I had a pretty perfect childhood. We lived in a wonderful house, in a neighborhood bursting at the seams with kids my age. I received a fantastic education from the award-winning public schools in our area. I played sports, I took singing and piano lessons, I had tons of friends.
I want this same childhood for Annabel, but I’m terrified that it won’t be possible.
My parents were my age when they bought their brand new dream home, the house I grew up in. My dad went to work, and my mom stayed home. My grandmother and great-grandmother lived with us, cementing in me the requirement that my children’s grandparents must always be close to them.
My parents made it seem so easy that I figured this whole, Marriage/House/Baby thing was simple. When I was pregnant with Madeline, I desperately wanted to move out of our condo. I knew that a third person was going to make our cozy place overcrowded. We couldn’t afford it at the time and it ate away at me. I calmed my overzealous urges to nest by telling myself we had plenty of time to get into our perfect house with the perfect backyard for Maddie to run around in. Sigh.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that when I was pregnant with Annabel, my desire to move became a NEED. I didn’t believe we had plenty of time anymore. And so, we looked, and we found a house we liked, a place we could picture ourselves in, but it wasn’t in the cards. 2009 was too cruel a year to us, and banks don’t care that you couldn’t earn income because you were emotionally destroyed from your child’s death.
Obviously, people have plenty of hardships they have to recover from, so we are not unique. We’ve buckled down and saved our pennies, and we’re hoping this is the year we’ll be able to move out of our overstuffed quarters. But then what? Do those magical neighborhoods of my youth still exist? The world is so different now, and things are so much more expensive. So we have to decide what we’re willing to give up. Is it the neighborhood? No. The good public school? No. We certainly don’t want or need to live in a mansion, but the place can’t be falling down, either.
I want Annie to be able to walk to school, and come home in the afternoons and play outside with the kids down the street. I want our dog to rule a backyard of squirrels and bees and flowers. I want the sense of accomplishment that I somehow feel is attached to achieving this idealized way of life. I know these things take time, but life has taught me that we never know when time will run out.
The logical part of me is saying, “life is never how you expect it to be.” And while I’m making the best of what I have (and I’m lucky, I know), I’m just not willing to give up on the dream of having more.
Up front: I’m long winded. Sorry.
I understand your wants and desires. I think most of us as parents all want our children to look back at their childhood so fondly as you do.
Saying that, I did not have even a decent childhood. It was hell. Now I’m not saying this to search for pity. My childhood has made my expectations for my son’s childhood different. He is also a non-verbal, occasional self-harming autistic 3 year old so that certainly changes things.
I don’t know if I even lived in an uppercrust mansion that I would trust society enough to let my child walk to school, even 50 yards. Let’s face it: things have changed since you and I were kids. People are sick.
It’s difficult to be optimistic sometimes but I think we should want these things for our children: a fridge full of food, a nice home (that can be an apartment, a condo, a house–family makes the home), a good education and lots of love from the family. It sounds corny but if my son knows I love him and we have all of these things I will feel like I’ve succeeded at this sometimes seemingly impossible mission called motherhood.
Right now we’re leasing a house, my son is about to start school, and his father and I love him more than life itself. V comes and gives me hugs and kisses all the time. He’s generally a happy kid. He has a small one word vocabulary and doesn’t harm himself anymore.
Just the fact that you concern about these things for your children show that they will have a great childhood. You’re a wonderful mother.
I have to say “bravo” to Mysheli’s comment. I struggle, hard, with the knowledge that I won’t be able to give my daughter everything she deserves… but they’re just things. I have to remember that. Love is what matters.
annie’s awesome childhood memories will be there regardless of where you live. she will look back and it will be all about the life you gave her. they don’t have to be the same as what you hold dear about your childhood .
and backyards are over rated, especially when your husband doesn’t mow the lawn or pick up dog poo (hehehe, my kids future memories…)
Dog poo. Be happy that Rigby is a small dog. We have two labrador retrievers and almost an acre. I don’t even want to THINK about the memories our kids will have. LOL.
I wish you the best of luck in your search for a new home. I too, thought that a house in a nice neighborhood with children and good schools was easily attainable when I was growing up. We are able to live in a pleasant neighborhood within a good school district, but the trade-off is that I have to work. Some days, I’m OK with this while others it rally bothers me…but I’m not sure what the alternative would be.
I share your wish to give a perfect childhood to Annie — I worry in the same way about providing a wonderful life for my daughter.
What balances this desire is the knowledge that while I grew up in what was considered poverty in a family that was rather dysfunctional, moved around a lot, went to mediocre schools where I was socially ostracized — I’ve nonetheless grown into an accomplished, sociable and happy adult. In contrast, several people I know who grew up with the metaphorical white picket fence are miserable adults who seem to carry a lot of baggage from their childhoods.
This leads me to conclude that what make for happy childhood memories aren’t a good neighbourhood or great schools but rather the kind of love and support kids get at home. In my family, for all its problems, there was plenty of encouragement. And that’s what I want to give most of all to my daughter (even though I also want her to have plenty of toys, nice clothes and happy places to play).
When I see pictures of Annie, the things that stand out most are her strength of will and evident happiness. She is so obviously a loved child. And despite whatever stresses she grows up with — an imperfect house, imperfect schools, imperfect neighbourhoods, imperfect parents and the shadow of her older sister’s short life — I’ll bet the awareness that she is adored will be the strongest determinant of how well she’ll do as an adult and how she’ll remember her childhood.
I hope you get your dream house this year — for you! Annie will only mess it up anyway.
I was just talking about this same thing last night with my best friend. We live in townhouse style condos in a ridiculously wealthy neighbourhood in our city. The home here sell for 1.5m+ in a city where a nice middle class neighbourhood home goes for $250,000.
Our children have friends who lives in these houses and it’s hard not to feel that sort of desperate ache for a home of our own when I’m in them.
You’ll get your dream house, it just takes a little while to find the right one for your family.
I had to leave California to find those things. Luckily places like that do exist, but it’s hard to find there! I miss San Francisco every day but I have everything I wanted for my kids now in Michigan. I loved this post. on a day when I really missed my old city (even watched a DVD about SF last night), you have reminded me why we had to leave our friends behind last year to come to a new beautiful place with everything we want. It is better than we imagined here!
I also live in Michigan, after living in California for several years in my 20’s. I miss California, but we could have never had what we have here out there. Those neighborhoods do exist in Michigan and they are super affordable, you just have to tolerate the harsh winters
3 words- east grand rapids
In Michigan. Walk to award winning schools, quaint village yet part of a larger city with tons of fine arts and culture. It’s like a movie set.
I too had an awesome childhood in an awesome neighborhood with awesome schools and friends. I have three kids of my own now, and I’ve found you can have mostly everything you want for them if you’re willing to compromise. In our case, it was the neighborhood…which is fine b/c “these days,” I’d never let them walk out of site alone. I was raised to go out and explore…only returning home for meals. Most of the time my parents had no clue where I was, but knew that my friends parents were watching out for me, and vice versa when my friends were at our house. Now, you have to check Family Watch Dog and ask about guns before sending your kid to someones house. Giving up the neighborhood wasnt so hard because where we live (its VERY rural), everyone is in the same boat, so all the parents make a huge effort to make sure their kids have a safe and active social life…BUT we have the good schools, good friends, and huge backyard where they can run and explore.
You’ll figure it out as you start looking again!
I sincerely hope that this is the year you and Mike can buy your first home. I hate that the California real estate market is so expensive. When I see what the houses cost vs. those in my area (Dallas/Fort Worth), I’m amazed that anyone ever buys a house. Regardless of what or where you purchase, you and Mike are creating wonderful childhoods.
I always thought that I would get married, live in an apartment while I saved for a house, buy a house, and have 2 perfect children. It didn’t work out that way: I bought a house, then got married, and recently moved to one of those kid-friendly neighborhoods with a park and I have no kids!
Heather, I could have written this post myself. I have been wanting to move from our condo for a year now, but so far it hasn’t been in the cards. We’re crossing our fingers that this is the year we can move.
You are not alone in your dreams. I hope that you are able to make them a reality. But I know that no matter where you live, Annie is a very lucky little girl.
Heather, you know that life has other plans for you! Your perfect house will find you, your perfect neighbourhood will be the one you first said no to. Life has that way of turning everything upside down to get you where IT wants you.
We had an offer in on a house, talked to the planning dept about an extension, barely any work needed, within our budget – perfect. But something kept dragging me back to one picture in the free paper. So I viewed it, on my own, and they werent expecting me so sent me away. But it nagged at me and I re-arranged and went with my husband and mum.
What you couldnt see from the front, and what wasnt explicit in the description, was the size of the garden. The house had been on the market for over 18mths, was FILTHY, needed a new roof, heating, electrics, windows and decorating (urgh lilac and grey, poo brown wallpaper, shudder). My husband and I looked at each other before we went in and and KNEW we wanted it. We hadnt wanted loads of work but we knew the house was right for us.
So we bought the ‘hard work’ house. And 5 years on, sorry 6 years on, most of the work is done. And the garden is full of mud and 2 puppies and 2 children, swings, trampoline, veggie plots, trees, bike and tool sheds – oh and it faces south southwest and gets sun most of the day!
Life leads us down unimaginable paths for reasons that may never be known to us but always for a reason. That house will happen when you least expect it.
Heather, I do hope that those magical neighborhoods still exist as that is where we are planning to move next year!
I can empathize with your feelings, definitely. We have been trying since my daughter was born to get to a place where she can have a childhood similar to mine and my husband’s.
I do feel, though, like the house, the stay-at-home mom, all of those things are added bonuses to the real element that made your childhood so wonderful–love, affection, and support from your family and those around you. I’m sure there are plenty of people who grew up with the school, the house, and the surface things but wouldn’t call their childhood perfect. It is clear that Annie has all of the non-negotiables in place; she is loved, she is cared for, and she is cheered on by everyone around you. The fancy yard, the school, the singing lessons–those are the added bonuses that I hope she will have eventually, but not the necessities to the perfect childhood.
For me, it took until my daughter was 5. The spring before kindergarten started. And finally, we could afford our perfect house with our perfect backyard in the perfect neighborhood where she goes to an award winning elementary school. She can’t walk home, but it’s still such a dream come true. And it IS WORTH THE WAIT until you can get exactly what you want.
I know people who have wonderful memories of growing up in their third-floor walkup in Brooklyn. If you ask them, they had the “perfect childhood” too.
Love is what makes a family, love is what we remember, and the memories we keep are the ones wherein we were the happiest. Annie has everything she needs – a mom and a dad who love her without limit. The rest is cake, Heather.
That said — I hope all your dreams for the perfect house and yard and all the trimmings come true.
I struggled with the same thing. I myself had a great childhood; a nice house, two loving parents, friends down the street, etc… When my husband and I got together it was just expected that we would have a house and cars and everything that I thought was “normal”. My husband did not have the same upbringing as I did… and therefore, he did not expect much, but he knew these things were important to me, so we would try to make them happen as much as we could.
We have been together for almost 11 years, married for 5, and in that time, we managed to have two cars, a lovely house and a beautiful 2 1/2 year old son. Not to brag, but we are also managing to have me stay at home with our son until he goes to kindergarten.
Having said this, money is not overflowing to say the least. We are not going into debt at all, but we also don’t have it coming out of the ears like we did in our old apartment before kids and marriage. It always upsets me that this is the new way of life; that not only are women “allowed” to work (which is GREAT), but we are now completely expected to, even in a family situation. We MUST have two incomes to be comfortable; I think we shot ourselves in the foot a bit there. Back when we were kids, the income to expenses ration was WAY different, and it bothers me that no one seems to notice that. Our parents and their parents before them had WAY more money than expenses compared to our generation. Side note: this is why it is funny when our parents don’t understand why houses cost so much and why we aren’t all going to be millionaires by the time we retire, since saving for your retirement is more well known. Well, maybe it’s more well known, but now we don’t have the money to do it properly.
So although we are making it, I am always a bit grouchy that it comes at such a price and with such sacrifice. We, as moms (or dads), are not just able to stay home with the kids, most people can’t swing it. I feel very fortunate that my husband has a good job, but it would be nice to not have to still watch every penny.
Good luck with finding that balance for Annie, I know you will figure out a way.
I agree that “the income to expenses ration(ratio?) was WAY different” when we were kids, but that’s because people have so much more stuff and live a much more luxurious lifestyle now. Think about it: a generation or two ago, families did not buy (and keep paying for) cell phone service; cable TV service; MP3 players, game systems, computers and internet service, movie rentals or Netflix, giant screen TVs, Palm Pilots/iPads, and other electronic gadgets. They lived in much smaller homes: according to the National Association of Home Builders, the average home size in the United States was 2,330 square feet in 2004, up from 1,400 square feet in 1970. They did not, as a rule, have amenities like granite countertops, fancy high-end appliances, and multiple bathrooms. They did not own multiple cars (in 1999, the average household owned 1.9 cars; in higher income brackets, it was 2.8 cars.) They did not go out to eat nearly as often (now, nearly one out of three meals is eaten outside the home.) So yes, they had far fewer expenses–but they lived a much less costly lifestyle.
