Thursday, August 28, 2008

Location, Location, Location

Choosing to raise kids in the city is, like all decisions, a matter of
trade-offs. The main pros would seem to be:

* The ready access to the world's finest cultural, educational, and
medical institutions. I mean, when you are within walking distance of
world-class museums, an Ivy League school, and a state-of-the-art
childrens' hospital, that's an embarrassment of riches.

* In terms of aesthetics and diversity, a richer experience than
you'll typically see in the burbs. People call the playground down
the street from us "the United Nations playground" because of all the
languages and nationalities represented; while Philly is particularly
varied in its architecture and form, a far cry from many visually
homogenous suburban developments.

* Mobility as a result of multiple modes. Whether being able to have
an Ethiopian restaurant right outside our house, being able to walk to
work, or being able to leave the car at home and take the subway to
downtown or the waterfront, people of all ages have far more freedom
to get around than in more auto-dominated places.

These are all huge pluses for raising kids, in terms of what they get
exposed to and what they have at hand to experience. On the other
side of the ledger, many families perceive the following minuses, so
much so that they can cause even the most ardent city-lover to stifle
their own urban preferences and move their young kids out to the
suburbs:

* Crime.

* Schools.

* Larger houses and lots.

Which brings me to the whole reason I started this post: to express my
thankfulness about what we bought and when we bought it:

* Crime has dropped precipitously in the last decade in our
neighborhood; although it's still an issue, we're only marginally less
safe than in the burbs, rather than a lot less safe.

* A new school in our neighborhood has gotten rave reviews, and we're
in its catchment area, which means that as long as I don't sleep in on
registration day, our kids will be able to walk two blocks to a really
good K-8 school.

* And West Philadelphia used to be the suburbs for the really rich
people in Center City a century ago, so the houses around here are
pretty huge; not including our semi-finished basement, we have three
floors' worth of space to work with for our family of four. (And did
I mention we paid five figures for this back in 2000?)

In other words, by dint of buying what we bought when we bought it,
we've gotten all the advantages of city living with very little of the
disadvantages. And while there are moments that make us roll our eyes
about urban life (your suburban street corner probably isn't
frequented by Crazy Screaming Guy nearly as often as ours), there are
many more than cause us to appreciate where we live (hey, there's a
new coffee shop with live musical performances right across the
street!). I don't remember to be thankful every day, but today I am.

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