Two friends, Kristin and Kieran, were in a coffee shop on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain with two of their friends. Both sets of friends had kids who were two or three years old, and the kids were running around unchecked.
Nearby sat an older man, who was rustling his newspaper. My friends were in the midst of a conversation with their friends about whether to stay in JP or move because their kids were getting old enough that they needed to consider schools.
They talked on: “Oh my God, BPS, are we going to keep our kids here or are we going to just yank them and move?” As they talked, Kristin noticed the newspaper rustle more and more while the kids ran around.
Kristin turns around and says, “I’m really sorry the kids are underfoot.”
And the older man says, “No, no, no, it’s not the kids that are upsetting me. It’s your conversation.”
They said, “What do you mean?”
He said: “Look, my kids stayed here. They went through and were fine. It’s rough — the bathrooms are not great, but the kids were fine. We ended up having kids who could navigate the entire city, know who you should and shouldn’t talk to, and just figured out how to have really amazing friends from incredibly diverse backgrounds.
“But many of my friends left. They went to Concord-Carlisle, they went to Lexington, because they could. And you know what they had to do? Every weekend, they piled all their kids into the back of their minivans and dropped them off at the mall, because they worried about their kids drunk driving or doing coke. Everyone looks the same and other than the sports practices, there’s nothing much to do out there.
“But my kids navigated the city on their own. They walked to Jamaica Pond, took the bus with their friends to the MFA, ate food from around the world. The beauty of having kids who are urban is that they grow up to be really interesting, independent adults.
“Stay,” he said. “Your kids will thank you later.”
And that’s the thing. The payoff for your kids going to BPS is not when they are in 4th grade, or in 7th grade, or even when they get to college.
It’s when they are 27.
That’s when you realize your kids are urbane, educated, naturally at ease with people who don’t look like them. They are curious and open to the wider world. And they are fun. They turn out to be the type of adults you value as your own friends. And at the end of the day, isn’t that really one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids?
Our schools, our kids, and their friends are all worth fighting for.
You will thank you later.
BPS parent Heshan Berents-Weeramuni recently told this story to closeout a “Parent-to-Parent” gathering, held at Doyle's, for parents thinking about enrolling their children in BPS. The event was organized by BPS parent Mayre Plunkett and sponsored by District 6 City Councilor Matt O'Malley.
This story was first posted on Boston Parents Schoolyard News and submitted to Jamaica Plain News.