Thank you! I feel like I’m going through this situation as well. I want it all and yet I know it will never happen. My husband and I both have to work, there is no other option and probably never will be. He likes his job and I like mine, we are both teachers and have no intentions of moving into higher paying positions, but that comes at the cost of not being able to stay home with my kids. And then there’s the whole thing that we too are in a too small condo. I dream of a wrap around porch home with an extra hobby room and kitchen that flows into the backyard which is fenced in with a swing set and full of neighborhood kids and pets. And because of where I live and the money that we don’t have it’s just a dream that will never come true. But you are right, so right, I realize I am lucky with what I do have and I am grateful for my life. It just seems like “back then” it was easier to have THAT life. Ya know?!
I completely understand your dream and even need to move into a house with the big backyard, lots of kids in the neighborhood, etc. That was me last year. We had completely outgrown our condo and the idea of bringing another child into that cramp space was just not going to work for me. It was hard, and we had to give up some things but we found our “perfect for us right now” house.
Take your time, you will get there. You’ll find what your looking for. You may need to give up a few things, it might not seem perfect at first but it will be perfect because you guys will make it that way. The perfect childhood is more about the love, affection and incredible environment created by our parents and less about the tangible things like the house and the backyard, etc.
Good luck. I hope you find exactly what you are looking for.
Oh Heather, I so wish for you to have all of those things. I’m usually a glass half full kind of gal but recently life has shown me it’s ugly side and it’s hard to feel so positive. The only thing I am sure of is that Annie is SO lucky and blessed to have you and Mike as parents, that is the only thing she needs is the 2 of you. Everything else will fall into place. My little girl is losing her daddy, and the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood and great school is crumbling before my eyes. I don’t know what kind of future I’ll be able to provide for her with just a high school education. I hope all your dreams come true Heather I truly do, and maybe they will but as long as the 3 of you are together, any place will be awesome. (As long as the schools are good and safe. )
You will get there. Find a great realtor. You may have to move a little farther than you planned, but you will find the perfect house. Also, the listed price isn’t what you will pay. The market still sucks so you are in the driver’s seat. If you don’t find one right away, be patient. Annie will be fine and will find her own normal. Don’t beat yourself up if she grows up a little differently, different can be great!
I know EXACTLY what you mean about life taking sudden turns on you! When we bought our 2nd house, I was working full time and at the time, we only had a 3 yr old and 1 yr old. Little did we know at that time, a year and a half later I would be pregnant with our 3rd baby (well, 8th total baby), and 18 months after that I would become extremely ill and would no longer be physically able to work.
Now, we are still in our home, in our dream neighbourhood but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a struggle at times. I never EVER thought by 35 yrs of age my body would be robbed of it’s ability to work…or even just to live without relentless pain 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week. But, it is….. such is life. You do what you have to do…or what you’re MADE to do!
I KNOW YOUR house is out there just waiting for your family within the neighbourhood you want. I think things happen for a reason. Even though there seems to be no reason at all at times and sometimes life is so overwhelming, it just SUCKS. But, it is b/c of those times the positive things that happesn are just so much sweeter.
You’re house will come when you probably least except it and when you walk in, you’ll just know it’s yours, just like we knew.
I wish I had the money to help you some. I look at some of the houses in Malibu and I would just LOVE to be able to help you buy a house there. It’s so beautiful!!!
Keep pluggin’ away and before you know it, you’ll be posting this from your new home…and it will be EVERYTHING you want and MORE!!!!
I think it’s important to remember that finding your dream house, as first time home buyers, is hard. Our first house was NOT our dream house. It was a duplex. In a subdivision. BUT, we thought it was pretty, we had plenty of room, we had a garage and a yard and it was a quick walk to the playground. It was safe for our oldest to play outside, when she was old enough to trust to stay where we told her.
There were so many things about that house and that neighborhood that we compromised on. It was NOT the house that was living in my dreams, but it was the right house. You and Mike will find yours, too. I’m sure of it.
Snickrsnack Katie says:
The American Dream is just that – a dream. We all have grandiose notions of how things were when we were growing up. The fact is – things weren’t perfect for our parents, and they had to struggle every day to give us what we had. And the times we are in are starkly contrasted to the times we grew up in. Nowadays, it is pretty tough for a family to have one income and a stay at home mom, quite honestly. Especially in a place like California. Now, I am not telling you to go out and get a job or to move to another place – but I am saying, don’t be so hard on yourself. You live in the most financially unstable, expensive state in the nation! It sounds to me like you are doing pretty darn well. I don’t think that means that you should have to live in your condo forever, but honestly – that is a lot better off than many people right now.
Do you own the condo, by the way? If so, at least that is helping your credit. Also, have you considered moving to a different part of California? Maybe the area you are in is particularly expensive.
Just keep your head up and know there are a lot of us in your position. My husband and I rent a home right now in Houston, and I am always wishing that I could own. The fact is – this economy sucks, taxes are high, and it scares the heck out of me when I think of all of those home expenses! Yikes! I know for right now, we are just fine living the way we do. (Then again, we have a huge yard and lots of room, so I guess I really can’t complain).
You will get that house eventually. Just keep on saving, expand your options, and keep a positive attitude!
I know exactly how you feel. We were also in a very small townhome that we bought before our daughter was born. Then the market crashed and suddenly our place was less than half of what we owed. As soon as our little princess pumpkin came home and all of the baby stuff overcame our tiny living/dining room combo area, I became obsessed with getting a bigger home. It was a tough battle and took us 3 years, but we moved into a larger home 5 months ago! While it is not the home of our dreams, it is more spacious and with time it can be what we want. (It may have to do for the rest of lives the way this world and economy is!) Now the new dilemma we face: our expenses have gone up and we want another child. But cannot afford it. So bigger house, but other desires are on the back burner. It is so hard. Hang in there, and seek out a great mortgage broker and realtor at the time you are ready to look. There are so many options for mortgages out there. We did an FHA loan and only had to put 3.5% down, which was quite helpful to us. We can only wish to have what most of us had growing up for our own children. (I even had a horse when I was younger! My daughter will be lucky to get to just ride a pony three times in a circle for $5.00). I play the lottery all the time.
