After having spent many years living in rental houses, I have vowed never to do so again. Houses are too much work, I said. There’s not only the whole inside to clean and just keep tidy, but there’s the outside too, the exterior of the house, and the yard. Mulitiple levels separate the family and promote isolation. It’s also very hard to keep an eye on the wee ones, e.g. doing things like laundry or cooking while they are in the bath (which I can do in our current situation). Nope, I told everyone who would listen, I won’t live in a house. I also went so far as to say that the notion of a single family taking up a whole building was environmentally greedy, given that it takes up such a large footprint relative to denser housing.
Lately, DH and I have started to go to some open houses as we are hoping to buy before the year is over and want to get a good feel for what is out there. We saw some gorgeous apartments with sweeping views, beautifully finished kitchens, and luxury appointments. And that’s what we wanted. Or at least, that’s what we thought we wanted.
But lately I’ve been really thinking about our life. Our day to day life. And it occurred to me one morning while I was wiping chocolate milk off the walls, and trying to figure out how to take the cover off the sofa so I could wash off the food colouring…why are we thinking about buying a luxury condo when our kids are just going to trash it? Is it fair to them to put them in an environment where the adults will be stressing about every little chip in the paint, or scuff on the floor, or pen mark on the wall? Is it fair to the adults to be that stressed?
Today while browsing the local real estate listings online, I came across a little house listed for sale. I had the chance to drive past it this afternoon and I fell in love. It has a basement suite and a main floor and that’s it. The whole house is 1700 sq ft. We could have our apartment-style, single-level dwelling but with a back yard. We could have a dog. It’s one block from the little park where I’ve been spending so much time lately meeting up with my mama friends. It’s close to a million amenities, including one of the locations that our local homelearners resource centre uses for courses.
And while reading some homeschooling sites and getting ideas about things to provide for my kids so that they have an environment that stimulates and encourages them to explore and learn and be creative, I realized that such an environment is not ever going to be neat and tidy in the “Home Decor” sense. I want them to have a play kitchen and dressup clothes, things to build forts with or a puppet theatre, art supplies and building materials, a microscope, a telescope, and bookshelves bursting with great reads. I want a garden for them to dig in and grow things and run around when they need to burn off some steam. And I realized that this warm and wonderful image really doesn’t fit in with the sorts of showroom condos we’ve been looking at.
One of the things about homelearning is that it is so closely tied in with family and just living life everyday together. In this context, the word “Home” takes on such a deeper meaning. I want our home to be the kids’ home, too. I want them to be comfortable in it, and feel free to explore and be a child in it. If they had their pick, would they choose the little house or the luxury condo? It’s not hard to figure out that answer.
Unfortunately, we’re not quite ready to move on a purchase yet and I know this house is not going to last on the market before somebody snatches it up. So this particular house will not likely be ours. But it has made me realize that I can have the best of both worlds: a small house, with a single level of living space, but with a yard and a residential street out front, and with all the urban amenities within a few blocks’ radius. It’s made me realize that the neighbourhood where these luxury condos are is not really suited to me and my lifestyle. I don’t consider shopping to be a preferred recreational activity, and I have little interest in chi-chi boutiques or the latest trendy designer stuff (the saving grace of said luxury development was its proximity to the beach and to Granville Island Market).
So please pass the salt and let me eat my words. It’s a meal I’m actually quite happy to sit down to, given that I feel I have finally figured out what I really want, and not just what I think I want. Now, fingers crossed that we hit the jackpot when DH’s stock options mature some time in the next few weeks…..