Posted by: wtfwjd? | July 8, 2008

Cars

Somewhat related to the last post: when I tell suburban co-workers, etc. that I am raising a family in the city they frequently react with some combination of wonder, pity, awe, astonishment, and disdain. (I have noticed this change ever-so-slightly as gas prices have risen, but from where I stand, the pressure for parents to raise families in a non-urban setting remains very high.) Anyway, sometimes questions come up about yards & trees, etc. I explain that there are 20-30 kids under the age of 13 on our block, and they’re great kids, and we have a great park close by, so the kids are never bored, they don’t have to cross streets to visit friends, and there’s lots of stuff to do. But the real hangup is about violence. One guy asked me point-blank: “How can you raise kids in West Philly? Don’t you worry about them getting shot?” I said, “I grew up in the suburbs and while in High School I knew I think 5 or 6 kids who were killed in car accidents and a couple more who were seriously brain-damaged for life. So the suburbs have their risks too.” He looked thoroughly confused, and said something about sure kids get hurt in cars, but cars are safer than walking down 52nd Street at 2 in the morning. Well, who said anything about walking down 52nd Street at 2 in the morning? I don’t want my kids doing that either. My point is, cities have their risks, but suburbs do too (just talking safety, without getting into ecological or aesthetic issues). Somehow, though, the risk of death by automobile seems to be something people are OK with. As a father — and of course I worry about guns too — cars still scare the hell out of me.

A footnote: a formerly-urban friend with a couple kids told me after moving to a tree-lined suburban street, “I wish we’d stayed in the city: we thought by moving here our kids would be climbing trees and playing in the yard, but to tell you the truth, they spend half their lives strapped into car seats.”

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