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The Joys of Raising Your Kid Downtown
From July 2012, iVillage.caThursday in Toronto, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday made headlines by announcing that downtown Toronto was an unsuitable place to raise children.  "As far as raising your children downtown, maybe some people wish to do that. I think most people wouldn't," he told council. Many councillors were stunned by this statment.  "Are are you serious?" asked midtown councillor, Josh Matlow.

The debate on whether the suburbs or the city is a better place to raise a kid has been raging for ages, but for me, it's kind of a fake issue a matter of taste and personality. But it's still absurdly polarizing, like the decision whether to determine the sex of your child in utero. We strain to justify our convictions, but really, we usually just like what we like. And usually, what we like is what we already know.

Many of my friends who grew up in suburbs or small towns (including my spouse!) had  what they consider an idyllic childhood of riding their bikes down deserted roads, running through fields and a night sky bursting with stars. They want to give their kids a taste of the magic that they had. For some of us it's hard to imagine a childhood divergent from our own.

I was 13 when my family moved to the Annex neighbourhood of Toronto from what was then a very suburban-feeling city of Vancouver. At first, I longed to live in the cozy 'burbs, but then something changed. I noticed that my suburban friends were drinking more, spending weekends shuffling aimlessly through the mall, having sex earlier and for the most part behaving like bored, reckless teens.

But my city friends were going to festivals, plays, cafes we had so much to do, we could barely fit it in (we were also unbearably pretentious, but teens, as a rule, are hard to take). But this access to so many discoveries within walking distance was magical. Even at that age, I knew that when I had a kid, I would raise him downtown. In fact, I couldn't wait to see what it would be like for him to grow up feeling like he was part of the fabric of his urban community.*

I love that we visit museums, that he knows the shopkeepers in Kensington Market by name, that he looks forward to the annual festivals, that he asks for Chinese dumplings or sag paneer for supper some nights, that we can walk to amazing parks and markets and museums and friends' homes and that until last year, we didn't even need to own a car. (Full disclosure: I never got my license).

But I do lament his limited exposure to nature. This fall, we announced we would visit an apple orchard.

"Oh, is the apple exhibit still open?" Um.

No choice is perfect. But to those of you wonder what it's like to raise a kid (0-5) in downtown Toronto, I have put together a tumblr account of my favourite pics. Enjoy!

Where do you think is the ideal place to raise a kid?

*Please do remember that this was my *subjective* experience, not meant as a generalisation. There were both fabulous kids and terrors from every type of neighbourhood.

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