Coming Home

A mother reflects on raising her daughter in the South Bay.

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  • Written by
    Jenn Robbins

My 17-year-old, eldest daughter attends a private school in Los Angeles. When she started five years ago, her classmates were shocked to discover she lived in Palos Verdes.

“You mean the Palisades?” 

“No, she means Orange County.” 

“Oh, I think that’s where my great-grandma lived.” 

“There’s a bus from Terranea!?” 

After she gently guided them past their geographical confusion and/or wonderment at why anyone would live anywhere but LA, the universal response was: “That’s so far …”  

When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I lived in West LA. While blowing through oh-so-helpful Lamaze classes, we were anxiously counseled by other expectant parents. 

“You guys aren’t on a preschool wait list yet?“ 

“You have to get into the right feeder for middle school!” 

Once our baby was born, the pressure mounted. This time it came from power walkers passing us on our exhausted 6 a.m. strolls to Starbucks, who after peering into her stroller would shout, “She’s cold!” or “Get her a blanket!” It seemed that for the Westside, we were a bit too, shall we say, laid-back.

A South Bay native, my husband suggested we move “back to the beach” as he phrased it. Great private and public school choices were within easy reach. And if there were wait lists, nobody was sweating it—at least not visibly. 

Barefoot toddlers stripped and slipped in the cement, Astroturf-lined fountain at Metlox, while iced coffee-sipping moms looked on. Forget blankets; these kids were naked. 

We made Manhattan beach our home. After 10 years and two more children, we moved further south “up on the hill” to Palos Verdes.  

My eldest daughter has been commuting to her LA school since seventh grade, and she doesn’t say she wishes we lived closer—unless she’s particularly tired. She truly loves to come home to the beach. The ocean, the space, the views are centering to her, to our whole family. 

But when she is particularly tired, it does give me pause. Her siblings attend fantastic schools here in the South Bay. Why did we send our firstborn so far? Maybe that “wait list/get her a blanket” mentality got the best of me. 

Still … she loves her school and her home. Who’s to say what’s too far? At the end of the day, if you love where you work and love where you live, that’s getting pretty close to a perfect life. Or at least the good life.

Jenn is an actress and writer who recently starred in England’s York Theatre Royal and LA’s Rogue Machine/Skylight’s world premiere of Tomorrow. She lives with her family in Palos Verdes.