The May 16 article in The Washington Post, “New baby boom fosters culture clash: Parents vs. public spaces,” was a reminder of another change in the neighborhood over the past decade: more small children. (Be sure to skim the comments to the article; there are 479 and comments are closed.)
Where Dupont-Logan-U Street is concerned, I think it is more accurate to say that we now have more upper middle class parents and children in the area. There have always been children in the Logan Circle and U Street areas, but until recently they were primarily minority and poor. Now they are being joined by more moneyed families of all races–and their more expensive accessories.
The Post article offers an accurate (in my opinion) glimpse of the tension that I know exists in urban neighborhoods that are suddenly being repopulated with young parents and their young children. Of course, many of the young parents simply decided to stay after the baby arrived instead of decamping for outer DC neighborhoods or the suburbs.
As noted in the article, tensions arise around young children in restaurants… young children in dog parks… young children on Metro and buses… and those large, expensive strollers. In fact, I counted the word stroller a total of 12 times in the Post article. The strollers (have I seen them with coffee holders?) seem to be a flash point for people who are less than enthralled with either (1) babies in their midst and/or (2) the parents pushing them. As for navigating them, we sometimes see parents pushing strollers in the 15th Street bike lane–a use for which I am sympathetic.
When it comes to dogs versus children, that is another angle of the story. The Borderstan area is rich in pets, both dogs and cats. We boast two dog parks, one on 17th Street and another on 11th Street NW. For many singles and childless couples, their pets are substitute children (not a good idea, just ask any dog trainer). Moreover, I have on numerous occasions railed about parents who bring tiny children into dog parks and instruct them to “play with the doggies.” If you do not understand why this is a horribly dangerous idea, then you probably lack the judgement to own a dog or be entrusted with a small child. If you are a regular reader, you already know that we are a one-dog, no-child household.
I hear both sides of the story–young parents who desperately want to stay in the city and the exasperated childless neighbors and friends who have grown accustomed to living in an all-adult world. I believe that some of the tension is simply due to the reality of smaller families in the United States today, and the creation of inner city areas where singles and childless couples predominate. People have grown accustomed to living in neighborhoods where they do not regularly interact with parents and small children. Now, though, inner city neighborhoods in some cities (New York, Chicago, Washington, for example) have become desirable places for young parents–provided they can afford the hefty real estate price tags.
I admit that the occasional aggressive stroller driver exasperates me and that small children allowed to go “free range” in restaurants make me jittery. However, I dislike it much more when friends move from our downtown neighborhood after babies arrive or reach a certain age. Finally, do we really want a Borderstan neighborhood free of small children anymore than we would want a community without old people?