What happened to Suburbia?

Kim McDonald
Written by Kim McDonald

One of my fondest memories from childhood was the suburban neighbourhood where we lived. 

No seriously, it’s true. I loved that we knew all of our neighbours, even when we were not always appreciative that they were looking out for each other, everybody was quick to say hello or help with the heavy load of raising kids.

Then I became an adult. Met a boy, bought a house. In the suburbs. No one said hello, no one stops to help. Okay, so maybe it’s because we’re the DINKS and they don’t have time for us childless folk. That’s cool.

Then we had kids. Finally, our chance to meet our neighbours and not just the crazy cat lady next door. Nope, still nothing. I’m pretty sure it’s not just us anymore either. Things have changed, people have changed.

Suburbia now means pulling into your garage grabbing your kids out of the car as quickly as possible and getting in the house before anyone on the street makes eye contact and forces you to say hello.

Suburbia of today means no one knowing their neighbours and none of the kids on the lawn playing until bedtime. When did everyone get so afraid of human interaction? What is the point of moving your young family to a “family friendly neighbourhood” when you have no intention of being friendly.

I see you hurling your kids directly into the house as fast as possible, I see you turning your head when my son rides his bike past you. I see you and I know you see us. What are you so afraid of? Our kids could be riding our bikes up and down the street while we share some day beers and laugh at just how cute our kids are and how great it is that they have so many buddies to play with on the street.

Nope, instead you hide. You hide from the street you chose to live on, from the neighbours that could end up being life long friends.

I challenge all of you, say hello, make eye contact, and maybe just maybe one of these days I’ll bring over a bottle of wine with a cork screw and share a glass on the porch with you.

Maybe. If I’m not too busy chasing my kids up and down the street.

About the author

Kim McDonald

Kim McDonald

Kim McDonald is on a mission to share the good, bad and ugly side of parenting. She loves to share local businesses that are awesome Kim has been known to release her inner beast when discussion topics she never knew mattered until becoming a parent.

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6 Comments

  • I spent 5 of my little-kid-having years in a neighbourhood that was not your typical, upper-middle-class suburbia. It’s a street of duplex houses that used to be government housing and is now mostly renter-occupied. My mommy friends would come visit and I could often sense the sympathy from them, that I wasn’t raising my kids in a “nicer” area. But you know what? I LOVED it. My weed-smoking neighbours were always congregating on their front porches together for a smoke and to laugh together about the goings-on of the neighbourhood. They would sometimes swear loudly, and then glance at me and my small children in our yard and apologize profusely. I would frequently forget to shut my van (or my house!) doors and yet nothing was ever stolen, and my kind neighbours would shut the doors for me and tease me about my “baby brain.” I moved away from the neighbourhood and I miss nothing about the house itself. But I miss my crazy, socially unacceptable, too noisy, lots-of-pet-owning neighbours. Because there’s something so valuable about kids biking down the street, and telling your kids to knock on Miss Deb’s door for help in an emergency.
    Thanks for your post and the reminder to appreciate good neighbourhoods! Good luck breaking your neighbours’ shells… I suggest knocking on a few doors and asking to borrow some eggs. I bet they’re nice if you can just get them to open the front door.

  • This made me think of my neighbourhood, we were outside in the hood all the time, playing with the kids next door, down the street etc.. Kids were always outside when it was daylight and we knew the names of every person on the street. I miss that kind of neighbourhood. where I am now we are good friends with one neighbour, we say hello to others but that’s about it, no one is really out and getting to know their neighbours. so sad. thanks for sharing!

  • This is so true! I remember being super active outside when I was younger and my mom knowing all the neighbors. I’ve found that most places I’ve lived since moving to San Diego, it is the same way. No one talks to each other! I now live in Senior Citizen-ville and i’ll have you know: senior citizen are extraordinarily interactive, friendly, and kind. I just met a new neighbor a couple day ago! She informed me she is now the oldest neighbor in our neighborhood since the most recent death. Unfortunately, that is the only down side to living in a neighborhood full people 80 years and up—a lot of them die. I recently experienced my first Estate Sale….WOAH, what an experience! Regardless, excellent post! And, so on point. I’m definitely going to go out of my way to say hello and make eye contact with a few more of my old neighbors as they walk by doing their (multiple) power-walks with their miniature sized dogs!!

  • I don’t find this in my ‘hood, fortunately. I wonder if it is true in the newer suburbs as many people I know built or bought the big house/garage combo in the new, fancier hoods and have mentioned this.

    But we bought an older, smaller house with no garage but in an older established hood with schools built close by … And for cheaper than the new homes … And we know a lot of kids and families and my kids run feral outside year round …

    But when I visit friends in the newer communities I do feel that pang of envy at their bigger, more open homes … And their dishwashers lol

  • I know that there are streets in my neighbourhood where kids run around and ring each other’s doorbells and play outside. We know most of our neighbours, a few quite well. I remember very well the first one I met. We’d lived in our house for about a year and a half. My daughter was just a few months old. She walked across the street one day when I’d pulled into the driveway and introduced herself. She said, “I should have come over sooner but I have three year old twins and an 18 month old so I don’t get outside much.” If she hadn’t taken that first step, who knows?

    Also – Block Party.