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Is she ready for the country?

for The Brooklyn Paper
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This time for sure, I was moving. I was putting my apartment on the market, selling it with most of the furniture intact, and high-tailing it out of this pressure cooker of a place, out of Park Slope, out to the country.

I spent most of the summer blissfully on the North Fork and it would be a much better, happier more relaxed place to raise the kids. I could stop listening to people blather on about recycling and eating local and move to a place where you actually brought your own garbage to the dump and separated each bottle and can yourself, where you had room to compost (if you cared to) right outside the kitchen door, where nearby farms and the bay beyond could provide most of what you needed, if you were willing to eat things according to season, willing to pull those fishing rods out of the shed and deal with the bloody mess of bait and tackle…

Then, I picked my kids up from sleepaway camp.

“How are we going to break it to them?” Big G had asked, after we decided that the move was a good one, worked out a way for him to commute from his job in the city — that is, until we could start living the other dream: becoming vintners or chicken farmers, opening a store or a café.

“Not right away,” I said. “Let’s tell them slowly, after we’ve gotten used to each other again. We don’t want to scare them.”

But, like how he’d proposed, down on one knee before the door to our little Chicago apartment was even shut behind us, so excited he could burst, the news was out of his mouth just barely after our little dirty campers sat down in the car.

“We’re moving, to Cutchogue,” he said.

They were calm and equally as sure as we were.

“No!” they said in unison from the back seat, Oscar in a scratchy, hadn’t-slept-in-two-weeks rasp, Eli firm and confident as when he won’t eat a croissant that isn’t from Colson’s Patisserie.

My resolve wavered. I had thought, stupidly, that being away from Brooklyn for many weeks, not seeing their friends or their things, would teach them that no one and nothing there mattered, that they could start fresh in a new place they already knew and loved, take today as day one on a new path. Ha.

“We love Park Slope,” Eli said, ever the loyalist. “We’re not moving.”

I smiled. Quietly, catching eyes with my husband, I said, almost under my breath, “We’ll see…”

Decisions can be made so handily alone, even, often, with one’s spouse. But then you remember: the children actually have to be considered. That’s the thing about parenting.

Would they be fine at a new school, would they make new friends, thrive as they had the last few years at their sweet little Park Slope public school? Probably, but what if they hated it, what if they were miserable from the minute we moved? What if we were bored and claustrophobic in winter like everyone said we’d be (as if winter can’t be boring and claustrophobic anywhere)?

I knew the decision was still ours, we were the adults after all, or at least, that’s how we tried to make it appear even when we weren’t feeling it. But holding these little people’s lives in our hands, making changes they didn’t want put a great weight on us.

I decided, this time for sure again, that we would hold off, at least start them in their same school as planned. The first day was just weeks away after all, it would be crazy to turn everything on its ear without further consideration, without showing them that maybe Mommy and Daddy were on to something thinking the country life should hold sway over the stresses of the city…

As I thought about it, as we returned to Park Slope and my kids saw friends they hadn’t seemed to miss all summer and fell right back in where they left off, it occurred to me: the country and the city weren’t so vastly different, not so much for them, or really, post-solstice, for us.

The stress-free days of summer, with schedules even at my husband’s office slightly askew from the more straight workweeks of other seasons, would have to come to an end, regardless. I would have to get the kids in bed before midnight, make sure they sometimes showered and get them up before 11. City or country, Oscar would have to try to ingest something before his new favored meal of brunch, which typically featured a fresh farmer’s market donut.

Talking with friends similarly tempted by vacations in slower-paced places to make a major change of location, many of them had been forced into the same realization.

“I talked to one guy who’d moved from the city to the Berkshires and he said, ‘It’s all the same: soccer, play-dates, work…’ ”

We sat back with a simultaneous sigh against the white leather of the funky couch where we sipped our sangria at a back-to-school mommy’s night out at a Fifth Avenue Middle Eastern restaurant. We would miss places like this, we would miss each other. Oh well. It turns out, this age and stage ain’t easy, no matter where, turns out there was no magic bullet, no “right” thing. God knows this wasn’t new, the New Yorker’s nightly back and forth about Whether It Was Worth It.

I’d said it to the kids honestly, as I say to myself, “We’ll see.” In the meantime, we’ll enjoy where we are, know it’s mostly perception that makes one love or hate any place. The fact that my kids love where they live gives me great joy, and I want that always to be true.

Maybe there is, after all, some halfway point, some meeting in the middle. The smiling chicken farmer who greeted us in the country this past weekend in mustard overalls as my kids ran around pulling warms eggs out from under furry feathers in his coops shook his head when I acknowledged my envy of his slow-paced life.

“Oh,” he said, correcting my misguided assumption as I eyed his leased patch of land. “I’m a lawyer in the city during the week. And my 20-year-old is not that happy about it.”

We laughed. “Kids…” I said. Sometimes we can’t listen to them. But sometimes we should. The trick is knowing when.

Reader poll

Did Thompson do the right thing?

Updated 5:26 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Dock Oscar from Puke Slop says:
Urgh...this is what gives the Slope a bad name. Pressure cooker??? At least you can buy something here. Been here for nearly 20 years and still renting (expensive apts). Yes I am a professional (ad man) but not a lawyer or investment banker.

Not being nasty, but you got it great.
Sept. 13, 2011, 7:50 am
Ruby from Pk Slope says:
The North Fork is "country"? Really? There is more to living in "the country" than trading Colson's pastry for a farm stand donut. Try living where you cannot make your $$$ in a large urban center.
Sept. 13, 2011, 8:39 am
Steph Thompson from Park Slope says:
Agree on both counts!! We are VERY lucky, and trading out for the increasingly gentrified North Fork would be a luxury that we would have to figure hard to afford. Nonetheless, these are decisions that come up around here:) Thanks for reading!
Sept. 13, 2011, 11:25 am
Almost relieved from Park Slope says:
One less nattering nabob. Go already! Please!
Sept. 13, 2011, 10:49 pm
NYer from The Real World says:
"We sat back with a simultaneous sigh against the white leather of the funky couch where we sipped our sangria at a back-to-school mommy’s night out at a Fifth Avenue Middle Eastern restaurant."

Ohhh sheesh. *Rolling my eys into my head* Gee life's tough for the park sloper who can afford to own in a neighborhood that *USED* to be affordable, before it was invaded by yuppies. Must escape for the "country." Actually, it's called LONG ISLAND. Yup, this is why people hate the Slope now.
Sept. 14, 2011, 12:56 pm
Me from Park Slope says:
It really just goes to show you that the ultimate real estate prize, owning in precious Park Slope, does not necessarily make one eternally happy. So to all you fellow renters out there--keep on keepin' on!
Sept. 15, 2011, 10:22 am
green hornet from park slope says:
Sept. 16, 2011, 9:20 pm

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