I was just reading an article in Die Zeit (not available online, for some reason) about a divorced mother in Bavaria who abruptly had custody of her six-year-old son removed, and given to her ex-husband and his new wife, on the basis of vague complaints that anonymous neighbours communicated to social services. They said the boy had injured himself playing outside with a lawnmower, though there is no evidence that such an injury ever occurred. She yells at him. The boy sits outside and waits for his father to pick him up, showing that he doesn’t like being there. But one detail — from the testimony of the new wife — stood out for me:
She doesn’t pay any attention to her son. She lets him play outside in the winter for hours when it’s minus 12 degrees Celsius.
If that were child neglect, you’d have to prosecute most of the parents in Canada. As I recall, when we lived in Kingston, my daughter’s kindergarten would have them playing outside during breaks unless the temperature went below -30°C.
From the old “Moving to Canada” blog, originally posted on 22 Jan, 2006:
Two things I did not anticipate for January in Kingston: A federal election, and having to remove my coat to cool off while bicycling.
Weather (or où sont les neiges d’antan?)
I didn’t expect to be able to bicycle at all in the winter, since I expected the roads to be icy and dangerously narrowed by snowbanks. Instead, the two feet or so of December snow have vanished, except for a few tough icy rinds, and we’re back to shuttling Chaya to daycare in her bike trailer. Some nights it has not even been dipping below freezing. It’s like an unending late fall, with the days getting longer. Meanwhile, Europe has been having a Canadian winter. The natives here complain about the weather. It’s too slushy. They want the streets properly frozen.
Skating is a big deal in Canada. Skating rinks are an essential public service, and municipal governments are judged in their effectiveness on their ability to keep them well maintained, and in their social conscience on making them available to the poor. In this, they are like the swimming pools in German cities, or railway bicycle storage in the Netherlands. Or prisons in the US… The Market Square in Kingston (soon to be renamed the Springer Market Square, according to a backroom city council sponsorship deal which is now the topic of legal action) has had a cooled outdoor ice rink installed, open 12 hours a day every day, and several parks have had wooden ovals installed, which they hose down at regular intervals and let freeze, if the weather is cold enough. Whereas middle class men in the US are always off to their basketball leagues, here they go play hockey at midnight, because that’s when they were able to get the ice free. (more…)