I’ve been boring friends, family, Twitter followers (sorry) and myself lately with the issue of where to raise Tom. I feel like as soon as he gets into any kind of trouble, I’ll blame myself. I can’t afford to move to the posh end of town unless we get a lodger. Even if I do, the authority couldn’t tell me which school Tom would get in until we moved, so there’s a strong chance we’d go through the expense and upheaval of moving, only for him to get into a less-than-decent school nowhere near our new house. We could move to somewhere more rural, but I wouldn’t like that. Tom comes first, but a lonely and miserable mother does not a happy child make. I keep snapping my laptop shut late at night when I find myself considering eerie-looking cottages on the Moors.
We stayed with Mum for Easter. I don’t come back often, because it reminds me of living here when Tom was a baby. The memories are bittersweet: a mixture of taking him for long, sunny walks in his pram and of arguing with Mum and my obsession with getting back to Manchester. I felt like I had been forced out of the place where I belonged through my own stupidity – and like everyone else was having wild parties while I was changing nappies (which was true.) I was too immature to realise that stuff like that isn’t really important. There’s still a photograph of a rainbow over Manchester hanging off the wall of the bedroom I shared with Tom – and a crumpled DPercussion sticker on the mirror. Even though I’ll be eternally grateful to Mum for taking me in when I was pregnant and despite the fact this is a lovely place to raise kids, I just wanted to get back.
So, I did go back – just before Tom was two. I moved in near one of my closest friends, not in the trendy part of town, but in an area where I could afford a great house near good parks, not too far from the city centre. And three years on, we’re still there, but when your child gets to school age, things change. Our friends who are still in Manchester mostly live in the opposite side of town and there’s much more happening there for children, which means the rent is extortionate.
Last night, we went for a dusk walk to the park where I took Tom when he was a baby. It was so quiet; all we could hear were the birds and the air smelt sickly with early summer flowers.
“Why can’t we live here?” he said.
“We used to.”
“Why did we move?”
“I don’t know.” I said.
After I put him to bed, I felt guilty. Then there was a programme about Lowry on the telly, he lived not too far from us. It made me feel excited about going home. The city has got loads going for it when it comes to raising kids and there is plenty of green space – you just have to look a bit futher for it. Parties aren’t the only reason why I love Manchester.
We do need to move soon, but not to the countryside or the suburbs. I’ve got a year or so before Tom’s going to start wanting to join the kids who play in the road. In the meantime, things aren’t desperate where we are, it could be much worse. I don’t know how we’ll get where we need to be, but there will be a way.