It is the only way I can really dream. Good luck!!
I have to disagree with the first poster. The world is NOT a worse place than when we grew up – we just hear about more. Yes, there are some sick people out there who want to harm us and our children, but we cannot live our lives acting like they are around every corner.
Off my soapbox now…..there are places where you can walk to school, live in a great house with a great school nearby. Walking to school is a wonderful experience and one that teaches independence and self-reliance. We live in an area where my son plays outside all day with his neighborhood friends. Do I worry? Yes. We live in a cul-de-sac, so I don’t worry about traffic, but more about kidnapping/bike injuries, etc.
I understand how tough things are. I’ve been out of work for over a year and we are struggling. You will get there. Hugs to you all.
Mary M says:
They do exist. It really is true–we have one of those neighborhoods. Six years ago we started looking — in the Arlington/Alexandria VA/DC area where we were renting and realized that if we wanted to buy, we couldn’t buy there — it was just too expensive. So we kept looking and looking and looking farther out from the city. And finally, after a contract fell through (thank God for home inspections!!!) we found out house.
It is tiny and old (160 years) and needed a lot of TLC (the old owners had lived there 50 years and did a lot of ‘improvements’ themselves); but has a fenced in yard and the best neighborhood. It’s not near DC, but instead about 10 minutes south of Baltimore. I swear Norman Rockewell would feel right at home.
An example, the first Halloween we asked out neighbor how much candy to buy. We were gobsmacked when she told us that she left out the candy on her porch with a sign to take just one. But sure enough, we watched as the kids would come up, take one and leave.
So yes, Heather, good, SAFE, neighborhoods where your Annie can walk to school and the local milk store are still out there. They just take some digging to find. Our trade off is that I still work in DC and have awful commutes (officially ranked this year as worst int he nation!)– but since my husband is a SAHD we know that our daughter will grow up knowing just how much she is loved and cherished. Don’t give up your dream, just look for new ways to create it.
Most of the life you talk about is still possible. We have a beautiful house we bought right after we were married with room enough for our 3 dogs to enjoy the outdoors. It’s in a great, family-friendly neighborhood and my folks and sisters live within 10 minutes of me. Don’t give up the dream… It’s what makes life so great–believing in the things that you think are out of your reach, but, in the end, actually aren’t. =)
You must not give up on finding your happy place…your happy home. I think we all dream of what we want for our children (or in my case FUTURE children), sure it may not be easy to accomplish all of what we want, but I will not settle when it comes to my (future) children. And I know you won’t either!! Good luck with the house hunt!
If we had a good childhood, we want of course what we had. I grew up in a house with a big backyard. That’s what I wanted. My husband grew up in big cities in tiny apartments. That’s what he wanted. We compromised and live in the suburbs, not too far away from city life or country life, in a townhouse instead of a single family with a very small backyard. Sometimes I still wish for an acre of land and my own space, my husband daydreams about not having to take care of any lawn at all. I wonder if we are ever truly happy. I think if you are an average person, you are always a little ambitious. You are always looking ahead, hoping your life will change and get better. And you make it change. It’s called progress, and it’s a mainstay of our societal evolution. But it sure does make it hard to take a breath, and appreciate what we do have, and live in the moment. I hope you are able to do that. I struggle every day to do that. It’s fabulous when I succeed.
A house is wonderful and a hardship. The mortgage is always a huge worry. My son was 9 before we were able to own our place. We rented a series of ever larger places before that. Thank goodness we waited and saved. We were able to afford a much nicer place than I thought possible. But you know, I don’t see any difference in how happy my children are–one who grew up without a house and one who’s never known anything but this house. I think one poster already said this–by all means, at some point buy a house, but don’t fool yourself. It’s for you, not the kids. They will be happy and well-adjusted as long as they are loved.
I live in the type of place you are talking about, but it’s not in California. Peachtree City, GA is usually named in the top 10 places to live in the U.S. – everybody rides their golf cart to the grocery store. Love it!
When you find a neighborhood in a good school district, you’ll find a neighborhood of families. Some Annie’s age, some old enough to babysit. Even before you start looking start making a list with The stuff you need: a back yard, two full bathrooms, good schools, the stuff you’d like but don’t necessarily need all, and attic or a basement, nearby pool, a fence stuff that’s a bonus: a fireplace, a tree swing, and the also a list of stuff you don’t want: a home owners association etc. While a foreclosed home may have a tempting price tag, you’ll probably have to put in a lot more work than one that’s not. Find the right Realtor, give them the list, don’t be afraid to switch realtors if the first one doesn’t work out.
I totally want you guys for neighbors. You can move, right? Our school district is great. The neighborhood here is great and I bet you could afford to live in an even better neighborhood within the district. Whadda ya say?
I was going to say something similar to an above post, I think if you find a good school district you’ll find a good neighborhood with lots of kids pretty close. I wish you the best of luck in the hunt and I’m sure wherever you move Annie will grow up in a happy home and have LOTS of great memories!
I hope that you are able to get everything in a house that you wish for and more. It is an investment, and your home. It’s a wonderful thing to have the space and yard and be able to sprall out.
So I have read your blog for awhile, just not much of a commenter…
I have always wanted this for my little family. I didn’t have the most ideal childhood. But my mom did what she could. And I look back with fondness. I remember the house… the yard… I remember it all. I wanted that house for my son. We finally caught a break and were able to save up for our home. Jan 6, 2011 we closed escrow and got the keys to our very first home. Here in so cal mind you! We always thought we’d have to move out of state (not an option, our family is here) to buy a house. We live in Long Beach… a GREAT area of LB. Award winning schools here. And affordable homes. They are quainte little homes… built in 1953. And all ours. You should check out areas outside of LA but still close enough to go back. We love our little slice of the American Dream. Check it out! If you want areas please feel free to email me! Lord knows we searched the high heavens for a great neighborhood, great school district all within a realistic budget!
Well, I’ll admit that I know California is different from Louisiana, and I have never lived anywhere but the Southeast, where home prices are pretty reasonable for the most part – but even where I live, we had to compromise on some of the factors. Public schools are not the best option in our city, but the public/private hybrid school my daughter attends is about 2 miles away – no walking to school, the roads are too scary (compromise #1 and #2).
