Yesterday a new reader of this blog (thank you Alicia) asked me if I’ve ever written about the differences between a childhood in the country and one in the city. Which I don’t think I have, specifically. So here goes:
I grew up on a farm in Indiana, and there is no doubt I had a fun childhood. Not perfect, not a utopian ideal to which no other childhood can compare, but very good. I was a kid, I had a loving family, a dog and lots of cats. (But never a horse, which I always wanted.) My friends and I roamed unaccompanied through the fields and the woods, playing long hours of pretend.
Now that I have kids of my own, I’m glad we get to visit the farm with them so that they too can run through the grass or go sledding and treasure hunting, but I wouldn’t trade their city upbringing for the world.
Which some people will find odd, I’m sure.
Allow me to explain.
In the city, my kids see people from all walks of life, all races, all religions, all income levels. They see famous people on the street and homeless people in the subway. They are much more accepting of differences among people than I was as a kid. I was not much used to seeing people who were different, and so they seemed strange, perhaps even suspicious.
My kids think that’s really weird.
In the city, we have access to nature in the microcosms that are our parks – where the red-tailed hawks make their homes – and also in the vast forests just a short drive north; or the beaches of long island and New Jersey both east and south. This means that although we live in the “concrete jungle” my kids are familiar with and love nature and the outdoors. (But not bugs. Or bees. Just ask Ben.) As I was growing up, the city -especially New York City – was a place you only saw in movies. It was the place John Lennon was killed. I couldn’t fathom that regular people actually lived here.
In the city kids play. In playgrounds, in parks, even on sidewalks; pick up games of soccer or tag or basketball still happen here. Pretend is not a lost art. In my home state of Indiana it is no longer the norm to see kids playing outside, unless it is in some organized sport. The exception is in the poorer areas, where kids still ride their bikes and go outside to throw a ball around. But those kids are viewed as ‘disadvantaged’ by everyone else.
In the city my kids are more independent than their rural cousins. They are confident of themselves and do not needlessly fear strangers. They have a real community in our neighborhood, where we often pass acquaintences and friends on the street and stop for a minute to chat; something that is often seen as the hallmark of life in a small town rather than a big city.
Our homeschooling community here is large and varied with virtually every race, religion and political view represented. Which makes us just like the city in which we live.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the country and am supremely grateful that my kids know & love the place in which spent my childhood; that at least twice a year they sleep under the roof of the very house in which I grew up.
The country gives them roots.
The city gives them wings.