Monday, September 19, 2011

Citified family

I've lived in Canada's largest city for almost ten years now, and besides the shock that it is to realize I'm old enough to have lived on my own for ten years, that's a fact I'm pretty happy about. It took me a few years to find my place and get into a groove here, but within about three years, there was pretty much no where else I could imagine being.

My husband was a little less keen on city living. Like me, he grew up in the suburbs, and he had a hard time separating his high school hijinks memories of growing up from his plans and needs for the future. But after a few years of gentle convincing he and I were on the same page. For us, the city was the best place to start a family.

Lots of people don't agree. We know that some of our friends outside of the city think it's an unnecessary challenge to bring kids up in a city-sized home. Some members of my farming family find it appalling that my child will be able to grow up within actual physical view of his neighbours. And many, many of the charming strangers I encounter on the GO train ride home from visiting my parents have plenty to say about the shocking dangers and horrific sins of city dwellers (seriously, you would not believe what some people from the greater Oshawa area think goes on in T.O).

But so far, our experience has mostly confirmed our hypothesis. Yes, our house is pretty tiny when held up against the homes of our suburban friends (we only have one closet in the whole place, and no, it isn't a walk-in). And yes, it is outrageously difficulty to find daycare, unaffordable once you find it, and only likely to get worse (shout out to Mayor Ford!!). But I wracked my brain for the sake of filling out this paragraph, and those are the only bad things I can really say about life in Toronto.

For me, living in the city is probably one of the main reason I've held on to sanity in my first years of motherhood. I have only to walk out my front door and head two or three blocks in any direction to hit one of many amazing coffee shops for adult socialization, or library for rainy day entertainment, or fantastic drop-in programming for indoor Ollie play, or the greatest public park I've ever encountered. Pop Ollie on the bike and we can shop for anything under the sun that we could possibly need (and lots of things we really don't), or visit friends, or just people watch as we zip around. I'm aware the isolation that motherhood can create, but I can't say that I've experienced it.

The community that we've experienced as a family has been unbelievable. Every day we are surrounded by people who are so invested in creating spaces that are welcoming and family friendly and fun. Don't get me wrong, there are also plenty of places where you get a wicked side eye for being a stranger, but by and large, this city has offered me and my family a sense of belonging like no where else I've ever been.

On our city street, kids run wild from morning til night, while their parents share coffee and chit chat, and not just on car free day. When we first moved into our home, the whole thing seemed a little "close", and a bit crazy but when Oliver was born and we started to receive regular packages on our front door with hand-me-downs, and food, and little notes, we understood that, at least in our neighbourhood, the city has more "small town values" than any of the little places we grew up.

We talk sometimes about moving to a much bigger house in the suburbs, or a more charming piece of land in the country. And we might do that one day. There are days when the feeling that we've got more stuff than space is overwhelming, and when the air out near my parents' home just feels easier to breathe.

But there are more days when I'm grateful to be able to walk a grumpy toddler just down the road in my pajamas to get a cookie to cheer him up, and a coffee to cheer me up. And to bump into a local publican who reminds me that I should stop in for a pint and some chips to unwind so she can catch up with Ollie. And then get invited in for a spontaneous play session in a neighbour's playroom (instead of the dreaded, scheduled "play date"). And then share a meal some of our best friends, who also share a wall with us. And then check in to the news to hear about all the ways that other city lovers are defending this place. And I think there's no way we can leave, this city is home.

1 comment:

  1. I lived in TO for 8 years before we moved (twice) for DH's job. I miss the city so much, especially the food! I've often thought how much easier and more fun it would be to raise our son there. But we could never own a home there and that was important to us. If we ever HAD to rent again, I think we'd be back.


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