Personal Story

I Loved Growing Up in a Small Town—Here’s Why I Want the Same for My Kids

Source: Canva
Source: Canva

I grew up in a small town with less than 2,000 people and a graduating class of 89. Our rural community was beaming with small-town charm and oddities, like an annual summer festival and a Drive Your Tractor to School Day. Back then, I couldn’t wait to get out. I dreamed of college in a big city like Chicago or Boston. I wanted the fast-paced excitement of city life I hadn’t experienced.

Then, I ended up in a college just 30 minutes away in a town of 70,000 people—not exactly the bustling big city my young heart yearned for. It wasn’t until a few years after college that I really moved away from my hometown and lived in Austin, Texas. Still a smaller city, but the Texas State Capital gave me the endless opportunities I was hoping for. On top of that, I did short stints living in Colorado and California and have been fortunate enough to travel to some amazing cities.

Both living in and traveling to some of the most exciting cities in the world is something I will never take for granted. It’s helped me grow in ways that my small-town bubble simply couldn’t. But as I’ve gotten older and started to plan for the future with my own little ones, I’m starting more and more to see the value in small-town living. Now, when I talk about that 2,000-person town, I do so with fond memories and adoration. I’ve realized it’s the type of upbringing I want my own kids to experience. Here’s why I loved growing up in a small community and some of the benefits of raising a family in a small town.

The Benefits of Raising a Family in a Small Town

A Strong Sense of Community

The notion that everybody knows everybody in a small town isn’t just a line in a ’90s country song. In reality, it’s not uncommon for people to know your parents, grandparents, cousins, and so on. For me, this looked like people recognizing me because they knew my dad, who grew up there 30 years prior. When you grow up in that kind of community, it either feels like a curse or a blessing. I chose to see it as the latter.

In my experience, people raised in small towns tend to be proud of where they come from. This means many people like to take the time to get to know others in their community. They can be highly neighborly, always offering a helping hand without asking for anything in return. People do things for the benefit of others and the greater good of the community without thinking about what they can gain. They’re not afraid to donate their time, abilities, or funds for bettering their home. There’s a sense of camaraderie and a willingness to help others whenever possible.

growing up in a small town
Source: Brett Nicole Hayden

It’s Generally Safe

At the forefront of my mind when thinking about why raising a family in a small town is right for me is safety. Of course, bad things can happen anywhere. But overall, I always felt safe and knew there were people looking out for me at all times growing up.

I lived outside of town quite a bit, but it wasn’t uncommon for my friends and me to walk to one of their houses in town after school or walk to the swimming pool or park in the summer. Our town was comfortable, familiar, and sheltered. And while I believe it’s important to see life outside of the small town, too, I’m grateful I grew up in a community with people who looked out for one another. When it comes to being a parent, I hope to feel that sense of ease for my kids’ safety as well.

A Foundation of Lifelong Friendship

Maybe the best part about growing up in a small town is the friends I gained from the experience. I feel very fortunate to say that I’ve been able to grow up with my closest friends by my side through nearly every part of life so far. Memories with one friend go as far back as swimming lessons, and I recently helped that same friend celebrate welcoming her first baby. And some of the friendships are even generational, with our dads being best friends before we came into the picture.

In some cases, having fewer people to interact with throughout the years can be isolating. But going through each phase of life with one group of friends also gives the opportunity to create an inseparable bond. From swimming lessons to middle school dances to college dorms and now, marriage and babies, we got to experience it all together. It’s friendships like these that started in a town where we had no one else to spend time with that have withstood the test of distance and time apart.

Slower Pace of Life

The most surprising part of small-town life I’ve grown to love is the slower pace. I still remember when the biggest talk of our community was the first stop light going up. There’s something idyllic about being just a bit “behind” on certain things. Looking back now, I appreciate that things like cell phones and social media took longer to be introduced into our young lives, and we had a few extra years of dial-up internet and landlines.

There’s no denying that larger cities have more to offer in the entrainment realm. But I’ve grown to appreciate the idea of being bored, especially in childhood. I’m confident that my creativity wouldn’t be what it is today if I didn’t use my imagination during those days when there was “nothing to do.” My sister and I were content playing outside all day until the sun went down as our queue to head inside. Then at the dinner table, we could share about all of the exciting adventures we had conjured up earlier in the day. It wasn’t almost as if having nothing to do opened up a world of possibilities.

I’ve grown to appreciate the idea of being bored… having nothing to do opened up a world of possibilities.

I believe this slower pace of life also fosters the strong sense of community small towns have. When people aren’t in a hurry, it’s easy to spark up a conversation in a grocery store aisle. Part of that may be nosy curiosity, too, but overall, you get the sense that people really care about you and your family and have time to show it.

raising a family in a small town
Source: Brett Nicole Hayden

Life is Quiet

Along with the slower pace of life comes quiet living—literally. Without the sounds of traffic or crowds of people, it becomes easier to appreciate the little things like a sunny morning or birds chirping in the spring. I always felt close to nature. It was common on the outskirts of town to see herds of deer or hear the owls hooting into the night. It’s important for me that my kids are able to spend a lot of time outdoors and foster their imagination in similar ways that I did. I know from experience that raising a family in a small town generally means a peaceful environment to grow up in.

Small Town Values

Growing up in a small town meant watching people work really hard. As a rural farming community, no one I knew was a stranger to waking up with the sun to get to work. I realized early on that hard work is a pillar of a small community’s values. I hope my kids see this as they grow, and it makes a lasting impression on them to work hard.

My small town was also very family-oriented—like many of them are. With events for kids, parents having a voice in the community and school systems, and a peaceful environment for families to spend time together, small towns tend to be very family-focused.

Plus, the aforementioned small-town pride is real. It’s not unlikely that my kids may feel the pull to leave and explore the world like I did. I hope they do. But I also hope they can look back on their small-town upbringing with pride in all that it taught them.