It Takes a Park: St. Mary Park and Amberlea Park, Toronto

August 28, 2020

Park People

This contribution from Janelle Richards is part of Park People’s A Day at the Park series, exploring how city parks shape us. Be sure to check out all of the contributors throughout the summer months. 


They say it takes a village to raise a child- that the lessons and love a child receives from the people around them is formative. What you don’t hear as often is that it also takes a park and that these two forces are just as important to new parents. The fresh air can heal, the rustling leaves can soothe and the sun can encourage smiles and discovery for both baby and parent. This is a lesson that I learned first-hand over the last few months.

When I became a new mom in the fall, it wasn’t easy. In the winter as people made their way inside, I found it difficult to navigate motherhood, meet new parents, and get around as I suddenly wasn’t as mobile as I used to be. Add in a pandemic and things didn’t seem as they should. My village was lacking and I was feeling it. Soon, getting outside was the only time I was able to breathe, and one of the only times the baby slept peacefully! So we would walk.

In the snow, I would labour with the stroller over uncleared paths, bumping my bundled baby to sleep. Soon, I learned how to wear her in a carrier, allowing me to walk through the hydro corridor to follow deer paths and test my animal tracking knowledge. In the spring we would go over to the unused sports field in St. Mary Park and practice crawling in the fresh grass to pick dandelions for jelly. Or watch the pond in the nearby Altona Forest transform as it melted and became home to tadpoles. The playgrounds and benches were off-limits but we would set up a blanket in Amberlea Park and watch people pass by- she missed seeing people. When social circles opened, we were even able to safely meet some of our baby friends again thanks to parks!

The postpartum period is one of the hardest, most demanding times in a mom’s life. The addition of physical isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic made it even harder for many. As magical as I was able to make these times with my daughter, I knew I was lucky. I was lucky that I was able to find another way of getting around with Baby to overcome the physical barriers to the outdoors I experienced. I was lucky that I had access to green spaces within walking distance and that I felt safe going there by myself. I was lucky that I knew the healing nature of parks and fought to experience it. Without parks to help raise my daughter, I know this time in my life would’ve been much different. I truly believe that safe and accessible outdoor spaces are critical for the healthy growth of parents and their children.

 

 

So, although my first year of being a parent has been anything other than what I imagined, parks made it something more than I couldn’t have imagined- connecting, healing and growing us both in these unprecedented times.

 

 

About Janelle Richards

Janelle is an environmental educator and a new mom based in Pickering, Ontario. Her passion is connecting all people to nature. She has experience leading school groups, community groups and more in environmental explorations and advocacy. With an education in wildlife biology, she loves insects and teaching whoever will listen about pollinators and interesting plants. She is also finding a new love in watching how little people learn and explore in the natural world.

 


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This contribution from Janelle Richards is part of Park People’s A Day at the Park series, exploring how city parks shape us. Be sure to check out all of the contributors throughout the summer months. 

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