Instead of critiquing a father's decision to let his kids use public transit, we should be talking about the critical importance of public space and social connectedness.
By Maureen Wilson
Published September 07, 2017
At least once a year, social media erupts in outrage over the parenting choice exercised by some unsuspecting mom or dad living in some city or town from somewhere in Canada. To be sure, the issue is typically one that seizes the hearts and minds of the privileged.
Take today's latest outrage. Some dad in B.C. has been reprimanded for allowing his kids to ride public transit without parental supervision. The horror.
Nothing unites us more or brings forward a torrent of disgust and call to arms than parenting choices exercised or curtailed by some mom or dad. Not the absence of clean potable water for Indigenous Peoples, the lack of affordable housing for kids, not the threat of nuclear annihilation because of two mad men at the helm, not the rising temperatures of our oceans and lands.
Women have known this for a long time.
Maternal health, Isolation, loneliness, sleep deprivation, freedom to choose or no freedom at all, economic vulnerability, the absence of equal pay for equal work, parental leave or lack there, the absence of affordable, quality, licensed early childhood education - these real issues are squeezed out by a chorus of voices that would rather sing in shame and blame.
And of course, the incident in B.C. always brings with it a spike in nostalgia.
"I walked to school. Two miles. There and back. Often balancing on one leg when I was their age."
"Helicopter parents are ruining lives and futures. I had the run of the neighbourhood when I was a kid. And married with a full time job by the time I was 23!"
You get the picture. But what a missed opportunity to have real conversations about the real issues that usually underpin all these stories.
A missed opportunity to talk about how we have built inactivity into our city's urban form.
A missed opportunity to talk about the critical importance of social connectedness and how we have crushed it out of our neighbourhoods with speedways, no sidewalks, poorly-designed public spaces or no public spaces at all, and homogeneous income-based neighbourhoods with fences fronting our streets.
Or a generation or two of citizens that lack access to good, reliable and efficient public transit or no transit at all. And, as a result, transit is foreign and scary and not perceived as a public space and a public asset for any and all ages.
Let's use these incidents to highlight the real issues and use these moments as opportunities to rebuild cities, spaces and services that work for all citizens of all incomes, abilities and ages.
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