Which is Better Living: In The Countryside in the Country or In The City?
More information on countryside living:
The Great Debate - Country Life
The big question has been whether living in the country is better for our children or living in the city. We’ve been debating this dilemma for several years and have swung back and forth from one decision to the other.
Finally, we are near at agreeing to and executing a firm, and final, decision. It is not an easy decision, but we are basing it strictly on facts and hedging slightly with the best interest for our children. We have lived in both the country and the city, off and on for several years.
We began our decision making by reviewing the pros and cons of living in the countryside. We originally moved to the country for several reasons. The first being life style. We wanted a home that had plenty of land where the children could experience the outdoors. For us, it was a place that was safe for them to play outside with minimal supervision. They had the opportunity to interact with nature. We had a large pond that was home to frogs, toads, fish, birds, turtles and plenty of insects. They learned how an ecosystem worked. They learned about symbiotic relationships between animals and plants. We had animals and pets that ranged from cats and dogs to horses and goats and everything in between. They learned responsibility with their chores and through caring for plants and animals. They understood how important it was for them to look after another living organism, especially pets as they depend upon us for their food and water.
The forest was vast and had hundreds of different types of fauna. They watched as new buds developed on the tree branches into leaves. They helped harvest maple sap and turn it into maple syrup the old fashioned way. They watched beavers build dams, deer raise their young, moose find their food by submerging their head under the water, birds build nests and raise their young, wood peckers bang their beaks and heads without any repercussions. They learned how the water system flowed through forest feeding the animals and the fauna. They climbed trees that were hundreds of years old and watched young saplings grow tall and strong. They collected acorns and buried them before the fall and waited until the spring thaw to watch the new seeds grow into little trees. They learned the beauty of the changing of the seasons when the leaves turned flaming red and orange before the first snowfall blanketed the landscape with a smooth white blanket. They released turtles, petted wild herons as they came to feed on the fish in the pond, and played with free and wild abandon, as all children should. There was no worry about strangers or abductions. They experienced their childhood with carefree abandon. That is what we wanted for them.
All the nature and freedom was terrific for the children but there was a downside to this. Their school was far and the bus ride to and from school took time out of their afterschool play time. They were exhausted by the time they arrived home and were not in the mood to go out and enjoy the beauty of nature. Their schedule of waking up early to prepare for school to arriving home and completing homework incorporated many hours. I had once calculated that they spent nine hours from getting out of bed to arriving home after school. That excludes the time for homework, which ranged from one to two additional hours. Dinner and snack time would take another one and a half hours away from them in the evening. Chores would take another 30 minutes to an hour. By the time all was said and done, it would already be their bedtime or even past. There was no left over time to investigate the pond or ride the horses or play with the dogs. There were times I didn’t reinforce their chore duties because of their exhaustion. I would watch with a pained heart as they dragged their little bodies to bed, and fall asleep before their head hit the pillow. It was difficult to arrange for social activities. It seemed like the majority of the students were bussed in from other districts as we all lived out in the country. Our children, like their classmates, had very little left over time to socialize by going over to each others’ homes to play or to join sports teams. Weekends became extremely precious for us. This was the time we spent together as a family with at least one outing planned for a day. We spent our time outdoors, learning about nature and our environment.
Our children became frustrated and angry as their “friends” were always busy or booked up or too far away to be picked up or driven to our place. Soon, the negative began to overshadow the positive.
The Great Debate: City Life
So, we moved to a small town. We thought that it would hold the feeling of being in the country without all the violence and crime and yet grant us the amenities of living in a city. It would be the best of both worlds with the least sacrifices to our philosophies and goals for raising our children. I realize now, that in a perfect world, this would have been a great solution. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. Alas, this brought us back to the great debate of country versus city.
I grew up in a large city, but spent most of my time in the mountains and the great outdoors. For me, living in the country made sense. It’s a place that I love, but I have come to realize that what I want is not necessarily the best for my children.
Having grown up in the city, I had many amenities that I took for granted. There were different schools to choose from. I lived in a neighbourhood where the majority of the children walked to school. As a result, all my friends were within walking distance of my home. I was able to visit them afterschool as well as on the weekends. Not only that, I never spent an hour on a school bus; I only had to walk 10 minutes and I would arrive at school. I had time to play afterschool with my friends, have a snack, finish my homework, have dinner and go to practice for my different teams. I even had time to watch a short television show. I accomplished all this before bedtime. Living in the city meant that I could join the sports center and sports leagues. Shopping was simple as the malls were all within driving distance or I could take the city transit system. As I grew older, I had the choice of universities in my city and several colleges. There were private colleges as well that I could apply to. Overall, my opportunities were greater in the city. Most importantly, I learned street smarts which I apply in everyday living.
Those were the pros, but there were cons too. In the city, there was violence, danger, drugs, alcohol, gangs and, in general, the feeling of not being safe all the time. News headlines focussed on negative things that happened in the city – robberies, car jackings, home invasions, murders, drugs, rapes, gangs and escaped convicts. Temptation was always there to join in with peers when it came to smoking, drugs, sex and alcohol as these were always readily available.
I missed being in the open, clean air of the mountains. The city was covered in a dome of pollution – exhaust from vehicles, noise, billboards used for media and advertising. There was a constant onslaught of information, which, eventually melded into constant background noise.
In school, there was competition to be the most popular, the richest, the most fashionable, the prettiest, the smartest, the most athletic, the funniest and so on. The list never ended. The competition was thick and the competitors were never nice to each other. This type of competition taught us to be afraid of being ourselves, of expecting others to judge us and that their judgement was more important than our own feelings of ourselves. Being a unique individual was not promoted nor was creativity and individualism. The class sizes were large, and it was easy for some students to slip and fall through the cracks as one on one teaching was near to non-existent.
Oh, the decisions we have to make as parents. I have realized since I first found out I was pregnant with my first child, how important our decisions are. The importance was not just for the moment, but for the long term and how these decisions would impact the choices our children would make in their future. There is one lesson that I have learned over the years, and this is what keeps me from feeling great guilt over mistakes that I see when I look back in time. I have learned that the decisions that we make are based on the knowledge that we have at the time. And that these decisions were the best at that time, even though when we look back, we would now make a different decision because we would now have different information than what we had in the past.
So, based on this belief, which ever decision we make over the next few weeks, is the best that I could make for my children at the time. Ten years from now, I hope that when I look back in time, it will still have been the best decision that I could have made.
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