Why raise kids in the city?

Two sets of parents shrug off the suburbs and make their nests in Richmond proper.

Editor’s note: Today’s feature is the first installment in our new parenting column written by two sets of Richmonders: Jorge and Patience Salgado (veteran parents of four gorgeous children), and Ross and Valerie Catrow (total parenting rookies who have only been doing this “raising a child thing” for a couple months). Check back fortnightly to watch them discuss/agree/disagree/throw down over all kinds of parenting issues, Richmond-related and beyond.

Today’s topic: Why raise kids in the city?

We’ll start with the Salgados and end with the Catrows. Let us begin!

The City Secret

By Jorge and Patience Salgado

“You’re gonna do what?” our friend said with a disapproving look on her face. “Yep, we are moving into the city.” I replied.

We guess this seemed strange to her, almost crazy to most people we know with kids. In the dead of winter in 2006 we were ready for a change. We got rid of half of everything we owned, rented out our house, and moved to a two bedroom apartment in Carytown with an infant and two preschoolers.

It was an early 1900’s row home with a soul and crappy wood floors. It became known as, “The Splinter House”. Every morning we awoke to a recording of the revelry played by a bugle from the military Catholic high school next door. In the evening we would sit on the porch and drink while the neighbor college kid played his acoustic guitar before his nightly gigs. Just as we would be heading off to bed, the Slaughterama biker guys who lived upstairs would start a night of work on their rogue silk screening operation in the basement.

We walked everywhere, bought sandwiches for the bums, and had fantastic parking for the Watermelon Festival. We traded a back yard for lots of trips to the park, scooter rides to dinner, and the movies on the weekend. Our kids became Nacho Mama regulars, Jorge solidified his deep loyalty to Buddy’s, and Bandito’s called us to dance to many an 80’s one hit wonder. We were hooked.

It wasn’t just about our good time Charlie family vibe. Living in the city helped us uncover things we couldn’t find anywhere else; it broadened our view of life. The kids’ world was more than school, soccer, and an occasional outing to Chuck E. Cheese. Our world as individuals, and not just parents had a place to grow.

Our surroundings were no longer so homogenous, struggle was not hiding, opportunities to enter and invest in true community were at every turn. Nothing seemed so scandalous or crazy about the whole thing anymore. We were delighted by our children’s ability to soak in all the richness and values the city has to offer.

Here is the city’s secret: It is the perfect place to raise a family, and we found exactly where we belong.

Our Babies Need Soul

By Ross and Valerie Catrow

  • “Want to get something to eat?”
  • “Sure. Let’s to Applebee’s?”
  • “Ew, no.”
  • “How about the *new* Applebee’s?”
  • “Ooooh, good idea!”

Conversations like that were all too common where we spent our adolescence. We grew up on the Southside in a planned community nestled off a major road boasting every chain store and restaurant known to man. A community held together by neighborhood covenants, uniform mailboxes, and citations for those who dared to hang up a porch swing without the community’s permission. Things there were regulated, clean, and (to be perfectly honest) SOULLESSLY BORING.

Don’t get me wrong, we had wonderful and safe childhoods. There was only so much trouble we could get into as any place of interest was at least a 20-minute car ride away. But that was exactly the problem. Everyone looked the same. Everything looked the same. So when the time came to set up house somewhere, we decided to make the move across the river.

And here we are, almost six years later, having lived all of our married life in the city. The early years were spent around Carytown, first in an apartment on Ellwood and then in a lovely but falling apart house just north of the highway. We had our fair share of run-ins with quirky neighbors and questionable activitiy going on outside, but we also spent that time relishing what it meant to make the city our home. We became a one-car family as only one of us had to make a commute out of the city. Movies were watched almost solely at The Byrd, shopping was local, and dinner was walked to whenever possible. We felt “in it” and connected to what was going on around us in a way we’d never felt growing up.

So when we were greeted with the question as to what part of town we would be bringing our baby home to last fall, we opted for staying within the city limits with a house on the Northside. Because even though it might have made sense to make what some consider to be the inevitable move south or west, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. The city was just as much a part of us as we were part of it. And we wanted that for our kids.

Many parents say they want something “more” for their kids – more than what they had or got to experience growing up. For us, it’s never been about “more.” We want to give our kids something “different.” We want them to grow up knowing that not everyone looks like them or lives in a house like theirs. We want to help them develop an appreciation for the city’s diversity – not just in the people, but its scenery and feel… its soul, really. And also for the fact that we can hang up a porch swing wherever the hell we want.

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Patience Salgado

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