Hyattsville’s family friendly environment

Parenting Perspectives

New playground equipment at Magruder Park. Photo courtesy Susie Currie.
Julia Gaspar-Bates

Julia Gaspar-Bates

When my husband and I moved to Hyattsville nearly nine years ago from Boston, we were planning to stay in the D.C. area for only a few years before returning to New England. Not intimately familiar with the D.C. suburbs, I was initially wary of Hyattsville after a friend said it was a dangerous area. We knew we wanted a strong community and preferred old homes so it was a fluke that we found our house on Craigslist the night before our return to Boston following our house-hunting trip.

When we entered the house for the first time, I knew this was the right choice and the right neighborhood. The previous owners had just purchased a Victorian in the neighborhood and touted the city’s benefits. We were sold and made an offer, had the inspection and made a down payment the next day before we left town.

Little did I know just how serendipitous our impulsive purchase would be. When we moved in, I was five months pregnant. Soon after our arrival, my next door neighbor invited me to a gathering of new moms at another neighbor’s house. There were six moms present with their newborns swapping stories about nursing, sleep woes, etc. This small group continued to meet regularly to share best practices and console each other during those first anxious months as we transitioned into motherhood.

When my daughter, Talia, was born a few months later, I was incredibly grateful when several of them brought us meals. Over the next few months, we got together for mom and baby “playdates,” took walks, provided support, brought meals, babysat each other’s kids and drank wine together. We soon formed a listserv and a name — Hyattsville Nurturing Moms. As word spread and more people started to join, we decided to form subgroups based on our children’s ages. Our first subgroup, “Wild Moms,” was inspired by the book “Where the Wild Things Are.”

It’s been nearly a decade since this group formed and I believe it is one of the reasons so many young families are now moving to Hyattsville. What started as a small group has morphed into an organized group of more than 300 families who have relied on the same support I found when I first arrived. My husband and I have developed much of our social network through this community. Our daughter, who is an only child, has strong sibling-like relationships with people she has known her entire life. Hearing stories about how great Hyattsville is, my sister and college friend both relocated to the community from California in recent years. I know that others have convinced family and friends to move here, thereby reinforcing the strong sense of family.

Prior to moving to Hyattsville, I lived in several cities, both in the U.S. and abroad. As an urbanite at heart, I always wanted a small-town environment that provides the benefits of the cultural events a big city offers. Hyattsville has been that and much more. I love sitting on my front porch chatting with neighbors as they pass by. I love the vine crawls and hop hops, which are now an institution. I love how the community pulls together to help neighbors during difficult times. I love the many community events organized by the city, such as the Summer Jams. I love the civic duty many members of the community display, such as volunteering for local events and committees.  As someone who travels frequently for work, I love that I have a network of trusted people to take care of my daughter after school or for the occasional overnight if my husband and I are both out of town. And I love that I can turn on to our tree-lined streets after battling Beltway traffic and be transported to a bygone era where neighbors know and support each other.

When my husband and I have researched other communities to potentially move to, we’ve both agreed that it would be hard to replicate all that Hyattsville offers. In this transient region, it is refreshing to find a place where people want to establish roots and commit their time and energy to improving local infrastructures and creating a safe environment in which to raise their families. Groups such as Hyattsville Nurturing Moms and their committed members have contributed to what makes the city such a great place to live. Hyattsville truly lives up to its name of “a world within walking distance” and I for one am grateful to call it home.

For information on joining Hyattsville Nurturing Moms, visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HNMoms.

Julia Gaspar-Bates is an intercultural trainer, yoga teacher, mom and Hyattsvillian.