Lynn Easton.

Lynn Easton.

Early On: Alone amongst long driveways, trees

Early Years Centre launched at Webster’s Corners last month.

We moved to this small house on a dead-end street surrounded by a quiet forest in the heart of Webster’s Corners when my children were just preschoolers.

They thrived in this rural community, where the children roam fearlessly up empty streets and play ferociously in dense forests. It was an idyllic environment for them to grow up in.

And it almost killed me.

The dense forest and long quiet streets also meant a different kind of silence for parents who stayed home with their children.

I know it’s tough for all stay-at-home parents, whether you work at a computer all day or are a full-time caregiver for your children. But there’s a special brand of lonely in the country.

Long driveways, and commutes to faraway workplaces mean long, long days for work-at-home parent partners. For me, isolation and loneliness were an unexpected bi-product of our bucolic lifestyle.

Sure, we signed-up for everything from story-time to swimming lessons and gym class. I’d search to find the less structured activities with lots of social free time for the kids and plenty of connection time for parents.

But it was tough to keep up. As a stay-at-home parent, it can sometimes be difficult just to get your toddlers dressed and into the backyard, let alone into the car for the – sometimes – half-hour drive into town.

And the gas. I refuse to think about the amount of gas I put in the tank to ensure we got to those built-in play dates that often had a price tag of their own.

Eventually, I met more people. Both my kids and I have developed life-long friendships that started here on this dead-end street. But I’ve never forgotten the deep and difficult silence I endured as a new-to-town, isolated stay-at-home parent searching for connection.

That’s why I have been smiling a lot lately as I pass my kid’s old school, Webster’s Corners elementary. I can’t help grinning every time I see the big blue Early Years Centre sign. It’s like a beacon I never had.

The Early Years Centre was launched at Webster’s Corners in Maple Ridge just last month. It has its own space inside the walls of the school and offers free drop-in and registered programs, such as Mother Goose and Let’s Play and Sing programs for toddlers and preschoolers.

There are all kinds of benefits to this type of programming. It allows our youngest citizens to thrive, create, play and socialize while getting familiar with the big school they will attend in a few short years. This is exactly the kind of programs we need for our children – and they are pretty great for parents, too.

And for those of us it the country, it also has a slightly less tangible benefit.

Sure, the kids will get a much-needed stimulating environment. And there’s no doubt that parents will use less gas than I ever did. But they will also make those tough-to-create connections with other rural parents that they simply won’t have had chance to make anywhere else.

For some, this will be the lifesaver they never knew they needed.

Since the Webster’s Corners Early Years Centre has opened, I sometimes watch a tentative parent walk toward the front door with a small child in tow. There’s often not another soul to be seen anywhere in this isolated farmland and forested community.

Sometimes it’s dark and the rain is falling. Each time, I want to catch their eye and tell them everything is going to be all right. Go ahead, open the door and walk in – you are to be just fine.

• Parents can find out more about both the Blue Mountain Elementary School and Webster’s Corners Early Years Centre @ ridgemeadowsecd.ca/eyc.

Lynn Easton writes for the Ridge Meadows Early Childhood Development

Committee.