When kids are little, before they start school, you can live anywhere. When they get a bit older, they are still quite malleable and adjust easily to your wishes. Once they reach tween age, though, they get pretty set in their ways. So you can imagine when we tried to convince our brood, age 10 and 12, to move from the heart of small town suburbia to the big city of Toronto: their response was a resounding "No Way!"
The fact is, we were bored to tears in our pretty little town of Brooklin. Bless all the lovely residents there but I don't know how they can stand it. Once the kids get past a certain age and lose interest in kiddie bands at the bandstand, there is absolutely nothing to do. Life revolves mostly around shuttling kids from one sporting activity to the next. That's great but we needed more. We wanted to move to downtown Toronto, home of awesome festivals, parks, cultural activities, a thriving arts scene, ethnic restaurants galore, and beautiful green spaces.
The kids were divided on the prospect of moving but united on their idea of avoiding downtown Toronto. The older one, our son, was fine with leaving Brooklin but, despite his love of architecture and cities, he did not want to move downtown. Our daughter was dead set against moving at all. Both worried that the kids in the areas of Toronto we could afford would be far more street smart/tough and prone to bullying. I must admit, that is the main reason we did not move to Toronto.
Affordable areas in Toronto, like Leslieville, seem hit and miss in terms of their safety, as far as I'm concerned, and if the area doesn't look that safe, I don't feel confident that the schools will be. I could be far off base on that assumption but it is how I have always felt.
More snazzy areas like Harbourfront (see the photo) or family friendly spots like The Beach are just way too expensive. Now that I think of it, I don't see how people are going to be able to afford these proposed three-bedroom
condo units at King St. and John St. but it seems many don't mind being house poor. And everything costs more in Toronto: daycare if you need it, camps, activities, everything.
So we settled on a compromise: Markham, located just outside Toronto. This place is perfect. It has its share of awesome festivals, parks, cultural activities, a thriving arts scene, restaurants galore and beautiful green spaces but is more affordable than downtown Toronto. Markham also has some of the top schools in Ontario and amazing extracurricular activities - everything from rock climbing to fashion design to Flash animation to curling and every other sport imaginable. It is a thriving city in its own right, with a bustling business community and a good public transit system. Most important, it is ethnically diverse, something that was missing in our previous 'burb.
Markham is close to downtown Toronto, which comes in handy if we have to run down to the Hospital for Sick Children - something we had to do a lot of this year - or if we just want to visit our favourite big city. Markham is near Stouffville, which is more 'farmy' and has wonderful horseback riding, an activity that occupies much of our time. Markham is also close to Musselman's Lake, which we go to almost every weekend because it offers a fun and inexpensive camping resort with tons of great summer activities.
Our goal is still to move to downtown Toronto someday, when the kids are finished with school. Until then, we can visit often and experience all the city has to offer. In fact, every Thursday we drive to Harbourfront to do fun stuff with the kids and our dog at PawsWay
, go kayaking in the little man made pond, check out the boats, and catch some Latin dancing. That's our Toronto fix for now, and it's enough.