Philadelphia and I are in a funk. Our relationship is on shaky ground and I have to admit, if we don’t get it back on track, I see a breakup in our future.
It started with a shooting. Then another one. Those happen in Philadelphia and we’ve always known that. They have not always happened less than half a mile from our house, in broad daylight (3pm on a Sunday?!), right by a restaurant we frequent.
Then a group of 60 teenagers took over South Street on the 4th of July, damaging businesses, looting, and beating up random (yes, random) people on the sidewalk. They made it nearly 10 blocks across the city with minimal police interference and came within blocks of our home. This was also not at any wild hour.
Then our recycling container got stolen. This is stupid and petty but still, why? It wasn’t even a good one! It was cracked!
Next, stories of a home invasion nearby, then a loud verbal altercation on the corner right by our house that warranted police involvement.
None of this is that outrageous for a city, I know. It’s a major city with major problems and things are bound to happen when you put over a million people in a small area.
I’ve read that this has been a particularly violent summer here in Philly but maybe it’s just that I didn’t pay attention to these types of news stories until I had a child with me everywhere I went.
Someone else suggested that maybe pregnancy is making me overly concerned about safety, which is totally valid. When I was pregnant with Ben I constantly worried about N’s safety and once I had Ben, it went away (you know, to a normal level). I’m not actively anxious all the time but the safety concerns do seem to become heightened for me during pregnancy.
But the biggest low-level worry? Where are our kids going to go to school? We don’t own our house. Our neighborhood is getting more expensive every year (despite the shootings, apparently) and it may not be possible for us to buy a house in a school catchment with an elementary school that is decent. It weighs on us daily. We Zillow and read reviews on Great Schools and ponder the details of the main line vs. Bucks county vs. Long Island vs. DC burbs.
When we used to talk about schools before we had kids, we felt like there were a few public elementary schools in the city that were good and would be fine. Now I can look my child in the eye and I know I want the very best for him. I don’t want a “good” city school that would probably be totally average compared to schools in the suburbs. I want to give him the best. Isn’t that what most parents want?
And you know how when you’re turned off by something and then every little thing about it bugs you? That’s kind of where I am right now with Philly. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s whatever the opposite of rose colored glasses is. Maybe I’m choosing to only see the bad recently.
It could be the summer. I’m not a hot weather person (give me snow any day) and many elements of city life require being outside, walking a lot, and the use of public spaces. There is no parking lot at our grocery store, library, or splash pad. Pushing 50 lbs. of stroller plus toddler around the city in the hot sun is exhausting even when I’m not pregnant. But pregnant, it’s brutal.
I’m seeing the appeal of a yard. Of your own, enclosed space where you can sit on the patio and watch your toddler enjoy the outdoors without dealing with playground politics or a toddler who wants to go on the big kid side of the playground but isn’t quite ready.
Ben is making a play for it too. Within minutes of getting up every day he is asking to be “outside”. I’m not a space person but it’s clear that our home and little alley are not enough for him to get the physical activity he needs. We know that and know that it’s part of city living and that you have to make use of public spaces to make up for it.
But maybe I’m just over public spaces. I want my space with my family. I want to let my dog out without his leash, into a fenced-in yard instead of lugging a toddler in my Wildbird every afternoon to the park to let Archie out. Physically I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to do that.
There are so many great things about living here. There are so many things I love. Every once in a while I’ll be doing something and I’ll be like, see, I couldn’t live without this. The option of getting any kind of takeout I want. The option to walk to nearly every store I’d want to shop at. The option to run all my errands on foot, something that brings me great joy when it’s under 80 degrees. And the privilege to live in a place with so much history, diversity, and culture. It is a privilege to live here. That is not lost on me.
But these thoughts of the burbs are creeping in and honestly, as “uncool” as it might be to leave the city cause we had kids, I’m just at a point where I don’t care. Is this what your 30s are like? Not caring anymore what other people think? If so, I’m really happy about it.
Our lease isn’t up until April so I guess we’ll see. Perhaps fall and winter will remind me why I love this city so much and we’ll reset our relationship.