Life has been small

Flora drew this for me a few weeks ago:

It was a quick doodle, done while waiting our turn at an appointment. Something to occupy her that didn’t involve a screen. She didn’t want me to look at it initially. She had drawn it in the middle of my notebook so I’d be surprised when I found it. 

I couldn’t resist peeking and I looked for it later that evening when she was hanging out with Sean and I was doing post-dinner cleanup. 

The love – and joy – pouring out of this little doodle brightened up my day in ways she can’t understand yet. 

Her mouth is a heart! 

I went up, told her I’d peeked and thanked her for her drawing. I tried not to let her see me tear up. 

Life has been small lately: work, parent, eat, sleep, repeat. It’s still cool and rainy with just enough occasional bursts of sun to keep everyone from losing all hope. I’ve been working too much and feel like I haven’t been doing any more than the bare minimum for my family.

I often feel like I’m failing everyone, and everything, in my life.

Yet my daughter still loves me. So does Sean. They love me anyway. 

And I love them.

And it’s reminders like this that get me through the hard stuff.

And that makes me think, maybe I’m not screwing everything up.

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:


Twenty Years

Dad's Gravestone
It's weird to see your name on a gravestone.

Today, my father has been dead for 20 years.

Nearly two thirds of my life.

I clued into this morbid milestone a few months ago. It’s weird to be able to describe my dad in that way: “he’s been dead for twenty years”.

I’ve written many times about how my dad and how I wish I could have known him as an adult. As a parent of an adult child. As a grandparent. I still struggle with picturing him in those roles because I never knew him outside of his role as the father of young children/pre-teens.

I don’t know if we would have gotten along or fought like cats and dogs during my teen years. My mum says we would have gotten along. I believe her, but at the same time, I keep questioning her in the back of my head “Are you sure? How do you know?” It feels cruel to doubt my mother because my parents had been married for 16 years and had been high school sweethearts so it’s not like she didn’t know him incredibly well.

But I still wonder sometimes.

This past Easter, Sean, Flora and I visited my father’s grave. That was when I took this picture. I’m not sure why I took it, because it’s not like I forgot what his gravestone looks like. I felt compelled to for some reason though so I pulled out my phone and snapped one.

Seeing my name on the stone is starting to feel weird now that I’m an adult and not a teenager.

When I was in my last year of high school, I used to visit Dad’s grave often. I used to come in the time I had between school and work when it would take too long to drive home and back into town again. Instead, I drove back roads aimlessly (as aimless as one can get with a specific start time for a work shift) and often ended up at the graveyard. It was quiet and I used the time to think. I’d spend a few minutes there, then drive off, go to work, do my shift and go home again. I’m not sure if I ever told anyone I was going there.

But back to the present. While it wasn’t the first time I had brought Sean to my father’s grave, it was the first time Flora had been there. The three of us stood there and we tried to explain to Flora in the simplest, non-scary terms where we were and what it was. I’m sure we failed miserably, but since she is still so young, she will likely never remember the conversation with any great accuracy.

Standing there with my husband and daughter, I became overcome with emotion. I hadn’t cried at my father’s grave in years. But standing there with Sean and Flora, trying to do a sort of introduction for my daughter and her grandfather overwhelmed me to the point that I couldn’t talk. Sean took Flora for a walk and I tried to tell my dad about his granddaughter. I could hardly get the words out so I hope my energy went out into the universe. That somehow, my father would know that he was remembered, and loved by his family – including those that never actually knew him.

Every once in awhile, Flora asks who my dad is when she sees him in pictures. I tell her that’s “Grampy Marty. He’s Mummy’s daddy and he’s in Heaven now.” A short explanation is enough for her right now. She accepts it and we move to the next picture. I’ll tell her more as she grows up. I want her to have an idea of who he was.

I love you Dad. I’ll always wish you could have seen the results of how you and Mum raised Kyla and I. I’d like to think we’ve taken on a lot of your good traits – and some of your bad. As Flora grows older, I will watch for your traits in her. I just hope I can still see them with so much time gone by since I saw them in you.

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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