If you've had a conversation with me in-person or over the phone in the past six months, you've probably heard me stressing out about living in the city. Specifically, living in Washington DC and having a child. A child who will need to go to school some day.
The process of enrolling/applying to DC public schools and public charter schools begins in the spring right around or before a child's third birthday. The city offers FREE preschool to all residents. Nice perk, yes? Unfortunately it is not a clear-cut/black and white yes.
We cannot send K to her public neighborhood elementary school. Although I do not know a single thing about the teachers, curriculum, or other students, I will not send her there because the building itself is a disaster. We've had several neighborhood meetings there and I've seen serious water damage, mold, and (yes, shudder) a rat (inside). So it is not an option. That means we have two options in terms of school - charter or private.
It kills me to think I'm going to have to apply for my baby to go to preschool. It kills me a little bit more to think we could end up paying upwards of $18,000 for preschool. These are the CONS of living in the city and trying to raise a family.
I was discussing these cons with a good friend the other day. I was frustrated with the process; upset over the thought of having to "get into" preschool; terrified by large pricetags for elementary school; disheartened to think my daughter's school could be more than an hour long commute from our house.
Now I understand why so many people move to the suburbs!
The list of CONS for raising a family in the city is long.
If we lived in the town where I grew up, we'd send our daughter to the local public elementary school and our biggest troubles would be do we let her walk to the bus stop alone? or does she have time to do piano, dance and soccer this fall?
This sounds nice. Maybe the city isn't the place for us. Maybe I'm not cut out to deal with all the CONS of living in a city with a child.
But then I spent Tuesday with K in our neighborhood. We went to FREE story hour at the library, which is a five minute walk from our house. We then walked over to the FREE spray park where K played in the water for hours. We met up with a bunch of K's little friends. On our street alone there are six kids three and under. After lunch and a nap, K and I walked to two grocery stores where we bought everything we need for the week. We then went outside and visited with our neighbors until D got home.
We've made a really big effort to get to know our neighbors and it has been wonderful. We live on a diverse block with wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There are two widowed black women, who greet us with a warm smile and hugs and kisses whenever we see them. We have a single mom with FIVE boys across the street. She LOVES K and recently bought her a little sundress and matching shoes. And she hemmed the dress, too. She speaks Spanish to K (our nanny does, too) and it is fun watching to see if K picks up on what she is saying. We also have neighbors willing to share produce from their little gardens or stop by with their dogs so K can get some doggy kisses.
We walk to the metro most evenings and meet D after work. We walk home as a family - visiting with neighbors and meeting new people along the way. Some nights we meet D at the local spray park and enjoy some time in the water before walking home. We are surrounded by construction sites that provide hours of entertainment. We've had the opportunity to meet policemen and the guys who drive the trash trucks.
We rarely drive our car. We walk or take the metro everywhere. There are FREE activities at many of the museums that we can take advantage of. There is Rock Creek Park a little over a mile away, which is a great place to run. And let's not forget about the zoo. We can walk there, too, and it's free.
There are PROS to living in the city with a family, too.
Sure, choosing and getting into the right school is a process and will require a lot of hard work. And we may have to travel a little bit to ensure that K goes to the best school for her. But we can make these things work.
What I am eternally grateful for is all the wonderful people and great activities we are surrounded by. I love that K is growing up in such a diverse community. I love that people of different races and people speaking different languages are part of her normal life. I love that we walk everywhere together. I love that the parks and spray parks are her favorite places to go.
I don't know if we'll stay in DC for the long-term or if we'll end up moving in a year. But for now, I'm trying not to focus on all the CONS of living in the city. Instead I am going to focus on the pros and really enjoy our life, our neighborhood, and all the wonderful people surrounding us.