Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Impostor

I love living in Seattle. At first I was apprehensive to be moving to such a large city; the biggest town I had ever lived before was Eugene, Oregon, which has around 137,000 inhabitants. Seattle has almost 600,000. But living in Seattle does not feel like you're in a big city. In fact, with its absence of sidewalks, our Pinehurst neighborhood almost appears to be more of a rural, unincorporated area. Except that we're close to everything that city living offers; we can walk to two different grocery stores, a few coffee places, a slew of good restaurants, the public library, three different parks, the mall, the post office, banking facilities, reliable auto repair places, gas stations, a farmers market and of course the kids clothes, toys and gear consignment store. We're on a fabulous bus line which can get you downtown in 20 minutes, traffic permitting.

Our neighborhood is pretty eclectic; we have old and young neighbors; families, professionals and retirees; people in million dollar homes and apartment dwellers and just our direct neighbors are Ethiopian, Chinese, Vietnamese and Caucasian.

Joris and I spend two days a week in the Ravenna neighborhood and it's been a bit of a schizophrenic experience. Ravenna is an older, more established neighborhood compared to Pinehurst. It has sidewalks, is a few miles closer to downtown and is populated by mostly white, well-off families and professionals. The software company crowd. The well-educated, socially conscious, environmentally aware, politically left leaning folks. In short, people I tend to get along with easily.

Every time I take Joris and Avery down to the playground I run into at least one cool, interesting mom (also some snooty ones, but they're really kind of the exception). Moms who use cloth diapers because it's better for the environment, who purchase BPA free bottles and sippy cups for their offspring, who don't believe in letting toddlers watch T.V. and who teach their kids to share and take turns. But also, moms who obsess about getting their kid into the "right" preschool and who participate, maybe unwittingly, in "the right gear" contest. Imported $900+ strollers, organic cotton clothes, $45 a pair toddler shoes, European made toys, just to name a few things.

And here is where the schizophrenic part comes in; as much as I would love to be able to buy the same well-made, well-designed, environmentally conscious gear, these things always seem to come with a much bigger price tag than their made in China counterparts. So, I always feel a bit like an impostor on the Ravenna playgrounds; I can participate in conversations, have read much of the same literature these other moms consult, but when it comes to spending money, I usually end up choosing to buy 2 pounds of non-organic cheese instead of the similarly priced 8oz local, organic kind and scouring Craigslist and the consignment store for toys and gear.

The other day we met an acquaintance at the playground who had brought her son's tricycle. Joris was very interested in it and the other little boy graciously let both Joris and Avery try it out. They both loved it. It came with a foot board so that they can just sit on it without pedaling and a push bar for the parents. It had sturdy air-filled tires. "You should get one." the mom advised, "it's been great". "I just might", I replied and at home I looked up the brand of the tricycle. It costs $220 for a new one - not including the accessories. They go for about $80 - $120 used on Craigslist.

I'm pretty sure I'm not doing my son a disservice by not buying him the best available gear, but the food situation is more painful. I seem not to be able to go to the grocery store anymore without ending up feeling awful. It's the constant compromise between quality and price; I feel bad spending the money if I buy the good stuff and I feel the same if I get the cheaper product. As of last week we're back on WIC checks, which gives us 5 gallons of organic milk each month, as well as some juice, cheese, eggs and beans, which definitely helps ease the cringing at the check-out stand.

We had a great day at the playground today. We met up with a friend and her little boy and ran into several other cool moms that I've talked to before. I don't think they would care about my inability to outfit my little guy in the latest eco-designer gear or send him to the private neighborhood preschool. They don't care and I don't care. But it still makes me feel like I don't quite belong.

No comments: