12 March, 2010

City life

I think I've got my city shell back. It's been a few months and places that freaked me out a bit then are now just part of every day life. In a way it's a shame. A shame because avoiding the gaze of the slightly crazy as you walk by, or walking past the homeless man asleep on the pavement without much of a glance are not estimable ways to behave. But they are a necessary part of city life. You have to develop your antennae too  - cross the road when something not quite right is up ahead. Work out which street or block you can walk down in the dark and which not. Things I honestly didn't think about after a couple of months of living in Crickhowell.

So here we are, settled. With just a bit of liberal parental angst to add to the mix. And this stuff isn't about San Francisco. It's about life in a city where poverty and social deprivation are close by, where decisions we've made rebound mostly on our girls. The good stuff is that they are in a liberal, vibrant, diverse city - a small city which is a pretty civilised place. It's not crowded, it's beautiful, it has great weather, it has lots to see and do. They have great teachers and new friends, and seem to have found their feet fast. I like that their school has a strong civil rights bent to it, with focus on and celebration of the diversity of the student body. I like that the teachers aren't afraid to hug the kids or vice versa. I'm not so sure about the curriculum and if I'm honest, I'd be a lot less confident about it but for knowing that we'll be going home at some point. I'm also conscious that the school can be lively to the point of indiscipline, that classes are often disrupted by bad behaviour, that my daughters probably aren't being challenged as much as they could be because sometimes their teachers are engaged in fire-fighting not teaching.

The angst part comes because I know while there were many positive forward-looking reasons that we left London for Wales - family close by, fresh air, space - there were also those negative reasons for leaving behind many of the hard realities of life in Hackney, and we knew that many of our friends didn't have our opportunity. Oh the guilt! And now the guilt for having put them back into city life. It's all very well having the liberal intentions and the strong belief that all children deserve a quality education, that the public school system needs parents like me. But when it comes down to it, it's my daughter in the room when the kid picks up a chair and throws it at a window and not me. Of course, she was rather less shocked by this that I was by the report. And I should remember that there were times when school life in Wales wasn't idyllic or academically challenging enough.

What it comes down to, is that as a parent you never really know if you're getting it right. The girls are fine. They're happy. I should stop worrying. But I won't of course.


Don said...

your girls are getting a fabulous life! you are the perfect mother, giving them great experiences and showing them a better way


Soilman said...

Well, look at it this way: at least in SF you're giving the kids a chance of some kind of healthy outdoor life. In the UK, 'outdoor' living is only possible May to Sept. For me, that's always been the biggest drawback of life in northern climes.

Eliane said...

Don, thanks!

Soilman, you're too soft! The kids were chucked out of doors regularly in Wales. Difference here is they complain a lot less about it!