Our priority was the house and neighborhood, and we got it! We lived in a tiny 80 year old house for several years while we saved up and paid on our dream. Now we live on a cul de sac, our neighborhood has sidewalks and no through streets, and we have 1.5 acres in the city limits (admittedly, the largest lot in the neighborhood because we have a drainage servitude in the back). Here’s the thing – in the afternoons, my kids run around the cul de sac with the other kids, ride their bikes up and down the street, and moms and dads converge on our front porch to drink some wine, chat, and watch the kids frolic. This is my idea of heaven, so I TOTALLY get what you are saying, and I hope and pray that you and your family will find it this year!
Gale @ Ten Dollar Thoughts says:
Heather – Don’t stop wanting more. This desire, this drive – it is a good thing. It makes us think critically. It makes us prioritize. It makes us dream big dreams and work hard to realize them. You desire is an aspect of your passion. And your passion is an aspect of you that should never be explained, squelched, or whittled away. Embrace it. You know well that life doles out all sorts of things we can’t control and would wish away. Such hardship, in the absence of our desires, would stop us cold. It is because you wanted more that you had a second child. It is because you want more that you’re still dreaming these dreams today. And it is because you want more that you will work for more, and probably someday you will have it. Don’t apologize for your wants. Ever.
I highly recommend reading “The Two Income Trap”. For most of the US, house prices are still a comparable percentage of one’s income as in the late 40s.
It’s not where a child lives that matters. It’s HOW a child lives.
Also, have you spoken with your parents about the challenges they had to maintain that American dream? As children, we only see the material–the shiny new house, the SAHM, the good stuff. We aren’t (usually) privvy to the late night discussions about the mortgage, the car loan, what needs to be cut out, etc.
You ARE giving Annie the ultimate American dream–a happy, healthy family, with all her needs (and many wants) met. Anything above that is gravy
I’m afraid those neighborhoods don’t exist many places anymore. We bought a house about a year ago, in a nice neighborhood, with the best schools in our Southern California city. Our block has sidewalks and I dreamed of my daughters running down the cul-de-sac to play with their friends.
However, it turns out the neightborhood is 100% retired people. Lovely, but no kids anywhere to be found. It turns out you are not the only young family who can’t afford to buy – so neighborhoods with lots of young families who actually own and will stay a long time are few and far between. I believe they exist, somewhere, but not too many in So Cal.
At any rate, I still understand the desire to own a home and settle down for that idealic childhood. The good news is you really have until Annie starts kindergarten to get that figured out. That was my only goal – get settled by the time they start school. Then they can make friends they will have for life!
Hold tight to that dream, Heather. The fact that you care so deeply about this shows what a wonderful mother you are.
You’ll find your version of utopia. It may not be exactly the same as the childhood you had but all the important elements will be there: love, family, friendship. You’ll find the perfect backdrop for your life. That house with the perfect neighborhood for your family is out there. Maybe you should start looking in that neighborhood that you looked in before to see if there is a home similar to the one you wanted.
Dream big! When you let the bar fall lower, you are willing to settle for a lot less. Who wants that?
I agree with what was said earlier–be careful not to idealize; it may have been harder to make ends meet, to live with your parents, than you realize. And nostalgia makes everything look a little softer.
I think a lot of us in this generation are facing that we will have less–the single-family home being the biggest signifier of that. I suggest this: get the good neighborhood, the good neighbors, and the good schools. Then live in a tiny place. Kids don’t care about living in a small place–parents do. They will make the *world* their playground–the sidewalks, their friends’ houses, the local park. And what a great way to grow up! Kids in big houses these days–unlike when we were kids–seem too plugged in to the computer and video games to go outside ever. If the house is cramped, there’s a great reason to explore, to make friends, to make the neighborhood into a backyard. City kids have to share two-bedroom apartments, and lots of people grow up great that way.
Keep in mind that you had the perfect childhood…for YOU. Annie’s idea of the perfect childhood might be something completely different! And your ideas of that perfect childhood were very much shaped by what you already had…just like Annie’s will be. Chances are, because you and Mike are already loving, dedicated, committed parents, Annie will grow up thinking that wherever she lives and however she lives was the perfect childhood…and want that for her own kids. : )
We all want something more…but very often I have to put myself in my kids’ shoes and really think about things from their perspective. Do THEY feel anything’s missing from our (tiny tiny)home? I doubt it. Whatever they have feels “right” to them, and feels like the way it “should” be. So although *I* want more…they are just fine.
Just my two cents. : )
Dreams are good. Even if they take a long time to realized. The fact that you and Mike can still bring yourselves to dream at all is nothing short of a miracle, and I am in awe. You’ll get there.
I hear ya and I can relate on some level… I’ve been out of college for about five years and I received a letter from one of my student loan lenders outlining a repayment plan that goes into 2028. A house is definitely not on my horizon.
And as a final note (so that this one is not all about me!), I’m sure Annabel will have a happy childhood regardless of where she calls home.
Amy Collen says:
I haven’t had a chance to read the posts so I may be repeating myself. Yes, you can have a wonderful neighborhood and a great place to raise your family. You may have to leave L.A. though, it is just too darn expensive. I live in a wonderful area right now with affordable houses and everything. The schools are great too! Plus there is a hot air balloon festival every year (hope that gave you a good clue as to where I am :). I am also part of a wonderful mom’s club and that really adds to the homey feeling.
So give it some thought. Just know that there are a lot of great affordable places out there. You just have to get away from the major cities a bit.
FWIW, and I don’t know what it’s like anymore (my parents moved when I was 10), but I grew up in Culver City, near where Sepulveda and Jefferson cross, and it was pretty much that perfect childhood, even in busy/expensive LA. Cul-de-sacs for bike riding, a great park (Lindberg Park) a couple blocks away with a 4th of July parade and fireworks and where my soccer practice always was, the library very close by, bike rides on the path next to La Ballona creek, Target across the street… oh yeah, and TONS of kids. Everyone had kids and we all ran around to each other’s houses and the park and played hockey in the street. My parents did group-babysitting with neighborhood families all the time, where the parents all took turns watching each others’ kids, and they felt like awesome bonus sleepovers to us. The hardest part about my parents moving was feeling so lonely in the new neighborhood (Westwood– no kids). One great way to gauge a good kids’ neighborhood? Ask the neighbors what Halloween is like, how many trick-or-treaters they get. At Dobson we had to stock up with buckets of candy to keep up with the demand every year… BEST time of the year. Rachel
I’m with you Heather. I think we were a bit spoiled where we grew up. I wanted a decent house with grass & dirt for my kids to dig their toes into. I wanted good schools & safe neighborhoods & bicycles w/ bells ringing down the street. And honestly, I found that its hard to do in California, unless you’re bringing in a significant amt of income. I should note, I didn’t research all of CA, just close to where we went to HS.
