When we were first considering moving to Salt Spring Island, a big draw for my hubby and I was that it seemed like a fantastic place to raise children. Sure, maybe there is no ice rink to skate on and play hockey (a serious drawback for hubs), and the swimming pool is… lacking… but compared to the big city life of Vancouver, there would certainly be a lot of positives, too. We’d be closer to the ocean (actual swimmable, lay at the beach ocean), we’d become part of a smaller, closer community that our child could grow up in, knowing the people around her on a deeper level, and there would just be a different way of life – an easier, slower paced, heart-and-soul type of life – than what we were experiencing in our busy, bustling, don’t-talk-to-strangers-and-keep-your-head-down, money-driven city.
Don’t misunderstand. There are a lot of fantastic parents raising a lot of fantastic children in Vancouver, and elsewhere. It’s not like Vancouver is terrible. I actually quite like it as far as cities are concerned. It’s beautiful, and outdoorsy, and if you look for them, there are a lot of fantastic people. But I’ve never been a city person. I grew up skipping through fields and cow-patties, picking soft pussy-willows, and sweeping our dirt driveway as “Mary Ingalls” (my little sister was always Laura, and our trusty Rottweiler a grass-hungry cow). There is a different kind of life that happens in the country, and I want to raise my daughter somewhere small. Thus, Salt Spring.
One of the other positive things about raising a child here in this small, rural, quirky community is that – for the most part – I have been amazed by the children here. The way that people seem to parent here makes my heart soar. As an Early Childhood Educator I’ve been trained to be present, to be engaged, to wonder and seek out answers, to let the children lead, and to show them with my words and actions that they are cared for and valued as much as any adult. To be patient, and playful. To inspire and grant freedom to take ownership of what they do. To not poo-poo the children’s ideas in trade for quiet, tidy, scheduled activities. To be a facilitator in their play (a child’s work of exploring and discovering the world), rather than a strict authority figure.
Every time I am at the playground, the library, or anywhere else where children are with their parents, I am overjoyed to see how the parents speak to converse and interact with their children. It makes my job so much easier – both as a parent and an educator – when the parents are raising their children with the same apparent investment I strive for.
The children of Salt Spring, themselves, are proof of the communal effort to bring up kind, caring, empathetic, engaged, enlightened and wholey aware human beings. Today I worked at one of the schools on the island, first with little ones and their families, then supervising the playground over the noon recess. To see how the children talk to each other, offer help and advice, and seem to think on a deeper level about the people, animals, and environment around them, it amazes me and fills up my soul with pride that I get to be a part of this. At one point, I overheard a conversation where a boy (who couldn’t have been more than 6) was calmly explaining to his friend that if he was unhappy with the way one of the other boys was playing, he should talk to him about, let the other boy know how he was feeling, or to “just walk away” and leave that play, and if necessary, go find a teacher to talk to.
Not that I don’t see these things from children in Vancouver or elsewhere, it’s just that this way of life and upbringing seems to be thriving here. Why? Is it that smaller community that lends to closer relationships and more empathy towards those around you? Is it the slower pace of life here, that allows for more quality time together? Is it the lack of traffic and road rage? The huge amount of time expected to play outside in the fresh ocean air, every day? Is it the fact that there are so many different people here, with different backgrounds and upbringings and styles and habits, that the adults and children have come to make peace with the fact that difference helps a community to thrive, rather than brings it down?
Whatever it is, it’s working for me. I love it here. I don’t think I can ever leave.
Thank you parents of Salt Spring Island, for being so involved and aware of your children’s upbringing. And thank you children, for being so amazing.
Now if only we could build an ice rink, and make some improvements to the pool (Perhaps a few more degrees of heat, and a section that’s shallow enough for someone less than 4 feet to be above water?)
How do you see parenting in your community? What do you love about raising your children in a big city, or out in a rural area?