Children of Men

 

shutterstock_144224743Tell me if this story sounds familiar. It’s about this weird dystopia where a married couple with two young kids is looking to buy a new house and is desperate to find a neighborhood simply populated with other children. They currently reside on a suburban block that — not so many years ago — had young kids in almost every home, but now has more dogs than children on the sidewalks. It’s as if the neighbors stopped having babies for some mysterious, unknown reason. Thinking the lack of offspring may have some weird relationship to the proximity to an urban core, the couple finds itself looking at homes further and further out to find families with young kids.

As they look for a new home, the couple pays less attention to the houses themselves than the number of swing sets, sports equipment, and toys strewn in their potential neighbors’ yards. Whenever a neighbor is spotted near a potential home, he is accosted with questions of how many little ones are around. The wife of the couple even suggests following the local school bus after class lets out to see where kids live but the husband sees this as a step too far into creepy madness and a good way to get arrested. This may sound like the latest Syfy original movie premiering on Thursday after Sharknado 3, but it was how I spent my last weekend.

We recently received an offer on our home and are looking for a new place. One of the requirements for our new neighborhood is that it have young children around to be our kids’ friends. We currently live in one of the near Chicago suburbs, and everyone on the block has older kids (generally junior high or high school; great for babysitting, but not for playing wiffle ball or Legos with a first-grader), are empty nesters, or don’t have kids. Everyone has at least one dog, except us. The neighbors are perfectly pleasant and we like socializing with them, but we imagine an area where our kids can find a chum to interact with without getting into a car to visit. Many of our college friends with kids are stuck in underwater condos bought as “investments” ten years ago in the city. The few families with little kids in our town are scattered every other block or so, like ill-placed fire hydrants.

I’m a child of the seventies – not exactly an era known as a baby boom – but I don’t remember children being so scarce. When I was a kid, there was even a family a block away with ten sons and daughters; if it were today they’d probably have their own reality show. When my extended family gets together for Christmas these days, the kids’ table includes those up to age thirty so that my kids are not alone.

Perhaps all this time we have been worrying about the extinction of some lame slug or random breed of owl we should have had more concern for own future.

There are 39 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Jules PA Member

    Every neighborhood, even community, will go through that ’empty nest’ phase, just like a specific family.

    Where I teach, that is what we face now. Eighteen years ago, our community was booming, and could barely manage the exponential growth. Now, all those children have moved through high school, graduating, and beyond. Families still live in the homes, but the ‘population’ is stagnant. Our elementary schools are ‘under-enrolled.’ Until the parents downsize, and make room for the new, young families. Then the cycle will begin again.

    It is a difficult path to maneuver. Keep looking for the children. It is like a wave that you ride on a surfboard. I hope you find the perfect wave for your family.

    • #1
    • March 16, 2015, at 7:31 PM PDT
    • Like
  2. Boss Mongo Member

    Move to Texas. Lot’s of li’l anklebiters there.

    • #2
    • March 16, 2015, at 7:46 PM PDT
    • Like
  3. Cato Rand Reagan

    I think Jules is right. At least I observed that in my parents neighborhood at one point.

    By the way, since you are in the Chicago area, if you happen to have any interest in a downtown townhome, we live in a development that’s been through a baby boom. It was a new development when we bought, 12-13 years ago, and the original owners were pretty near childless. I don’t remember seeing any children back then. Mostly established/establishing professionals on the young side, late 20s and early 30s. After a few years though, babies started appearing, then little kids. Well, fast forward a dozen years, and an awful lot of them have been through the chalk on the sidewalk phase and are heading into the early awkward teen years (though there’s still plenty of chalk on the sidewalk). I guess what I’m saying is if you’re interested in an urban environment near the loop that’s bursting with say, 4-12 year olds, PM me and I’ll give you the location. I’m sure there are a couple of units for sale and they’re good sized and very nice. Of course if you want a yard . . . .

    • #3
    • March 16, 2015, at 7:47 PM PDT
    • Like
  4. Jules PA Member

    anklebiters. LOL.

    crumb-snatchers. xxxoo

    • #4
    • March 16, 2015, at 7:47 PM PDT
    • Like
  5. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    Are you sure that’s what you want? Unaccompanied kids are taken home and their parents sued for child neglect. I grew up in the 50s on a block in Seattle where there were at least 30 kids my age, and we all hung out together on the block, and at the vacant lot down the street (now the site of a Greek Orthodox church).