But I concluded that we couldn’t afford to live in in the are we all grew up in w/ the money we were making & the upkeep an older house there requires.
So we moved. And luckily our family moved too. And we have all that in Idaho & we have a big new house & a great big backyard w/ a school a block away & a clean Downtown just 12 miles away.
It’s not California, but its the closest I’ve found to NP, even though we have to fly to see extended family every once in awhile. But you can have your dream, it just might look a little different than the picture in your head. We did it & we’ve never been happier.
LA sucks…we know your pain, we really really really do….
We found that in La Crescenta. I love that my daughters walk to school and that we have a yard. It feels safe, the schools are good from elementary through high school. It can be smoggy some days, and it is too far from the beach, but it feels like a great combination of living in LA with a Mayberry feel. There is some ethnic and a lot of economic diversity, no traffic, mature trees and lots of parks. Keep looking for the right neighborhood for you. I think the best thing about LA is that there really is somewhere for everyone.
Hi! I’m de-lurking to comment, although I’ve read you for a long time.
I understand that you want your childhood ideal for Annabel. We all remember fondly Wuzzles and Rainbow Brite, Cabbage Patch, Barbie, Strawberry Shortcake and Saturday morning cartoons, and playing Red Light, Green Light outside until the streetlights came on (uh, so I hear. I was reading.)
I understand too, how disappointing and stressful it is to feel as if you’ve failed if you can’t recreate this for Annie, because there is no way that if we are able to expand our family that my husband and I will be able to afford to settle where I grew up. Not only are the schools not so great any more, we’d be paying half a million dollars for a 40 year old fixer-upper colonial.
My Mom has shared with me how she felt about my childhood compared to hers, “when it was safe enough to walk from youth group at the Episcopal church all the way home at night, and people never locked their doors. Never. Now we drive you everywhere.” While materially I wound up having it easier than Mom and her siblings, she still looked back with nostalgia and regret, feeling as if time and society placed constraints that she was unable to surmount: locking our doors was not optional, and she did not feel safe having me walk around town alone.
You’re going to care a lot more than Annie about what you’re able to give her. Annie will find her own niche: kids are everywhere, no matter where you’ll live, and whether she has friends within walking distance or not doesn’t matter, as long as you’re invested in making sure she is happy and social (which of course, I know you are). No matter where you wind up you will make your house into a home for her, but I do understand wanting more, or as good as, as our parents gave us. With today’s economy that’s not possible though, and it took me a long time to make peace with the fact that we’ll have to take a slightly different path.
I really agree with what Molly said up there. It’s really parents who care if their kids live in a small place or not. Kids don’t care. My brother and I were city kids and we grew up in about 5 different apartments- we moved a lot. We shared a room in a 2 bedroom apartment. But we still always rode our bikes around the apartment. We still make-believed we were secret agent spies and talked to each other in our toy walkie-talkies. We both had a good childhood, maybe not perfect but I know my brother and I don’t look back thinking “man, sure would have been nice to live in a house with a backyard”. We look back and think how much fun we had!
I think regardless where y’all and Annabel will live, she will be happy because she’s got such great folks like y’all. And I think it’s good that you’re not willing to give up on the dream to have more. It just shows you’re a good mom and you and your husband just want the best for their child. All good parents want the very best for their child.
For obvious reasons, I don’t want to broadcast exactly where I live…but I live in Pennsylvania, and I live in a neighborhood with tons of houses, a street full of kids the same ages as mine, with award winning public schools. The taxes are higher than I would like, but kids DO walk to school here. Mine ride the bus, but when the weather is nice, we could walk. People have dogs and fenced backyards…the town is nice…people know each other and help each other. When my daughter was in the hospital a few weeks ago with RSV and Bronchiolitis, the neighbors brought dinner to my husband and other two kids. They gave my oldest a ride to karate, and the youngest a ride to preschool. When we got home, they dropped off gatorade and asked what else they could do….it’s a good place, with good people. And yes, we struggle to make ends meet sometimes, but this is the closest thing to that dream like my own childhood there is…don’t give up hope.
You gotta go for your dreams, if you don’t dream, you won’t have anything to shoot for. Dream big! I had a very similar childhood, and our parents were very much like yours. They made it seem so easy. Buying a house is a big deal, but it also provides security. Look in the burbs, things are usually somewhat cheaper than in a big city. I don’t know about CA, but houses are so much cheaper in Ohio. It’s not so hard to buy a house here. I can’t imagine how anyone buys these tiny houses for 400k, 500k? Our house here costs $92,500. we have 2300 square feet. Not huge, but not small. We have 5 bedrooms and a city lot. In CA, a similar house would cost far, far more. How do you do it? I always wonder this when I see all the “property virgin” and similar shows. Hmmm. I would be very interested to hear how this goes for you – saying prayers that you find just what you are looking for!
I had your same vision once, but am living a different reality. My reality is better than I thought it would be given some of the choices we made.
I grew up in N. Calif in the Beaver Cleaver family. My dad worked, my mom was a SAHM, my brother is 4 years younger than me. We lived down the street from my elementary school, walking distance to all schools, including the Jr. High and High School. I played with my friends in the neighborhood and participated in sports at all the schools I went to.
Both sets of my grandparents lived 3 hours away my whole life.
My husband and I both have to work. Our first house was small but on a nice size lot in a cul-de-sac. We loved our neighbors and hung out with them all the time. After both my girls were born (ages 1.5 and 3.5 at the time) I HAD to move. The place shrunk. I could not live through a remodel. I knew it. My husband knew it. We found a HUGE house in a ~so-so~ neighborhood for a killer price. The house was going into foreclosure. It needed work but we were up to the challenge. My husband is very handy. I’m a bit of a neighborhood snob and this is not my dream neighborhood. It’s eclectic, many really nice houses and many dog houses too thanks to inheritance of some homes and rentals. My kids do not attend the local public school, like I always thought they would, because I had too many fears about the education they’d receive there. It’s rated a 6 out of 10 year after year. The principal lives across the street from me.
My kids do not play with the neighborhood kids. They don’t even know more than 2. We live on top of a hill so they can’t ride bikes, or scooters in the neighborhood either, like I did as a child. They do ride in our long driveway and backyard sometimes.
