Recently I have been thinking a lot about the pros and cons of rural versus urban childhoods. Does the perceived safety of a rural environment allow children more freedom? Are children who are brought up in the city more tolerant of difference? Are rural kids fitter? Do urban kids have more access to cultural and intellectual stimulation?
As part of my MEd I had to read a report about urban and rural childhoods. It was not well researched and had many flaws, but it concluded that those children who grew up in urban environments had much higher ‘social capital’. i.e. they could socialise better with a wider range of people, had a wider range of experiences and social networks and that this is led to more economic stability in adult life. I don’t feel like I was stunted by my own rural up-bringing, nor that I am less economically stable than if I had had an urban upbringing; but who am I to judge myself? Munchkin, at two, has a much more diverse range of experiences than I did at her age thanks to living in London.
The second thing that made me think about the urban vs rural childhood was CoombeMill’s blog and in particular the Country Kids photoblog linky that Fiona has started. This week she put up photos of her kids climbing trees and I thought, “I remember that, and I loved it!” I remember the freedom of being outside all day from a very early age and wonder if I’d have been given the same freedom had I lived in the city? But I also remember visiting my London cousins and feeling much more naive than them, despite being older.
I grew up in a hamlet of 15 houses miles away with nothing but a post box and a phone box and 3 miles to the nearest bus stop. As a teenager I did get frustrated that I couldn’t visit them without relying on my parents, but overall I loved the freedom. I’d go miles (literally) on my bike with friends with the only proviso being that I should be back for tea. I could spend the day making dens in the farmyard. I could identify flowers, trees and insects. I got muddy and I knew where milk came from!
As an adult I enjoy the convenience of the big city. I couldn’t go back to having to get in the car even for a pint of milk, but I do miss the countryside. I miss the community of living in a small village where I know everyone. I have much more of a sense of community in London than I thought I would, but I don’t know my near neighbours. Long Sunday walks to the park are lovely, but not quite the same as a country walk. I make jam, chutney and sloe gin (collected sloes at Mum’s when we visited last weekend!) but I get funny looks when I offer people a jar/bottle!
OH and I are planning to move to the country in the next few years, so whilst we’re in London, I intend to take Munchkin to as many museums and galleries as possible. I do worry that rural village school will lead to a more blinkered view of things like race and I know that we’ll have to work harder to counter those things. I hope my understanding of the rural life will allow me to give her more freedom than I would in the city. There are pros and cons to both upbringings.
I know we have a diverse range of readers and I’d love to know your thoughts. What are the pros and cons of bringing up children where you live?