Weighing in on the strollers on the TTC debate

Flora's First Subway Ride
She slept through her entire first subway adventure.

My daughter was born in early September of 2008. I knew that it was a good idea to get used to traveling with her while the weather was still good. I wanted to get used to traveling with a baby and all the Stuff a baby needs before it got too cold. I didn’t want to look out the window longingly and feel even more housebound than I already was.

As a city dweller with one car between my husband and I, that meant I had to learn to navigate public transit with Flora. If I wanted to go anywhere on the days my husband took the car to get to work, I had to figure out how to do the subway. I wasn’t going near the bus when she was super small.

The picture over there is of Flora’s first subway ride. She was about a month old. That’s why she’s in one of *those* strollers. She was too small to sit up in the stroller seat so her car seat attached to the top so she could travel safely and I could bring the various stuff a baby needs in its constantly-hungry-or-leaking phase.

I planned this trip to get a couple of things done. I was canceling my membership in the Metropass Discount Plan because I wouldn’t be TTCing much while I was off work. That’s why we’re at Davisville. (Taking a stroller to the TTC head office – I hope someone did that this week.) Then we were off to visit Sean at work up near Mel Lastman Square. So a couple of stops and a long-ish subway ride to and from Warden Station.

I had planned for my trip to be done well outside of rush hour. I wanted to be considerate of other riders, especially since this wasn’t a time-sensitive errand. I know it’s hard to navigate around a stroller – I’ve done it too. So I did my best to take up as little space as possible and get out of the way of other people. I mostly succeeded, and I don’t remember getting any stinkeye from other passengers.

This was not the largest stroller on the market, nor was it the smallest. It was reasonably affordable (and a gift from Grandma to boot), held up for all of Flora’s stroller-needing years and I am grateful I had it.I did my best to be mindful of the people around me no matter where I was so I wasn’t crowding them or blocking their way. No one ever yelled at me, so I hope I succeeded.

Flora and Mummy at City Hall
This was taken at a stroller march held in 2009 to support the need for childcare in Toronto. This stroller got me through many daycare pickups and some dropoffs on the TTC.

When Flora got bigger (as in over six months, but under twelve months old, so still a baby), I knew I needed to get a smaller, more portable stroller. While our plan was to have Sean drive her to and from daycare, we knew that sometimes I would have to do the daycare run via TTC.

The days we knew I would have to pick her up, Sean would bring the stroller when he dropped her off and I would bring her home on the bus in it. When the bus would come, I would pick the stroller up to get her on the bus and wheel the stroller to the best spot to be out of the way of the most people. That spot was different every time depending on how people were sitting on the bus.

I was lucky that I was going against the flow of traffic at that time of day so most buses going to my place from my daycare provider’s home weren’t too busy. Still I did my best to be watchful and get out of people’s way.

Morning dropoff on the bus was less fun. There were several routes that went by my stop, but at least two went past a nearby highschool. Taking Flora to daycare on those buses meant getting on a standing room-only bus with a stroller. I was a cliché and I hated it. I did my best to get Flora and I the hell out of the way. I didn’t have far to go on the bus – I got off before the highschool kids, so I felt even more like an jerk when I had to pull the cord and wheel my kid precariously off the bus, apologizing the entire way.

I was relieved when Flora was walking well enough that I could stop using the stroller for doing dropoff and pickup on the TTC. I was paying a fare for her by now and she could have her own seat without guilt. I was even more relieved when Sean and I would park the car at Kennedy or Warden station and I would just take the subway to my car, then pick her up. It was just so much less hassle for me, even if Flora enjoyed the bus.

I was lucky. I lived close to two subway stations that had parking. My daycare provider lived less than fifteen minutes away from us and was easily accessible by car or transit. Not everyone is that lucky. Until the TTC’s coverage is more evenly spread throughout the entire city (and not just downtown), people will cobble together solutions that work for them.

I don’t live in Toronto anymore, but I still work there and use the subway five days a week to get to work. I also don’t have a baby anymore, but a little kid. As a TTC user, this issue affects me. Public transit is for everyone and that includes those who have to ferry small children around.

A note for those who want to say just wear your baby.

Flora in the wrap
I wore Flora plenty too.

I took short and medium-sized trips on the subway with Flora in a wrap and no stroller. It’s okay for the first bit, but doing errands that way is tricky at best. I can’t imagine doing a trip from let’s say, north Scarborough to downtown with a six month-old strapped to me, diaper bag on my arm, and possibly another child beside me. I’m just not that much of a masochist. I loved babywearing and I did it regularly. Babywearing was way better for our walks to the library over deep snow drifts, walking the dog and trips where I just didn’t want to bring a big stroller along. It’s not so good for trips where you’re going to end up carrying lots of other things besides your baby.

I believe that the issue of strollers on the TTC would be less of a hot button if all TTC riders just behaved a little better in general. We all have to get where we need to go. Don’t be a jerk, whether you’re commuting to work, daycare, or whatever it is you do with your time.

For other opinions on this issue, you should read these thoughtful blog posts:

 

A cure for the November blahs?

