By Karen Green
Toronto’s Deputy Mayor, Doug Holyday, recently enraged much of his constituency by declaring that a city was no place to raise children.
Among parents in Toronto, there has (rightly) been much anger lobbied at Holyday in defense of their choice to raise their family in the city, and even though I am no longer in Toronto, I feel the need to add my support to the indignant throng.
When we moved to the cornfield a year ago, our decision to relocate was based on many circumstances, but please let me assure you that never, ever did we consider a move because we worried about raising our kids in the city. Toronto is an amazing place to raise children. We lived in a working-class, east-end neighbourhood known as The Danforth, where my children had all the benefits of a close-knit, dynamic community. There was a library one block away, the school was directly across the road, and loads of playgrounds plus not one but two weekly farmers markets were within easy walking distance. There were restaurants, shops and play centres to walk to if we felt like an urbanscape and the Don Valley to walk to if we felt like enjoying nature.
Museums, theatre, the symphony, countless festivals, ethnic marketplaces and the lake were all just a short hop on the streetcar. And there is no colour of skin, language, custom of dress or visible alternative gender role that would make my child bat an eyelash.
A city is a good, good place to raise a child.
But now, for unrelated reasons, we are in the country. My children play outside more than I ever expected that they could, would, or want to. They will become used to the rural landscapes that for me, still inspire awe. The gorgeous blanket of sound that is the cicadas bearing down on us each night has become my children’s lullaby. My daughter’s companion this week is a pony named Barney. In 37 years, I have never even ridden a horse. There are stars in our sky that I never even knew existed and people here have joys and struggles that I could never have imagined. There are no farmers markets because there are farms, and we purchase their impressive bounty by leaving a toonie in a basket perched on the edge of the stand overladen with produce by the side of the road.
We have had campfires in a friend or relative’s backyard nearly every weekend this summer, and I never have to hire a babysitter because children here are welcome, wanted, part of the fun. They run around with other children, catching fireflies and staying up late. We have access to cities for all the foods and sights we miss, and I remain vigilant in my belief that a dynamic childhood is something I am responsible for exposing my children to.
The country is a good, good place to raise a child.
The biggest mistake that Doug Holyday is making is in not realizing that it is not the city or the country that most impacts a child’s upbringing—it is the parents, and their ability to raise their children with an open, non-judgmental mind.
Karen Green recently traded life in the biggest city in Canada for life in the biggest cornfield in Canada. Freed from her full-time job as a writer and editor, Karen now spends her time…writing and editing. And frolicking in the leaves with her two small girls. Karen is a speaker, the founder of Mom The Vote and the author of the blog, The Kids Are Alright, where she has been writing about the humorous and poignant moments of family life since 2005.
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