    • #5
    • March 16, 2015, at 8:23 PM PDT
    • Like
  6. A-Squared Inactive

    When I moved to my block, the sellers said a few years prior, they had no visitors on halloween. Within a few years, we had over 20 kids on our block. It is odd how quickly blocks can turnover.

    • #6
    • March 16, 2015, at 8:26 PM PDT
    • Like
  7. Jules PA Member

    Asquared:When I moved to my block, the sellers said a few years prior, they had no visitors on halloween. Within a few years, we had over 20 kids on our block. It is odd how quickly blocks can turnover.

    The same way an empty nester parent becomes a grandparent, with a full-house.

    The circle of life…

    • #7
    • March 16, 2015, at 8:31 PM PDT
    • Like
  8. Pleated Pants Forever Inactive
    Pleated Pants Forever Post author

    Jules PA:Every neighborhood, even community, will go through that ‘empty nest’ phase, just like a specific family.
    Cato Rand

    I think Jules is right. At least I observed that in my parents neighborhood at one point.

    Asquared

    When I moved to my block, the sellers said a few years prior, they had no visitors on halloween. Within a few years, we had over 20 kids on our block. It is odd how quickly blocks can turnover.

    Boss Mongo

    Move to Texas. Lot’s of li’l anklebiters there.

    All points well taken and I agree there is a cyclical and regional component to it. With that said, the combination of never ending recession with people putting off families and resulting in below replacement birthrates, I think, makes it a bit more widespread these days.

    C.R. – also, really appreciate the recommendation. I’d be all for it, other than the likely private school tuition, as we lived in the city 10 years and really liked it. Another component is my wife wants to be closer to work……..no, I wasn’t lying…….when you are trying to make a point in a post you don’t always need to list all the facts :)

    • #8
    • March 16, 2015, at 8:46 PM PDT
    • Like
  9. Pleated Pants Forever Inactive
    Pleated Pants Forever Post author

    RushBabe49:Are you sure that’s what you want? Unaccompanied kids are taken home and their parents sued for child neglect. I grew up in the 50s on a block in Seattle where there were at least 30 kids my age, and we all hung out together on the block, and at the vacant lot down the street (now the site of a Greek Orthodox church).

    We only have two kids allowing us to still hover so there wouldn’t be anyone unaccompanied…..just hover over more playdates (I hate that word) :)

    • #9
    • March 16, 2015, at 8:50 PM PDT
    • Like
  10. Ned Walton Inactive

    It comes and goes. When we bought our house the neighborhood was mostly old people, then all of a sudden there were kids everywhere, then they grew up and now we’re old people and all of a sudden kids are popping up all over the neighborhood, not as free range, but here none the less.

    P.S. Rushbabe – St Demetrios?

    • #10
    • March 16, 2015, at 8:53 PM PDT
    • Like
  11. Cato Rand Reagan

    Pleated Pants Forever:C.R. – also, really appreciate the recommendation. I’d be all for it, other than the likely private school tuition, as we lived in the city 10 years and really liked it. Another component is my wife wants to be closer to work……..no, I wasn’t lying…….when you are trying to make a point in a post you don’t always need to list all the facts :)

    I know. I didn’t think it was likely. Suburbanites with school aged kids aren’t a real strong “moving downtown” demographic. But I thought I’d offer. We are basically walking distance from The British School and an new start up that’s only taking younger kids at this point (but building toward K-12) called Bennett Day School. Both, however, have price tags that will probably confirm your fears.

    • #11
    • March 16, 2015, at 8:55 PM PDT
    • Like
  12. SoDakBoy Inactive

    In your inquiries, make sure you specify whether children are actually at home.

    When we first moved to this community, we bought a house because the neighborhood had lots of evidence of children: hockey goal nets in the driveway, bikes on the lawn, swing sets, etc.

    Once we moved in, we realized that there where indeed kids in these families, but they were all scheduled to death (Joe Biden literally). School, then “KidStop”, then scheduled music practices, travel sports teams, enrichment activities, and so on. In this community at least, it seems like only the people in bad neighborhoods allow their kids to play outside without a structured activity.

    • #12
    • March 17, 2015, at 5:52 AM PDT
    • Like
  13. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Look at the demographic pyramid in this section on Poquoson. To me, this is one of the keys. School ratings on Trulia.com with complaints like “hard to transfer into” are music to my ears.

    • #13
    • March 17, 2015, at 5:59 AM PDT
    • Like
  14. KC Mulville Inactive

    The kids are all inside playing video games.

