So, you’ve done it. The thing you always swore you’d never do: You moved back to your hometown to raise a family. That very place you never wanted to live, vowed to never be trapped, is now your chosen home. Go figure.
When I was a teenager I really didn’t have a lot of love for my hometown. I was often bored and didn’t always feel like I fit in. It seemed like everyone was always in everyone else’s business.
In my 20s, I moved to the neighboring city where I lived happily for quite a few years. Though it was right next door the atmosphere seemed to be worlds away; bigger space, more people, less drama, and more events to attend.
When I was pregnant my husband suggested we move back and my first reaction was, “Oh, hell no. Never.” Soon enough he had us looking at houses, and pointing out all the charms I’d seriously blocked from my mind; that, and mentioning several times how nice it would be to have both our mothers literally five minutes away led to my finally losing the battle.
So we’ve moved back, and after two years I’m actually very happy we did. It’s a much different experience being a parent in one’s hometown than it was being the child. Honestly, the town I grew up in isn’t bad, and neither are the residents. In my teenage angst and insecurity I failed to see the charm and potential of my small, historical town.
Here are five things that I realized can make the experience of moving back to your hometown as an adult with kids of your own that much sweeter.
That’s right. Get in there and start participating, that is, unless you want your town to feel as boring as you thought it was at age 14. Go to the sidewalk sales, concerts, bring your kid to the carnival, and try out all the rides. Buy a ticket for the waterslide where the proceeds go to a local cause, and put a big fat smile on your face as you splash down with your child. Attend movie night, sit on a picnic blanket, and meet other parents while enjoying the great things the town now offers.
Without support, these fun days and evenings will vanish, and that’s far from progressive. I’d rather my child look forward to town events versus staying hidden in a dark basement full of video games and Hot Pockets. If your hometown is finally making an effort to offer fun social events, be all in. Your kids will thank you for it.
We’ve all done and said things we aren’t proud of. It’s called being an idiot teenager. We did things because we were insecure, craved inclusivity, and were just plain immature. It was 20 years ago – time to get over it.
Everyone has been through their own crap, and now here we all are, right back where we started with little children of our own, so why not embrace the new life? The people you went to school with are probably the ones running the town events, involved in politics, on the PTA, teaching math or the local dance class, coaching some sport. Do we want our childhood prejudice to be the reason our child isn’t invited to a birthday party, or feels singled out from a group?
Personally, I don’t ever wish to be the reason my child is excluded from anything. Is it really wise to immediately hate on a person because of the kid they were two decades ago? Give them a chance. If they are still an a-hole, well, at least you tried, and they can go bite it.
While we're on the subject, if necessary, forgive yourself for the kid you were. Whether you’re still embarrassed about being a geek, jerk, ruler of the hit list, stoner, wild partier, etc., just learn to laugh it off. So you were a silly, insecure teenager. The kid back then isn’t the adult bringing their child to the library today. Trust me, if you don’t make a big thing about how you passed out on some dudes kitchen floor in front of 20 people when you were 17, no one else will either.
It’s fun to get up on a soapbox and yell about how things should be better: Our town isn’t doing enough of this or that; the taxes are high; and there are too many housing projects causing overpopulation, so soon the schools will be overflowing.
Let’s bitch about it on the town’s economic forum, and argue with the other residents who defend the budget and have their own list of far more unnecessary complaints! My husband loves to get into it with other blowhards as I sit next to him cringing, imagining the day our daughter wants to attend school with a bag over her head.
Yes, it’s great to fight for fair taxes, a better budget, more town events, etc. because everyone has ideas about making our environment a better place. Argue, but don’t get crazy. Don't stalk the other townspeople’s personal lives, or tax and property records in an attempt to win debates. Making enemies, or becoming “that guy” isn’t necessarily paving a happy path for your increasingly aware child. Catch more flies with honey right? Do we really want to be the crazy political parents of that poor kid? I certainly do not.
Find any way you can to support the local retail shops, restaurants, and activity centers. I can remember a few times when the downtown area was filled with empty storefronts, which made for a rather depressing, ghostly drive down the main strip.
It’s pretty convenient having a sweet gift shop when in need of a last-minute present, a crafting space to bring the children, a grocery store five minutes away, and in my case, a plethora of pizza shops scattered everywhere in a two-mile radius. Want your kid to experience the same delicious slice you grew up eating? Hoping your teenager will find an after-school job close to home? The owners rely on your patronage to keep them afloat. These shop owners are our friends, neighbors, retired parents, and perhaps new residents. Give them a chance, and keep the town from becoming a dull ghost town your kid will run screaming from.
It’s inevitable. There will come a time when my daughter is going to despise the town she's growing up in. She’s going to look at us and say, “Why the hell did you move back here?” It’s going to happen.
Don’t regret moving back. The things that your kid hates are just things that every kid hates. They will deal with insecurity, acceptance, bullying, boredom, and “the grass is always greener” syndrome. They will, for a while, take everything for granted. I think everyone does. They would experience these feelings anywhere, but conveniently blame the place in which they are living. I did.
Eventually they will again learn to appreciate the town where they went from infancy to adulthood and perhaps even decide to stay to raise their own family; maybe even follow your lead in helping build the town’s spirit and economy even more. They will remember a fondness for the local pizza parlor, the yearly carnival on the green, and the tree-lighting ceremony. With any luck, eventually they will be grateful for the childhood you shaped for them, and look back on many memories fondly, much like I find myself doing today. No matter where they go, their hometown will always be their home, and that’s a beautiful thing.