When my husband announced he had been offered his dream job — but that it would require us to move our family from Brooklyn to a mountaintop upstate, I surprised myself by saying yes.
I dislike cold weather and am deeply resistant to change. I braced myself for both, but I never considered that the move would make me a different kind of parent.
How quickly we all gave into the pleasures of the country! Waking to our first snow (before Halloween, mind you), I almost burst out laughing. Looking out our bedroom window, our land looked like a movie set. The snow was thick and cottony on the trees. Everything was pristine in its pillowy blankness and silence.
And at night, after years of not seeing a single star, this sky: a black piece of construction paper pin-pricked with a thousand tiny holes, backlit. My two young sons and I sit and look out the window together in silence for a long time. We used to do this in Brooklyn, too, but now instead of looking down at people on the sidewalks on their phones, we are looking up at the stillness.
In the city, you struggle to assert your importance. In the country you must make peace with your insignificance. This different perspective changes my approach to my kids. I am less interested in their specialness and how they stand out and more interested in how they fit in to the larger whole.
The pleasure I least expect is the pleasure of driving my two boys to school each morning. I love packing them, still sleepy, into a warm car and riding with them, none of us saying a word.
Together, we three speed past landscapes and icescapes operatically arranged: frozen lagoons ringed by icy marsh grass and in the center, bare branched sycamore trees. The scene is beach-like in palette, bleached by frost rather than sun or salty tide. And then around the bend, the sun rising up over the mountain as we approach and the mist lifting up off the Housatonic, which is still flowing but partially frozen. Begrudgingly, I concede the beauty of coldness.
As I watch these scenes, I watch my sons take them in as well. I can almost hear the changing rhythm of their Brooklyn poetry and I don’t mind. In the city on the way to school they glided through the streets on scooters like daredevils. Now I watch my sons click into their booster seats, eyes glued to the window, and feel like this is my only job as a mother: letting them see as much as possible.
It is warm in the car. The thermometer tells me it is seven degrees outside. The kids’ cheeks are still a bit greasy from their buttery cinnamon toast. We are, all three, staring out at this alien landscape and we are singing in unison.
When I run into old friends they ask me earnestly if I think it is better to raise kids in the city or the country. My answer is not satisfying but it is true. Both are good: you just see different things.More On