Thursday, 13 June 2013

Simple, human and oh so far from perfect

I’ve spent a lot of time this past year wishing we had a bigger house in a different neighbourhood. 

The truth is, we’re quickly outgrowing our three-bedroom semi-detached with its shared front yard and driveway. I think six years ago Shaune and I made an inadvertently good decision. At the time it was in our price range but we couldn’t have known then how much two children, childcare (Close to $15,000 this year!) and everything else that comes with family life would someday cost us .

Over the years, we’ve grown attached to our little street, made some very good friends with our neighbours and to my delight have connected with some of the parents of Deaglan’s school friends because they live on our street or the one only a block over. 

It satisfies a deep yearning I’ve always had, to plant myself firmly in a home, feel connected to it and the people close by.

And yet in the back of my mind I know this rootedness is only practice for the next house we move to. The one I keep calling our “forever” home; the one I imagine will be in another part of town, flanked by like-minded neighbours with kids the same ages as ours, comparable salaries and jobs, maybe a pool in the backyard, and definitely a double car garage for Shaune.

I didn’t grow up dreaming of grand things. 

It never occurred to me to imagine a large wedding or granite countertops. I didn’t know I was supposed to want crown moulding or an ensuite. And I watch myself even now, on some level, keeping a distance from a crowd that might make me think these things are important.

A few days ago Deaglan told me that one of his friends, his best friend actually, during play at school, constantly threatens to call the police when things aren’t going right or his way. I dug around a bit with gentle questions and it turns out Reid* threatens to call the “cops” if he feels he’s been wronged or mistreated somehow. He does this all the time according to my boy. I added this information to something else Deaglan told me about Reid a few weeks ago which is that once in a while Reid goes to his Daddy’s house on the weekends without his Mommy.

My heart hurt for Reid. I couldn’t help but play out the scenes of his parents fighting, sometimes violently, before they decided to separate.

Last night our neighbour across the street walked over with her two oldest children. She wanted to let me know that her husband had been arrested again. She wanted us to know in case we were wondering why we hadn’t seen Marcus* around lately. 

Their oldest child is also in Deaglan’s class, a tiny raven-haired beauty with the inkiest black eyes you've ever seen. I adore all three kids but this girl, well there’s something about her that makes me ache for a daughter.  We’d socialized with the family a few times and almost always call the two oldest girls over to play in our backyard on sunny days.

The mother, my neighbour from across the street, told me that she’d lied to the kids (ages five, four and two), told them that Daddy had gone back to Jamaica* to visit his sick father and might have to stay there for a while. She didn’t think the oldest girl, Deaglan’s classmate, believed it.

All last night my heart hurt for those kids and especially for that little girl. I couldn’t get her hauntingly beautiful but sad eyes out of my mind.

And while I lay there, something else crept in. It wasn’t as noble. It snuck in the way it always does; when I wasn't paying attention. It filled me with shame. I was reminded that I am still, afterall, simple, and human and oh so far, far from perfect.

It was a whisper of a voice urging me to move my family to a better neighbourhood; one without jail sentences and late-night domestic calls.

All day that family across the street, the one with the dad who is sitting in a jail cell, all day they were on my mind. I wondered what was better for my boys: to live in a neighbourhood where backyard barbecues and two-parent families is the norm or one where we are forced to witness the realities of real life.

The truth is, I don’t know.

*Not their real names. Not the real place.


  1. I'm not sure there is a "right" answer to that. You'll know in your heart when the right time to go arrives.

  2. The good news is that your kids are growing up surrounded by your love and they will remember that far more than some of the other things going around them. I often tell myself if I don't make a big deal about something, it won't be a big deal to the kids. For example, T wears glasses. Initially, it was a big deal to me and really hurt seeing that this little human being I brought into the world had a huge flaw. (I know odd and kind of selfish thought but I'm being honest.) Then I realized if I made a big deal of it, he would too. Now, it's no big deal and when someone confronted him recently about his glasses saying he was weird looking, he replied, "Do you think it's funny I cannot see without my glasses?" The other kid did not know what to say. Then another said, "T's cool and his glasses are cool so if you think they are weird then something is wrong with you." My heart beamed. But if I had always made a big deal about him being different because of his glasses he might not have the confidence he does now. I'm learning. As I say, this parenting gig is more about me learning than the kids learning from me.

    Be well, Dear Friend. All will work out the way it is meant to. You have such a full and kind heart, I can tell from the way you describe your neighbors and acquaintances.

  3. My next door neighbor has a teenage son who has a serious drug problem and some questionable associates coming by when by kids are out playing. I feel like we are walking on a tightrope some days when the tension and possibly danger is increasing on any given day next door. I tell my older kids to always be on the lookout in case this teen is up to no good. A sad reality for them to process, but their reality nonetheless. As a side note, the police are moving at a snail's pace when it comes to handling this situation. We don't want to "rock the boat" because of the potential retaliation we may suffer from an angry neighbor.

    I hope this teen does find help soon before his life spirals out of control totally and others are hurt too.

    When we moved here, we didn't know this neighbor situation would develop. I guess what my rambling is leading to is this realization that our kids are faced with harsh realities even when we think we are shielding them. And maybe it is good for them to see these realities at times? I don't know what to say. Kim, sorry for the ramble, but I have been nervous about our situation next door a lot lately.

  4. Kim, I think a mix of neighbors is good, as long as the neighborhood is safe. If it isn't safe-and some neighborhoods really and truly aren't, then I'd want to move. There are lots of ways to expose our kids to a variety of people and situations-but that doesn't mean you have to do it in your own front yard. Hugs, sweet friend! I appreciated all of your wonderful comments so much!

  5. I understand your viewpoint. Just a whiff of any criminal activity makes a mama bear go into protective mode. But there are problems in every neighborhood, even Beverly Hills. A lot of families started leaving my old childhood neighborhood when there was an increase in break ins and such. One family moved to a gated community several miles north. Their oldest son was shot by a neighbors boyfriend. He survived but I will never forget them telling my mom that they missed our neighborhood. We looked out for each other and had a sense of community that made it safe.

  6. Tough question. I don't know the answer either. What I do know is that, I grew up in inner city Detroit and saw some pretty interesting things. God and my family helped me be the woman I am today. I'm raising Noah in a different area, near where I grew up though. My husband grew up in the suburbs, so his experience was quite different from mines. We are trying to give Noah a balanced view but with God and our love as the foundation. No, decision making on this parenting journey is not easy. xxO


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