Few commitments are more binding than the decision to have kids. New parents find themselves making wild promises to each other about their offspring: We'll read to them, we'll spend quality time with them, we'll make sure they grow up in a good place.
That final vow is apparently part of the reason so many people move their new families to Asheville.
Gary Kramer, owner of downtown's Enviro Depot toy store, says he and his wife moved here from south Florida because they were thinking of starting a family, "and we didn't want to do that in Miami." Ten years and three children later, the two have few regrets about their decision.
"There are great schools [here], and great activities to do with the kids," Kramer elaborates. "Everybody seems to be a little bit more willing to be nice, to smile, to help out; everybody's not in so much of a rush."
A slower-paced lifestyle from many other cities seems to be a common benefit of relocating here, according to several local parents.
Susan McBride, who moved to from Atlanta to Asheville with her husband and daughter three years ago, says her family was anxious to leave the crowded Georgia capital.
"It's so overcrowded and traffic is such a snarl," McBride explains. "We wanted a walking neighborhood; we wanted to be able to walk our girl to school."
McBride adds that she and her husband both grew up in such neighborhoods, and they wanted their daughter to have the opportunity to live in a real community, rather than in a suburb.
The family picked Asheville in part because they heard the schools were good, notes McBride, whose daughter starts kindergarten next year.
"That's going to be a big test of whether we've found [what we were looking for] or not," she says.
When Maureen Motley's family came to Asheville from Philadelphia 12 years ago, they were moving to be near extended family.
"We had just had my daughter, and my husband's sister lived here," Motley explains. "We [also] felt like Asheville would be a better place to raise children, that it would be smaller and safer."
Motley says they found "a close-knit community ... with plenty of activities for kids." Plus, she notes, there are plenty of cultural options here without there being too many.
"Sometimes, in Philadelphia, there would be so [many things to do that] I wouldn't do anything," Motley confesses. "I'd just stay home."