Friday, July 31, 2009

The Essence of Holly (and why living in the city is starting to smother me)

Yesterday Holly climbed a 16 foot ladder.

She had been walking on the sidewalk near our house and she noticed that one of our trees had a hole in the secondary trunk and she wanted to see whether or not there was a bird nest inside. So she asked her dad to set up the ladder for her and without a hint of hesitation she climbed to the top, peered into the hole and reported that it contained seeds and wood. She is a delightful little scientist, and since then she has spun a wonderful tale of how the hole contains not just a nest but also 3 tiny turquoise eggs. I love it.

For Holly, climbing the ladder was a normal solution to a simple question. She has no idea of the angst that her father suffered in letting her do it.

The concern was not in the least about whether or not Holly could climb the ladder. She has climbed a 6 foot vertical ladder at the playground hundreds of times, sometimes while carrying a stuffed animal or two. So her personal safety was not an issue, especially since Partner-Guy would be standing at the bottom of the ladder to steady it and to help her if necessary.

No, the concern was that our neighbours or other people passing by on the street would freak out at the sight of our 3-year-old daughter climbing 16 feet into the tree. In fact, Partner-Guy even mentioned that someone might call CAS to report us for endangering our child!!

Isn't that hideous? And scary??

Partner-Guy and I are pretty close to being the most safety-conscious parents on the planet. I mean, he has been known to obsess that the tree (with the hole in it) could fall on the children while they play in the driveway. But we know our kids. There was literally no question as to whether or not Holly could handle climbing the ladder. But other people don't know what we know. And people are known not to mind their own business.

If we lived in the country, or at least on a reasonably private, isolated property, then no one would have seen Holly's ascent into the tree and we wouldn't have given it a second thought. Living in the city makes us very conscious that everything we do can be observed by other people. Our lives are under a microscope all the time. And people feel very free to criticize us, right in front of our children.

One day in the spring we were coming home from the playground and came across a couple of big puddles near a baseball diamond. Anna and Holly had a great time splashing and sloshing around, and they were covered in mud by the time we left. Well, at least 10 people who passed us on the sidewalk had something negative to say about how we 'let' them get so dirty.

Another day Partner-Guy looped a rope over a tree branch and fastened it to a milk crate which he used to raise and lower the girls (individually). They loved it. From high in the air they waved and laughed. And every person who walked by had either a squinty-frown, raised eyebrows or a negative comment. Somebody said, "Now look what you've started." What does that mean? What have we started? Playing with our kids?

So living here is smothering me. The easy solution (go ahead, say it to me!!) is to stop letting other people's opinions have any affect on me. Yeah, right. I'm at the point where I don't tell anyone where my kids sleep, how long they breastfed, if they are vaccinated, that they don't attend school or any other private information that could make people think that I am such a weirdo-parent that I might need to be investigated. Honestly. Partner-Guy and I have a genuine fear that someone will send CAS to our door. It has happened to other people.

Is the solution to get out of Toronto? Possibly. But I think I have to really examine for myself whether or not I place too much emphasis on what other people think of how I'm raising my children. This issue might just be about me and maybe I need to think more about it.

In the meantime, I definitely intend to not get in the way of Holly and her intense curiosity.

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