The suburbs exist, to a certain extent, because of children. In the post-WW II period of U.S. history, many G.I.’s who had grown up in cities were thrilled to learn they were eligible for very affordable home mortgages under the G.I. Bill of Rights --- it became cheaper to buy in the suburbs than rent in the city. The possibility of moving out of the city to the “wide open spaces” of suburbia appealed to young couples (like my parents) and the boom was underway in earnest by 1950. With the Federal Housing Authority & the GI Bill working hand in glove (but “redlining” African-Americans) people like William Levitt started mass producing houses in the suburbs of American cities across the country. Detroit was at its peak, too, and affordable automobiles contributed to the explosion of suburbs nationwide.
Quite naturally, in that Father Knows Best/Ozzie & Harriet world, what accompanied the expansion to the suburbs was the Baby Boom. So, from the very beginning, Kids have been integral to “the suburbs.” And, while our population stopped “booming” in 1964, there have been “boomlets” in the years since (the 1990’s was termed a “Baby Boomlet” decade) and you certainly can’t throw a cat in the suburbs without hitting a child.
Full disclosure: I very consciously chose to not be a parent. While spending 42 years in classrooms (with young people ranging in age from 13 to 23 --- loving every minute of it) I got to observe young people --- and their parents --- at pretty close range. About 20 of those years were in NYC and Boston suburbs, so this is not unfamiliar territory for me. Nonetheless, times change, it’s the 21st century and I’m a crankier old man. Living in the Suburbo for the last four years has brought me into close contact with children (often far younger than those I worked with in classrooms) and has allowed me to observe parents and children in a variety of settings (we already saw the “Grocery Store” example).
So, putting on an ethnographer’s hat, pulling out all my old social science tools from anthropology, sociology, and psychology courses, I’m going to delve into the Suburbo’s world of KIDS. The intent is to amuse, entertain, and (maybe?) inform.
Thanks for reading.
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