We choose to attend a Catholic school starting in pre-school (lowest tuition prices for private schools) where we have made strong relationships with the families there. It’s a great community of people and the teachers LOVE the kids. My kids LOVE the teachers. My kids, ages 8 and 10 now, participate in the parish (Oakland Diocese CYO) sports program doing volleyball, basketball, track & field and soccer through the city rec. I can’t say more good things about the school community.
We drive the girls to the local school to ride their bikes and roller blade and scooter. They have close a very relationship to my parents who moved 3 hours away before they were born. (ironically)
My kids don’t live the life I lived, but their life is really good. REALLY good.
Sometimes different works out.
I grew up in Brentwood. I lived 2 ½ blocks from the elementary school and started walking to school by myself when I was in second grade. I can’t imagine letting a 7 year old walk alone in today’s world. Back in the day, all the neighborhood kids on the block played with each other OUTSIDE. In the front. Not in the back yard because it was safer. We ran and roller skated and skateboarded up and down our street until it was time to come in for dinner. We climbed in our neighbor’s tree and he didn’t care. We played on our neighbors’ lawns and they didn’t care, except for the mean lady across the street. There’s always one of those. When a new kid moved in on our street, we all went and introduced ourselves and then asked if the new kid could come out and play. When Jeri Z hurled my sister onto the sidewalk (some stupid game we were playing) and my sister broke her arm, no one was sued. It was just kids being kids and those things happened. Sadly Brentwood has changed since then and so has the world in which we live. I drive down the street I grew up on and I never see kids playing outside.
Even though I lived in Brentwood my entire life, first my parents’ house then my apartment, I could never afford to buy a place in Brentwood. And I was tired of what Brentwood was becoming. So in 2006 I bought my first place in Santa Clarita. I absolutely adore the SCV. I love the sort of small town feel and openness, while not being terribly far from the city and clubs and such. I love that we kind of have seasons in the SCV. It even snowed, and snowed hard, for a solid day not too long ago. We recently bought a second house and the new neighborhood kind of reminds me of when I was a kid. It’s so weird after so many years to actually see neighborhood kids playing outside with each other. Nice to see that these neighborhoods still exist. The SCV might be too far for you guys to move, but it’s affordable and I hear the public schools are really good.
I totally relate to you. I have this overwhelming need to get out og my tiny condo, but everything is so expenive. I put a lot of pressure on myslef to have what my aprents never did, a house. I WANT it and I always thought I would ahve one. But like you say things never work out the way you think. I always thought I would stay home too but that is not possible..we jsut have to make the best life we can with what we have.
Come to the midwest. I live outside of Kansas City in just the neighborhood you describe, my kids walk to an amazing public school, we are friends with all the people on our street and their many kids, and the cost of living is such that I can stay home if I want. It’s great…but so is living near a beach…
you start with your list of unfudgables–is that a word? who cares. and you look. and look. and look some more. you’ll know when you’ve crossed the threshold of the place where a porchswing will hold you and your honey while watching your girl chase butterflies and dragonflies as the sunsets. it won’t be perfect. you’ll likely compromise some. in the end it won’t matter. because it will be home.
and if you need anyone to write a letter to any bank to vouch for how solidly your due some freakin’ financial grace (from them and the universe), let us know. hell, if it’s one of the big ones, they have some of a couple mil. in bailout money. so hipsta, please. hook a girl up!
“More” comes in many disguises. I don’t know what suburban culture was like when you were growing up, but I lived in the ‘burbs till I was 12 and we were just surrounded by assholes. The adults were superficial and self-important, and their kids were picking it up fast. My dad’s mom died when I was 12, and my parents bought her 100-year-old run-down house and moved us across the country. We lived in midtown and you know what? Neighbors were 100x nicer, I went to an AMAZING high school, and I came back after college. My mother feels like she failed us because we didn’t have money or nice things, but I think I turned out so much better than I would have if we’d stayed in the ‘burbs with the Asshole Brigade.
It was nice to read so many comments that I could relate to or hope to some day relate to. My husband and I bought our house when we were engaged. We will have lived here 8 years this spring. We NEVER thought we’d live here this long. It was a first house… something we didn’t expect to really raise a family in. Something we didn’t expect to be trapped in in a crappy economy. Something we are outgrowing with a third baby on the way.
Sadly, our dream to move out and move up is no where near our fingertips as we thought it would be 8 years ago. We thought we’d live here a few years, build some equity (and avoid “throwing our money away” by paying rent) and move to that house I’d dreamed of raising my children in.
Instead, here we are… in a too small house, in a neighborhood I don’t want to live in, in a house worth significantly less than what we owe, living on one small income, barely making ends meet. It’s not what I dreamed of, but it could be worse and I try to remind myself to appreciate the things we do have.
I agree with many of the above comments that Annie will have a wonderful childhood regardless of the size of the house or the number of other kids in the neighborhood. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I had an awful childhood because the house was too small!”
A lot of what got so many people in financial trouble these past few years was buying the maximum house that they could afford. Then, someone lost their job or their hours got cut or the cost of living went up but their salaries didn’t, and the house was no longer affordable. I’ve also talked to countless people who talk about wanting to work less so they can go back to school or spend more time with their kids but they just can’t afford it. And honestly, I look at their large houses and their new cars and I wonder where the priorities really are.
I hate to sound preachy — I just don’t want to see you guys, or anyone, fall into that middle class trap of working your butts off and never having enough. Annie has two loving parents who will do everything they can to make sure she has a wonderful childhood. The material stuff is gravy.
Those neighborhoods do exist! I live in one! All the neighborhood kids walk to the elementary school, which is just one block from our house. In the mornings at 8:15, it’s like all the houses spew children out onto the sidewalks and there is this parade of little people headed to school, with the bigger ones looking out for the smaller ones and the occasional parent mixed in to carry a project or heavy bag. Then it reverses at the end of the school day and at 3:20 they all come back. Usually, about 15 minutes after that, they start coming back outside to play. At times, there will be as many as 10 kids running around, usually winding up in someone’s yard on a swing set or riding scooters down the sidewalks. The yard is fenced so the dog has free reign. We picked it for exactly the reasons you talked about – because that’s the kind of childhoods we had and we wanted our kids to have the same. The houses are nice but not grand, but they’re homes and that’s what matters. Some moms don’t work, some do, out of necessity or to preserve sanity. In the nice weather, the parents are just as likely to wind up on one person’s porch, just impromptu, as we watch the kids play and maybe share a glass of wine. Other posters are correct, buying a house almost always involves compromise. We always say we bought the neighborhood and our house just happened to be the one that was for sale at the time. I hate my kitchen. The bedrooms are small. But I wouldn’t change the location for anything and the carefree kind of life my kids are enjoying because of where we live. Enjoy the hunt for your new home!