When I picked Flora up from school today, I had to sit in my car for an extra minute or two to pull myself together. I’ve got a serious case of the November blahs. Add an exhausting day at work, a busy commute and I had a small case of the sads by the time I hit the school.

I peeked in the window where the kids were playing. I love watching Flora when she doesn’t know I’m watching her. It gives me insight into how she sees the world.

I waited at the door and she soon came running to give me the biggest hug.

I really needed that.

As she was getting her stuff on, she handed me a piece of paper.

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I made this for you mama.

For those who don’t have kids learning to write and draw right now, it’s a card with lots of hearts. It says “Mom” on the front and the back.

I almost teared up in the hallway of the school.

I thanked Flora for her card. I told her it was just what I needed. And it really was.

I have an awesome kid. I want to be like her when I grow up.

She Wins

I started leaving the house at 6:15am this summer to start my work day a little earlier. At the time, I didn’t give much thought to when I would be both going to and coming home from work in the dark. I just wanted to be done work at 4pm so I was able to pick up my kid and be home before 6:30pm. That part works well, but now that it’s dark in the morning and at night, those early mornings can be a little rough. See this tweet from last week:

Sean and Flora are usually still asleep while I get ready. I usually poke Sean awake enough to tell him I’m leaving, Flora’s lunch is packed, to drive safe and that I love him before I kiss him goodbye. Sometimes I even get a response beyond “mmrphh”. I then go into Flora’s room, kiss her on the cheek, whisper my I love you and leave the room quietly. I go downstairs, grab my bags, turn out the lights I turned on and off I go.

Now that we’re no longer on Daylight Savings Time, we’re all a bit screwed up. Flora is zonked by bedtime and I’ve spent the last couple of days both not wanting to get up, and not wanting to go to bed, so I’m fighting it on both ends. The nights feel so late now that it’s pitch black so much earlier than usual.

Not sure why this extra hour screws us up so much – it’s not like this time change business is a new thing.

This morning I got up and got ready as usual. I was running a little late, but nothing awful. As I was saying goodbye to Sean I heard little feet and told him “we have a friend coming in”. Soon a little girl in a Hello Kitty nightgown came in to use our bathroom. I told Flora I was leaving and that I was late.

She looked at me and asked, “Am *I* late?”

“No baby, you’re fine. Come down with me and you can get a cereal bar and I’ll give you a hug before I go.”

Flora held my hand as we walked down the stairs together. I opened her cereal bar and got my hug. She went back upstairs to talk Sean into some early-morning cartoons. I was doing a couple of last-minute chores before I could finally leave when I heard her yelling something unintelligible at me. On the third time I asked her to repeat myself, she finally said it clearly.

“One more hug mama.”

Like most working parents (edit – like *all* parents), I hold on to oodles of guilt surrounding how I balance my family, my marriage, my work, my life, and myself. We have an okay system, but it doesn’t take much for that system to unravel. I don’t always make the right decision at the right moment. I do what I can to keep as many people at least a little bit happy all of the time. Most of the time, I do okay, but I wish it wasn’t always so hard.

It wasn’t a hard choice to give my daughter one more hug. I need those hugs as much as she does. Those extra moments remind me that Sean and I are Flora’s advocates. No one else will have her back like we do. She will learn – is learning – so much from her teachers and other adults in her life, but she needs to learn how a family treats each other from us. How to form healthy relationships. How to be thoughtful and kind.

And, like it or not, teaching my daughter those things are more important to me than catching the 6:39 train into Union Station.

She wins. She has to.

 

Someone who makes me happy

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mpricemitchell/7046625921/in/photostream
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mpricemitchell/7046625547/in/photostream

Via Flickr:
I took these pictures of Flora for the #aprilphotoaday challenge taking place right now on Instagram. The theme was “someone who makes you happy”. When I told Flora that I needed her help and explained the photo challenge, she shouted “Me! I make you happy!”

And she does.

For the pictures she decided she wanted to twirl like a ballerina. The actual twirling pics are a bit blurry so I’m glad I caught her up close. 🙂

I’m also very grateful to know that she is very, very loved.

(The one on the top made the challenge. You can follow my Instagram feed here, even if you don’t use the app.)

Timeout

I’ve been off work since the Tuesday before Christmas. I’ve been grateful for the time off, but at times the change in our routines has made me less than pleasant to the family. At one point, my frustrations boiled over and I put myself in timeout. I had been yelling a little too much about stuff that wasn’t a big deal. I told Sean and Flora I needed to be by myself for a bit and I went up to my room to calm down so I could interact with the family like a normal person.

The following set of tweets explain what happened after that.

I am so lucky to have such a caring little girl. She was so gentle and really emphasized her need to check on me. My timeout, while needed, was shorter than I expected it to be, thanks to her. I told Flora how thankful I was that she checked on me to see that I was okay. Lots of hugs were exchanged and we enjoyed the rest of our evening together as a family.

Like all parents, I’m struggling to do the best I can to raise Flora right. I could tell you about a million mistakes I’ve made already. Watching her care about others at such a young age makes me think Sean and I are doing something right.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
This work by Melissa Price-Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.
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