    • #14
    • March 17, 2015, at 6:04 AM PDT
    • Like
  15. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    Ned, yes, St. Demetrios. The vacant lot was called Dahlialand. We lived on East Blaine Street until I was in fourth grade when we moved to Hawthorn Hills and I went to Roosevelt High.

    • #15
    • March 17, 2015, at 6:32 AM PDT
    • Like
  16. Ed G. Member

    Pleated Pants Forever:…..

    As they look for a new home, the couple pays less attention to the houses themselves than the number of swing sets, sports equipment, and toys strewn in their potential neighbors’ yards. Whenever a neighbor is spotted near a potential home, he is accosted with questions of how many little ones are around. The wife of the couple even suggests following the local school bus after class lets out to see where kids live but the husband sees this as a step too far into creepy madness and a good way to get arrested. This may sound like the latest Syfy original movie premiering on Thursday after Sharknado 3, but it was how I spent my last weekend.

    …..

    I don’t know about Scifi cheese, but get a script together and this has the makings for either a family drama or a family comedy. Commentary on modern life.

    • #16
    • March 17, 2015, at 6:45 AM PDT
    • Like
  17. Ed G. Member

    Pleated Pants Forever:…. The few families with little kids in our town are scattered every other block or so, like ill-placed fire hydrants.

    …..

    In my experience, “scattered every other block or so” is the way of things in our fair region nowadays. In fact, I’ve always considered your suburb to be a family suburb – a place where families go to raise kids. My cousin has lived there with her kids (8-11) for quite awhile now. I’m not sure you’re going to find much better. Maybe southwest suburbs where many of the families that came from the southwest side of Chicago migrated to in the 80’s and 90’s. Look at high school athletics and explore the areas around the powerhouse schools.

    Otherwise SoDakBoy is onto something: sometimes the kids are there, but they’re no longer free range on the block for all the reasons already mentioned like sports, after school programs, music lessons, video games, air conditioning, etc.

    • #17
    • March 17, 2015, at 6:54 AM PDT
    • Like
  18. Profile Photo Member

    We live in a Chicago suburb with a fair number of kids of all ages, but as SoDakBoy mentions, every kid is “scheduled” (including our own). It’s kind of sad that play dates need to be scheduled weeks in advance.

    We are now wondering if a small town would be better? Or, has the scheduling of childhood completely infiltrated the fabric of American life?

    • #18
    • March 17, 2015, at 6:57 AM PDT
    • Like
  19. Ed G. Member

    Asquared:When I moved to my block, the sellers said a few years prior, they had no visitors on halloween. Within a few years, we had over 20 kids on our block. It is odd how quickly blocks can turnover.

    True. The past several years we’ve had more bussed-in trick or treaters than locals. That’s beginning to change some in our neighborhood, though.

    • #19
    • March 17, 2015, at 6:57 AM PDT
    • Like
  20. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member

    The areas with younger children in my city are mostly the new-build developments on the periphery. A parent who prefers an older (and more built-to-last) house is pretty much out of luck.

    One exception is a very trendy, and very hipsterish, neighbourhood that is close to downtown. It’s exceedingly expensive, however.

    Another exception is the areas with a higher proportion of immigrant families.

    • #20
    • March 17, 2015, at 7:05 AM PDT
    • Like
  21. Anglo-Feline Thatcher

    For the first twenty-five years I have lived in my Philadelphia rowhouse neighborhood, most houses were owned by singles or empty nesters. Out of 30 units, during those years I can remember only three with children total. In the past few few years I notice baby carriages being pushed by fathers all over. I like the change but can’t explain it. Families with small children live in the city now. Two of the best elementary schools are nearby so that must help. Things have changed and I am just noticing. Consider living in the city especially if you work in the city or from home.

    • #21
    • March 17, 2015, at 7:47 AM PDT
    • Like
  22. Pony Convertible Member

    KC Mulville:The kids are all inside playing video games.

    Exactly. Driving around looking for swing sets and toys in the yard is a waste of time. Kids don’t play outside anymore. They are too busy being driven to one activity after another. Parents buy them toys, but they don’t sent their kids out to play on them anymore.

    • #22
    • March 17, 2015, at 7:51 AM PDT
    • Like
  23. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member

    Jules PA:anklebiters. LOL.

    crumb-snatchers. xxxoo

    House Monsters.

    Carpet Monkeys.

    Rug Rats.

    • #23
    • March 17, 2015, at 7:52 AM PDT
    • Like
  24. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member

    Pony Convertible:

    KC Mulville:The kids are all inside playing video games.

