this looks too much like a set out of the TV classic Green Acres, it’s because it bears a strong resemblance. Yet most of us living this lifestyle do so by choice, seeking the quiet comforts of the country with as much gusto as thespians seek the bright lights of Broadway.
But just because we view this lifestyle—from our organic coffee to our quiet retreats in the woods—as the perfect anecdote to most of today’s ills, our transplanted children would not necessarily have claimed this as their own. The accoutrements of our times—from cell phones to plasma televisions and Play Stations—serve as honing devices to our kids. And sometimes the pull to the country, though impossible for us parents to resist, is met with reservation by those in our charge, even if it is just the change that is unsettling.
So just how do country parents raise happy country campers?
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