City vs Country: Which is better for children?

On a recent trip to PEI, a Torontonian contemplates the benefits of raising children where they aren't considered pariahs.

By Leah Rumack
City vs Country: Which is better for children?

Ben making a sand castle from PEI's famed red soil.

Like most perverted, edgy weird city parents who choose to subject their offspring to the horrors of life in an urban centre, I was mostly amused by Toronto deputy mayor Doug Holyday’s recent idiotic comments that kids shouldn’t be raised in the city.

(For readers outside of Toronto, our city council has been mostly taken over by a cadre of meat-headed populist buffoons, many of whom say things that are so hilariously dumb I often actually wonder if we’re being punked).

As someone who grew up in the suburbs but now raises my 18-month-old son Ben downtown, I can assure Holyday that there are far worse fates a kid could endure than being subjected to applewood smoked cheddar and streetcars. Also, that many people actually choose to raise their children within the vibrancy and diversity of a major city. Perhaps he’s heard of Manhattan?

But I have to confess the city kid vs. suburbs or small-town kid life was on my mind during a recent trip we took to Prince Edward Island. It started at the airport, when I asked the tourism rep about “kid-friendly” restaurants. She just laughed. “Islanders take their kids everywhere,” she told me, with a wave of her hand. And strangely, it was true.

Kids were everywhere. People on the island seemed to LIKE KIDS. Even when we were eating at Lot 30, one of the nicest joints in town, the waitress was cheerfully bringing children at the next table ice cream. If you tried to take a 4-year-old to a fancy restaurant in Toronto, the host would evaporate you with a death glare before you could even utter the sickening words “booster seat.”

During our whole trip, I was actually confused by how nice everyone was to our annoying toddler. A waiter at the Claddagh Oyster House took off his watch and reached into the lobster tank to pull out a lobster to show Ben.

At The Holman Grand Hotel where we were staying, when Ben discovered that he could open the automatic doors by running at them repeatedly (and by repeatedly, I mean, like, all the time) the valet just chuckled.

When Ben became obsessed with the swinging gate on a cafe patio, and kept opening it and blocking the sidewalk, passersby would just smile and say things like: “Oh he’s having fun, isn’t he?” At The Redwater Rustic Grill, where we ate breakfast every day, the waitress turned the bar TV to Treehouse for Ben. I started to wonder if I was being punked.

So maybe city people do have something to learn from small-town or suburban people about integrating kids into our daily lives, and being friendly, and not treating families like an alien species.

But don’t tell Doug Holyday I said that.
Watch for the full story of Leah’s trip to PEI in Today’s Parent next spring.

This article was originally published on Jul 24, 2012

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