I feel the same way!
There is not a parent out there that does not want more or better for their children. It is normal to want what you want. We made a major move this last year to get what you describe, and it was worth it.
Don’t give up your dream. It will come true in the right time.
Thank you! I know exactly how you feel. Just a few days ago I had a panic attack about my 5 year old daughter and almost 2 year old son having to share a room for the rest of their time under my roof. We are STUCK in a two bedroom townhouse. I already work full-time, so it is not like I can go back to work and come up with the money we need to move. Thankfully, later that night I listened on the monitor as she read books to him after we put them to bed. They laughed and giggled and he yelled her name for a long time after she got tired and turned her back to him. I guess I just realized it is what it is and there are worse things than not getting the life I dreamed of while I was growing up in the perfect suburban home. I would not trade the life I have with anyone.
I didn’t realize until I was much older how much my parents scrimped, saved, and over time ended up in some serious debt to give us what they did.
I’ve been staying at home since my younger son was born and the price of decent daycare was more than I could make. We’re pretty low key people and we get along fine on my husband’s income as an Air Force officer. The trade off on his decent income and good insurance? We move every three years, which is rough on me and the kids. Most of all, he’ll be gone for six months this year and who knows how many small trips getting ready to deploy, along with regular business travel.
Rumour Miller says:
You do need to keep dreaming! I think it’s natural to want our children to have more or better than we had (even if we had it pretty good).
We gave up city life to live in a very small town. It has it’s ups and it’s downs, but so far has shown to be the right decision for us.
Good luck in your search!
I read all the comments and I agree with what everyone said. I understand how much you want a “home” for Annie. Be diligent, continue to save and I know it will happen for you guys!
I want the same thing for my family. I had a house. Our first home that we bought in 2004. It was a townhouse but our Court was amazing! The kids had friends to play with, all the parents got along. We had joint parties and cookouts. I loved it. Then I left my then husband and moved out. He didn’t pay the mortgage and we lost the home through foreclosure.
While I’m much happier now, the kids and I live in a 2 bedroom apartment. I gave the kids the larger bedroom but it is cramped! I want nothing more than to buy another house so that my kids can have their own space. It breaks my heart daily that I’m not in a position to do so. My kids are happy, have friends, involved in sports and do well in school. You have to create the best life with what you have. xoxo
Leigh Elliott says:
Reading this post had me flashing back to the neighborhood I spent ages 7-12 and how I still think about those kids I used to play kickball with every night. I want my daughter to have that too. We moved to a neighborhood about a year and a half ago that I thought was going to be really great for her to grow up in. Right now, it’s mostly young couples but I still have hope that some will have kids soon enough for my kid to kick a ball around with and go on treks through the woods with. It’s so quiet here right now though. It has me longing for our old neighborhood. Our old house was on 2 dead end streets and had some really amazing neighbors. That neighborhood had a vibe to it. It was strong, fun and welcoming. I wish I had taken a little more time to check this neighborhood out. It’s hard to really know a place when you are only spending half hour increments in it during the buying process. I digress….my ‘point’ is though, #1 I would try to find a neighborhood that you love. The rest will come. Even though our old house had a lot of fixing up to do, and gave us a lot more sleepless nights than our new “cookie cutter house” gives us, it had heart and soul. I miss it and the people tremendously. Have fun looking!
We live in a condo in Los Angeles, too, and I’m totally okay with that. We have 2 children, and although it’s cozy, we aren’t cramped at all. I know way too many people who bought homes in the last 6 years who are house poor now – can barely afford the mortgage, let alone the other emergencies that life has thrown their way such as special needs children, lay-offs and building maintenance. Some day, I’d like to own a house with a back yard, great neighborhood and nice neighbors but I don’t *need* it. Everything I’ve got, I have right here.
Sarah A. says:
I totally get this- it was the same for us. We traded a huge house three states away for moving back to our home state (Michigan) and living in a smaller but newer house that is closer to family (3 hrs rural driving versus 5 hours interstate traffic). But we made sure to move to a town that is right on Lake Michigan, and the trade off has been more than worth it. Your “dream home” is out there… you may just not recognize it the first time you see it Good luck!
I hear you, Heather. It all seemed so easy growing up, good neighborhood, plenty of kids to play with, great schools, and someone always there after school with us, nutritious dinner on the table each night……but it is a different time/world in so many ways, especially financially. Home prices are just insane, where $85K would have bought a really spacious home in most areas in the mid-1970’s (L.A. suburbs), one would need more than 1/2 a million dollars now, not to mention property taxes!
We are so very, very fortunate to be able to live in the same neighborhood I grew up in (Downey), the schools are still great and we bought our home in 1995, before prices went insane (and way before the recession!), Doggy has a yard and I have the absolute luxury of being an R.N. so that I can be there for my daughter (really to chauffeur her around!), but at the end of the day, I am most thankful (and I know you feel the same!) that my little family is together & healthy. Sure, I would love another bedroom and bathroom, but we have done fine w/o them for the last 16 years & in the end, I wouldn’t trade these years for anything.
Don’t fret, when you find the right place, you will feel it. It is always a little scary (especially nowdays), but wherever you end up, Annie will always remember most the love from both of you and all the good times spent together growing up, no matter where you are. It is remarkable how financial stress can really mess with you mentally, but when it is a right fit all around, it will happen! I’m thinking good thoughts and sending (hopefully) some good luck your way, hoping you will find something you love very, very soon. Best of luck!
But you can’t give the same childhood to Annie… nobody’s experience is the same as another’s. What you really want is to make her feel the same way about her childhood that you feel about yours. And believe me, children need far less than adults in order to feel that way.
I look back on my childhood and think of it as pretty idyllic. The funny thing is that as an adult, I discovered how much my mother has always hated the family house since the day they moved in. She disliked many of our neighbours. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to the private school they wanted for my entire education, and felt guilty that they couldn’t always buy us the sports gear or clothing we wanted. But? I never knew this until I was an adult, and at first I was shocked to discover this info because I thought everything was so perfect. I see it now through the eyes of a 31 year old and I can see why my mom doesn’t like her house, but even though I can objectively see it as kind of outdated and badly designed, I still just think of it as my childhood home and I love it for all the good memories it holds.