Raising kids in the country
I so vividly remember sitting across from Vicki Tansey, watching her paint my three-year-old’s face just a few weeks after my husband and I and our three kids had made the big move from Montreal to Abercorn. I was like a fish out of water, having spent the first 36 years of my life in…
I so vividly remember sitting across from Vicki Tansey, watching her paint my three-year-old’s face just a few weeks after my husband and I and our three kids had made the big move from Montreal to Abercorn. I was like a fish out of water, having spent the first 36 years of my life in the city — finding the village party quaint, in the condescending way city folk have mastered. I talked to Vicki, as she transformed Henri into a lion, about my misgivings — my doubts about the quality of the local schools, the foreign notion of them getting there and back on a school bus, their regrettably limited exposure to other cultures, having to ferry them everywhere because we were so isolated. At the time it seemed like an endless list of anxieties. She laid my worries to rest. She told me about what it was like when her three were teenagers and how having to drive them hither and yon to every social occasion had its perks. “You get to see them on their way to the party and you get to see them coming home. Those drives are the moments where you get to hear all about the dramas of their social lives. There’s something so unthreatening about both of you sitting facing the road in a confined space and just talking. In the country, you have access.” I can’t count how many times I have taken comfort in her words since that day fourteen years ago.
The first time we took the kids to celebrate St-Jean in Sutton I knew we had made the right move. We wandered through the crowds, being greeted warmly by everyone, occasionally losing track of our kids (a freedom we would never have afforded ourselves in the city) and then being told by people “Oh, Henri is at the baseball diamond” or “I just saw Alice with Jill”, messages that in essence meant “your kids are safe and we’re watching out for them”. Those occasions gave me a sense of belonging and community I hadn’t felt since I was small. It brought me a peace of mind that I’ve never experienced anywhere else and that feeling, like my kids, has only grown.
Yes. Everyone knows your business and it can be annoying. But it can also be a spur to make your words and actions count. Every little thing you do can make a big difference in a small community. You can see the dollars you raise helping people you know. You can watch kids you coach putting the lessons you taught them on the field to use in the rest of their life. It’s true there is no anonymity. I can’t count the times I have seen new transplants extricating their foot from their mouth as they fumble to recover from insulting the local mechanic to the cashier only to discover that the two are cousins. But the flipside is that when something goes wrong, you quickly find yourself inundated with heartfelt offers of help. The parents who told us where to find our wayward toddlers at the park are the same ones offering hugs when they hear about one of our kids going through a rough time.
I feel like I was just getting the hang of it. How come nobody prepared me for this? I thought the pain of my children leaving my body was intense but it doesn’t even compare to this — the agony of a child leaving home. I finally understand what people meant when they said it goes by so fast. It doesn’t. Until the moment it does and you find yourself with a bed that stays made, a room that stays tidy, a fridge that stays full and a heart with a big hole.
How I yearn for those days in the park.