I’ve been thinking about the best neighborhoods in Dallas for single parents to live after reading Pamela Gwyn Kripke’s essay in Slate on single parenting. Pamela is raising two girls solo and lives the Park Cities, in what she calls a small, $600k-ish stone home, the kind I’m sure builders seek out to tear down. It’s a very interesting read: her point is that maybe kids raised by single parents (in her case, a mother) are actually not as spoiled or pampered as those raised by two parents. Not as spoiled, they develop grit, what a lot of helicoptered kids sorely lack and turn out better. Kids raised by single parents statistically have crappier lives, according to most data. Maybe not so, she says: maybe they learn more independence, compassion, and financial sense.
The points she makes, I feel, are generally barbs at affluent kids and in the Park Cities, she’s got a ton of targets. You know the ones — they never have to do chores, they get everything handed to them including brand new $80,000 cars when they are 16, age 15 if they get a hardship in Texas, they have bottomless charge accounts and think flying coach is roughing it.
In Preston Hollow, some kids are growing up with golf carts to scoot across their multi-acre estates so they don’t have to walk (it’s so far). Some of these golf carts are custom designed to look like little Bentleys or Rolls Royces.
The trick is that we bitch about living within affluence, like Kripke has, while enjoying it’s benefits. What do most single parents look for in a neighborhood? I would say security and good neighbors, first and foremost. If mom is working late, she wants a neighborhood with a low crime rate and friendly neighbors who might be able to answer home-work questions in a pinch. That would be Park Cities and quite possibly parts of Lakewood, portions of Preston Hollow and North Dallas. It could also be the exurbs, like Frisco or Prosper. I’ve heard Lantana is a great place to raise children. My guess is most single moms could not afford or deal with a multi-acre Preston Hollow property, though one of my sons’ friends grew up in a huge single parent home off Park Lane and did just fine. His mom is a physician who worked long hours and hospital call. He learned to do things around the house or call in the appropriate help, and he was always welcome at our home in a pinch.
It seems to me that we as parents have to balance our intense desire to keep our children safe and secure against what we fear the most — crime, drugs, trouble — while we hope they will appreciate what it is we give them out of love. I think the way to do that is to let them see, know and feel how hard you work for it — which is basically what Kripke is saying. I had an amazing conversation with the son of a friend last Christmas at their annual holiday party. Two working professional parents, both Type A personalities. Three amazing children who attend private schools and live in a 8,500 square foot home with their own bedroom suites and cars (not new). Spoiled? You bet. Appreciative — all the way. They told me how proud they were of their home, because they knew how hard their parents had worked for it. If a guest dropped a bit of food, the kids were there on the spot, cleaning up.
In the recently published How Children Succeed, author Paul Tough argues that rich kids get the encouragement and poor ones get the grit, and he claims that one without the other gets no one very far. It is hard to spot the millionaire’s kid who mows the lawn or the middle-schooler on a free-lunch program who sees his parents before nine at night. I would maintain that children with a single parent get the winning combination.
My neighbors have five children, a 9,000 square foot house on an acre, and the kids mow it. I would maintain it’s how you dish it out that counts, and that, come boom or bust, they know what’s more important because YOU know.
So one, what do you think about kids raised by single parents? Are they doomed to a life of trouble or more resilient? And then, what is the best neighborhood to live in in Dallas if you are a single parent, and why? We’d love personal experience stories!