    Exactly. Driving around looking for swing sets and toys in the yard is a waste of time. Kids don’t play outside anymore. They are too busy being driven to one activity after another. Parents buy them toys, but they don’t sent their kids out to play on them anymore.

    One factor: Newer housing developments have much smaller yards. With families where both parents work outside of the home, a large yard is simply too much work for many families to deal with. Even multi-million dollar mansions are often built with next-to-no backyard, because ain’t nobody got time for yardwork!

    With a smaller yard, there is less opportunity for unorganized outdoor funtimes.

    I grew up in an older neighbourhood where everybody had pretty huge yards. Even if we weren’t allowed to cross the road without supervision, we still had plenty of room to play outside.

    • #24
    • March 17, 2015, at 7:55 AM PDT
    • Like
  25. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member

    KC Mulville:The kids are all inside playing video games.

    I was a video game/computer nerd growing up. I still got outside to play.

    Video games are not the only contributing factor.

    • #25
    • March 17, 2015, at 7:57 AM PDT
    • Like
  26. DrewInWisconsin, Thought Leader Member

    Our family is bustin’ at the seams of our small two-bedroom house, but one of the reasons we stay (besides the fact that we can’t afford to move yet) is that we really like our kid-filled neighborhood. There are a bunch of kids my own kids’ ages. They’ve grown up with the kids next door, but in the last few years the number of kids in our neighborhood has increased quite a bit.

    This recent warm spell has resulted in essentially dawn-to-dusk outside play (with the associated tracking-in-of-the-mud). You know Spring has arrived because the sidewalks are covered with chalk drawings again, there are bikes and skateboards going up and down the street all day, and the sound of basketballs bouncing in the driveway next door is a constant.

    So I got yer kid-filled neighborhood right here, PPF! They still exist!

    • #26
    • March 17, 2015, at 8:28 AM PDT
    • Like
  27. Fricosis Guy Listener

    Another area to check is church life near your new home.

    When we moved and looked for a new parish, we wanted to make sure that there were kids around. Our old parish was associated with a K-8 school, so a lot revolved around kids in parish life: basketball, Scouts, etc.

    It turned out there were two churches roughly equidistant: one with clearly no kids, one with some. We went with the one with some…and a Scout troop and pack. Unfortunately, it turned out that the kids in the second church were Pastor’s. My son was the only kid from his grade in Sunday School and would often be the only non-PK (preacher’s kid) from our parish at church or Scout events.

    Even worse, the reason there were no kids became clear over time: older folks were openly hostile to children. They’d complain loudly about the youth during parish dinners — in front of the very youth who were serving them dinner — and would gossip on Facebook about unruly kids (who were merely restless, not unruly). Then they’d wonder why kids disappeared after confirmation, or even worse, baptism.

    We finally changed parishes in despair. Our new parish has many more children, we hear crying babies, and our son has friends in and out of Sunday School.

    • #27
    • March 17, 2015, at 8:45 AM PDT
    • Like
  28. Fricosis Guy Listener

    Misthiocracy:

    KC Mulville:The kids are all inside playing video games.

    I was a video game/computer nerd growing up. I still got outside to play.

    Video games are not the only contributing factor.

    And they can now game with friends real-time…voice chatting the whole time. Interesting side effect: my son’s class participation has skyrocketed since I enabled voice chat on Minecraft.

    • #28
    • March 17, 2015, at 9:02 AM PDT
    • Like
  29. Fritz Member

    When we were looking for a home for our small (1 child) family, we bought a property with a house that was only so-so, but it came with a large fenced backyard that sloped down to a seasonal stream, along which grew a thicket or two of brush and trees. Across the fenceline was a five-acre parcel on which an old timer grazed a few cows, and one feisty bull. (One day, that old bull had jumped the fence to get at some apples on one of our trees. My wife came downstairs to find the bull standing on the patio staring into the sliding glass door.

    Hilarity ensued.)

    The yard was otherwise the ideal setting. It was a safe, enclosed area providing all sorts of life drama (stream, pollywogs, mud, frogs, occasional mallard couple, pheasants, coyotes, raccoons) and woodsy enough for kids to play in for hours. Our yard became the gathering place for the neighborhood kids till they all hit middle school and their social focus changed. Was great while it lasted (except for the mud).

    • #29
    • March 17, 2015, at 9:26 AM PDT
    • Like
  30. SoDakBoy Inactive

    Curtain climbers

    • #30
    • March 17, 2015, at 9:55 AM PDT
    • Like
  1. 1
  2. 2