Dear Councillor Holyday,
I grew up in the country - not the suburbs - but real, honest-to-goodness country with a farmer’s field at the back of my yard, ravines, a conservation area and the bruce trail within sight. It was an amazing place to grow up in so many ways. But my parents had to commute long distances to their work and we had to have a car (well, most of the time we had 3 - clunkers, mind you, but 3 of them - to accommodate the schedules of 3 kids and 2 adults) in order to do anything outside the house.
My husband grew up in a vastly different rural area - the Sahara desert of Morocco. His landscape was remarkably different but he also grew up with natural beauty all around him and several hours’ travel on dirt roads to the closest city.
Years later we found ourselves living in Toronto and loving it. You are certainly not the only person we’ve heard ask, “who would want to raise their kids in the city?” especially when their reference point is rural. A lot of people don’t give much conscious thought to where they live - they just end up where they end up. But me and my partner made a very conscious choice to live and work in this city, and it’s turned out to be a wonderful place to raise our family. We have one four-year-old and another on the way.
Our neighbourhood is lively and amazing. We know our neighbours, and all the kids at the parkette across the street from our house know each other and so do their parents. Our councillor, Joe Mihevc, sets up community movie nights in the summer time outside in the ward’s parks. Most of our travel involves bikes or walking. For a kid who grew up in the country this is incredibly liberating!
And for trips further afield we can take transit. We have access to amazing programs at the public libraries, swimming lessons at the community centre, and myriad parks to explore in nearby neighbourhoods. We have the amazing privilege of access to a multitude of festivals and special events that take place downtown every week of the year. We may not have a yard, but we have a small patch out front that we’ve transformed into a beautiful perennial garden, and we are part of an amazing community garden down the street where we’ve planted veggies and learn from other community members about agriculture and the natural world.
Our neighbourhood provides us with opportunities to interact with people that neither my husband nor I had growing up: we meet people from all income brackets, young and old, and from a multitude of ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. It’s a really wonderful place to grow up with a family. We’re the same downtown as you are in the suburbs or the country. People downtown love their kids, look out for other people, and care about their neighbourhoods.
Just wanted you to know that. Attached are some pics of us enjoying life in the city: at the Frankel Lambert community garden, baking pizza at Dufferin Grove Park, and skating at Nathan Phillips Square.
All the best,