During a recent business trip to New Jersey, I decided to extend my stay through the weekend so that I could hang out with my brother and his two kids, my niece and nephew, in Harlem, NY. During the trip I was fortunate enough to be able to pick up my niece from school that Friday and sit in on her ballet class Saturday afternoon. While picking her up from school and taking her to ballet, the ‘hustle and bustle’ of the inner city became glaringly apparent to me, although I had spent plenty of time in Harlem and the larger Manhattan borough.
Later that Saturday, we picked up my nephew from his friend’s train-themed party, complete with a Long Island Railroad trip to Long Island. The train party was held at a friend’s home in Riverside, a well-to-do and relatively quiet area on the Upper Westside of Manhattan bordering the Hudson River.
I couldn’t help noticing the stark difference between these sections of the city, Harlem and Riverside, and it led me to question my brother on what he thought about raising his kids in the city. He shared with me that he’s very cognizant of the fact that a lot of people think “they could never raise their kids in the city” but that when you live in the city yourself and become accustomed to its dynamics, it quickly goes from a perceived challenge to an absolute norm to an endless sea of possibilities.
As expected, a large part of these possibilities are the endless list of activities that are all contained within the city from break dancing classes for kids (my nephew absolutely loved this) to uniquely New York programs like the closure of city blocks on summer days to allow kids to play. Besides these very tangible benefits my brother stressed that the most valuable aspect of raising children in the city for him was the prospect of developing “well-rounded” children.
He says, while the “the majority of the city is very segregated by race and class… it gives kids the opportunity for a range of activities that wouldn’t be available in the suburbs because of the time it would take to get to such varied activities. Also the cultural diversity of the city provides more diverse opportunities. With a thorough subway and bus system and quickly available taxis, it will also allow my kids to be more independent in getting to and choosing their classes, clubs, programs, and eventually internships and jobs.”
This unique proximity of people from all socio-economic levels and their ability to coexist and intermingle so frequently exposes children to varying lifestyles, viewpoints, activities and environments ultimately developing children better able to adapt to their ever-changing surroundings.
Share your opinions — what do you think about raising children in the city versus the suburbs?