I've moved more than 20 times in my lifetime. Twelve of those moves have been in the last decade. My husband and I have lived in the city now for five years, and that is the longest I have lived anywhere. So it should come as no surprise that I periodically get itchy to move. It usually happens to me at about the two year mark, but our two year mark in Philly passed with nary a twitch, so that kind of overshadowed any urges to move.
Now at the five year mark, I find myself increasingly restless. There are things that drive me crazy about Philly, and there are things I love. My husband and I have increasingly broached the formerly unthinkable "suburban question" as we run into the schools issue that plagues most city parents. Do we stay in the city and take our chances on getting into one of the good charters, or pay an arm and a leg for private school (and when one starts thinking about doing this for multiple kids, it gets pretty expensive pretty fast)? Do we move out to the burbs for the good public school, but add in a train commute, less walk-ability, more isolation, etc. It seemed to go against everything we thought we wanted. And yet. The prospect of the suburbs was tantalizing also--a place for the boys to run around, the ability to separate them in the house, fewer stairs to navigate, easy parking, a garage...all the reasons people like suburban living, especially with small children.
Until this weekend, I honestly couldn't say that I had an answer to that question. I felt that the schools issue was a wash, since we now have several different school options in the city with which we are comfortable. I knew that a suburban move would mean giving up our fantastic babysitter, and while I know I could find another one, I'm attached to my current one. It is hard to find a sitter as reliable and easy-going as she, but it would be even harder to find someone who can also handle my intense, high-needs kids with aplomb. We would probably have to give up our absolutely fantastic pediatrician, who currently has offices three blocks away and is incredibly available after hours and by e-mail. We would lose the lovely neighbors on our block--relationships cultivated over five years time that now mean we can knock on almost any door on our block if there is a problem and have someone willing to help out. We have no family in the area, so these sorts of considerations are important. The whole thing just made me feel unsettled and awful.
This weekend solidified everything in my mind. This weekend, E's current respiratory infection took a turn for the worse and I found myself bundling a fevered, vomiting, coughing, miserable child into a cab at 2:00 a.m. We got to CHOP in under 10 minutes, and were being evaluated in triage by 2:15. Because she was in respiratory distress, we were treated exceedingly fast. She ended up being admitted, and I'm writing this blog post from her hospital room. I realized that we need to stay in the city for her. We need to be close to her doctors, to the hospital, because I know this isn't the last time we'll find ourselves in this position. Her pulmonologist has repeatedly mentioned five years as the time it will take for her to be able to manage her condition without hospitalization. I need to be able to take care of my other children, and being less than ten minutes away gives both me and my husband the flexibility to do that. He works about four blocks from the hospital and, with his bike commute, it is easy for him to rearrange things to pick up H from preschool, or sit with E at the hospital, or whatever. My sitter can stay all day at a moment's notice. I can go home for a few hours to shower and make arrangements, fold laundry, visit with the boys (who get a little freaked every time we have to do this), etc. This is what is working for our family now.
I could see us shifting to a different house on this end of town at some point, but for now, our house is working for us, and our neighborhood is a great fit. Yes, there are times I have Rittenhouse Square envy, and yes, there are times when I wish we lived in a ranch style detached house, but then I remember all the things I love about the city, and all the reasons to stay, and I realize that this is the best thing for us. I love running into friends and neighbors at the local Whole Foods, or on the street, and I like that I can get places without taking out the car. While I don't love all the cab fares I pay lately, I realize that it is nice to have the option. While I sometimes think it is harder to get out with three little ones, once I am out, I can go more places with them than when I am in a suburban setting. So after tallying the balance sheet, and considering the pros and cons, I'm finally settled. After living so many places, I should know by now that no place is perfect. There will always be greener grass somewhere. It is a matter of deciding what is most important and learning to live with the rest.
We are staying in the city. At least for the moment.