Monday, August 30, 2010

Kids Not Welcome

Every time a new restaurant/diner opens downtown, and a friend tells me of their recent visit there, I ask a simple question: Did you see any kids or highchairs?

Most people, obviously, don't look for a highchair when they walk into a new place. But, from a parent's perspective, the absence of this simple object says one thing to me: Your kids are not welcome here.

I can understand a restaurant owner's fear of becoming a *gasp* "Family Restaurant," and I can understand that a toddler is not their primary clientele. But, I also know that there a very large number of young adults with young children who would love to be able to support these local businesses, but the businesses seem to not want their support.

Yes, I can still sneak in with my son and let him sit on my lap while we both try to eat. And, yes, a booster seat is a step in the right direction. But, a young toddler is much more likely to sit still if seated in a high chair. My son is very well behaved (and we know when our son is not behaving and it's time to leave). Heck, these business owners might actually like having us around!


Dear Business Owners:

I support local business and I'd love to support yours. But, until you are willing to accommodate my small and well-behaved family, you'll be relegated to my "date night" restaurant list. This list is large and not often consulted for dinner plans. Maybe we'll see you (and you'll see our money) in a few years?

Your neighbor.

(And don't even get me started on coffee shops and gas station bathrooms without diaper changing stations... ugh!)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sharing Space in Urban Homes

It's a common deterrent for those looking at urban homes, condos, and apartments: "We just can't find a place big enough."

For those who live alone, are married and child-free, or cohabitate without children, this might not be an issue; one or two people can easily squeeze themselves into a small living space and get comfortable there for a long, long time. But, what about those of us with children? Not just that, what about those of us who want multiple children?

How can a large family (I'm talking about a family with at least two children) find a place that's affordable, while allowing each family member enough room to stretch their legs every once and a while?

Some options to consider:

1. Share your bedroom with an infant/toddler.

My husband and I lived in a loft apartment when our son was born and, therefore, ended up sleeping in the same room as our son for the first 18 months of his life. We started with a co-sleeper attached to the bed, then moved it to the wall next to the bed (4ft away), then to the other side of the room (about 20ft away). This arrangement is not nearly as inconvenient as one might think and comes in really handy for a mother who plans on nursing her children past their first year. In such circumstances, this arrangement is actually more convenient. In our new home, our son sleeps just on the other side of our bedroom door (but usually ends up in our bed at about 6am each morning anyway). Frankly, we have grown accustomed to him being nearby and we like it that way for now.

It should not be assumed that, once a couple discovers there is a baby on the way, they must shop around for a two-bedroom home. Sharing a room with your child may not work for everyone, but it's at least worth a shot. You can all be perfectly comfortable sharing a bedroom for a very long time, before you ever need to consider "upscaling." And, when the time comes to shop around...

2. Reconsider "bedroom."

Why does a toddler (or a preschooler, for that matter) need a large bedroom? I can understand a parent's desire to create a space unique to their child. (I feel that desire, too.) But, is a separate room really necessary? Take a quick search through home design blogs and you'll find examples of excellent kids' space built into closets, attics, breakfast nooks, lofts, and other odd places. A child can be afforded plenty of privacy, seclusion, and creativity in any sort of space, regardless of size. (This includes even tiny outdoor spaces, which are often overlooked when it comes to providing space for kids.) When did our idea of "bedroom" expand to include a private library, playroom, bathroom, and walk-in closet? With a little creativity, any extra bit of space can be transformed into a bedroom for a small child! And, when all else fails...

3. Think "Bunkhouse."

I grew up in a house where both me and my two brothers each had our own bedroom, so I understand the desire for individuality, privacy, and space. And I know that there are many benefits to living in a large home--especially when considering entertaining guests. But, just because there are benefits to each family member having individual private space, we shouldn't feel like we are neglecting our kids by making them share their bedrooms. In fact, it might be in their better interest to learn to share space now, before they find themselves in their freshman year at college, fighting with their new roommate over whose job it is to wash the window.

I've seen some amazing ideas online for shared bedrooms for kids--everything from a preschooler sharing with a newborn, to preteen siblings (a brother and sister, nonetheless) learning to give each other space in a room where space is limited, to four sisters sharing a room well into their teens. From my own experience, thinking of the friends I've known throughout my life who have siblings, it seems that most shared their room at some point in time. I might venture to say that, with some exceptions, most would not have had it any other way. Sharing a bedroom teaches children cooperation, consideration, and aids in bonding. Think: summer camp every day.

Sure, there are some sisters who end up as enemies from childhood spats in their shared room; and there are certainly stories I would have rather not heard about shared boys' rooms. But, we all need to learn to share space eventually and we shouldn't feel guilty if we start our kids young. Heck, they might end up as best friends because of it!

I guess my point is pretty simple:

If we think that a growing families necessitates a growing home (which often insinuates moving out of the city), we are missing out on the ways we can adapt the space we currently have to meet our growing needs.

Why can't a family of four be comfortable in a two-bedroom home?
Why can't a family of six live in a three-bedroom home?

I know that there are obvious caveats to this: to keep the average person sane, there must be at least some private space or some way to get away from the others--a quiet reading nook, a cozy bathroom, a backyard patio. So, that's where creativity comes in!

What's the coolest space adaption you've seen a family make?

Photo credits:
1. Apartment Therapy
2. oh happy day
3. Cookie Mag

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Summer is Over?


Today was the first day of class at Cincinnati Public Schools and I'm amazed. Has Summer really passed by so quickly? Did school start this early for me when I was a child?

I've noticed recently how slowly I seem to be moving compared to my surroundings.
Maybe it's my lack of media consumption that keeps me out of the loop;
Maybe it's the constant attention I give to my toddler;
Maybe it's my husband's busy building schedule;
Maybe it's our move from busy Vine St. to this quiet, tree-lined street five blocks away.

In addition to the start of the school year, which always signifies the official end of Summer to me, downtown Cincinnati--and Over-the-Rhine, specifically--seems to be moving very fast. New restaurants; new shops; new neighbors. It's enough to make a girl like myself yell, "Stop! I just can't keep up!" I swear, even though I leave the house every day and walk these streets, I cannot seem to move quickly enough to participate in all the excitement!

More often than not, in conversations with other young parents who live outside the city, I hear a lot of "Oh... I wish I could move into the city, but...." And then they elaborate on one of many (sometimes legitimate) reasons why moving into the city is unrealistic for their family.

To them, I say that there could not be a better time for young families to move into the City of Cincinnati.

Heck, I will go so far as to say that there has never been a better time to live downtown.

(And this is not the idealism of a brand new resident speaking. I've lived in OTR the better part of three years and worked here the two years before that. Even though I may not be a long-term resident yet, I'm definitely not new to the scene.)

It's an exciting time to be in Cincinnati, no?

I only wish I had more time to spend with neighbors, make new friends, eat new foods, buy new goods, and take it all in. Maybe as the weather cools, time will slow down a bit and I will get a chance to really inhabit our great city.

Happy end of Summer, folks!
Maybe I'll catch up with you in the Fall?