Sunday, October 24, 2010

Montreal chat

Erin is in Montreal, checking out the McGill music faculty and falling in love with the city all over again. She was there for a week in 2008 on an exchange trip and loved it then. This time her perspective is different. She's not there for a visit; she's looking to live there, and soon.

Last night we managed to chat for a while on-line. She's had two lessons. Liked both teachers a lot, but loved one of them, and thought she was "adorable." The French accent probably didn't hurt. It sounds like they connected really really well. Both teachers basically told her she'd have no trouble getting into the performance program and that she should focus on trying to win scholarships. She got some input on her recital performance pieces and on general posture and technique and tone stuff. She has one more lesson with another teacher today, as well as the McGill open house to attend. It was lucky good timing for this trip that the open house happens this weekend. Hopefully she'll get some helpful information and impressions from that. Though the real money for her is in the personal and artistic connection she thinks she might be able to forge with a teacher there. So far things are looking very good on that count.

She's dreaming of an apartment. A small funky somewhat scuzzy one in a run-down building within a few miles of the university, near a metro station, that she can paint "blue and purple and chalkboard," and fill with IKEA furniture, tea, an espresso machine and strings of LED lights. She's using whiney "pleeeeeeases" with far to many e's to ask if she can possibly live in Montréal next year, during her last pre-university year, as soon as she finishes her high school coursework. Did I mention she's fallen in love with the city? I was already entertaining thoughts of an arrangement of some sort in Calgary, but Montreal is so darned far away. Soooooooo darned far. (This issue just cries out for strings of repeated vowels.)

Four years ago I wrote about how, in raising our kids, we've tended to compress or entirely skip many of the intermediate stages. We've let the kids stay little and dependent for as long as they'd like, and then let them be independent and autonomous as soon as they're ready. But (gulp!) does this translate into letting my country bumpkin move more than 4000 kilometres away at age 17 to a city of a million and half, completely on her own and without the support of a university environment? I don't know ....


  1. Anonymous12:19 pm

    Unlike most of my family and friends you don't ever seem to "second guess" your parenting beliefs, and decisions,(lucky you:-I wish I were so superwomanish!!) so I am certain this will be no exception and you will do what you feel is right.

  2. Anonymous7:16 am

    Hi Miranda'

    In this case I think you have to put trust in how you've brought Erin up. Seems to me from reading between the lines in your blog, she has a level head and a maturity not found in many 17 years olds.
    I would be feeling just like you are right now....I don't know if I could let my daughter when she is 17 go halfway across the country, but there is always a BUT and you know what she is like and whether or not she could cope being on her own. Just think of the benefits for her and put your fears aside and do whats best for the both of you, but especially Erin. You know if its right or not.

  3. Anonymous9:06 am

    The question is after a year of independence in the city will she be able to settle in to the tameness of a university environment after?

  4. Not sure what you mean by the tameness of a university environment. She'd have practicing, lessons, orchestra, chamber music and coursework both next year and while in university.

  5. Gulp. Exciting and scary (for you both)! I lived on my own at 17, in Chicago, to pursue music and a private arts college. There were moments, but I had a job, school, internship, recording studio...I think it depends on the individual. Many kids are infantilized by being in a school and home environment where they have had to answer to authority for their every move and breath. BUT, kids who have had more independence I don't think have as much need to go off the deep end, so to speak, because, well, WHY? :)

  6. My sil lived in Montreal when she was 16-19 while pursuing a figure skating career. She loved it and thrived in the city. It can be done and I am sure Erin is of one of the few who would manage it admirably.

  7. If it was Calgary it would be so much easier. She knows a few people there. And I could be there for a while at the beginning, and drop back in after a week or two, to make sure she's figuring out stuff and dealing okay with the wrinkles. Stuff like, I dunno, scanning and faxing the registration form for youth orchestra or trouble-shooting problems with her ISP, or finding somewhere to get a haircut or figuring out transportation to the Cuban Cultural Club way out in the east for that choir performance, arranging to get a shelving unit delivered somehow. The stuff that involves asking people questions, making phone calls, trouble-shooting services and such. That's stuff Erin finds extremely challenging: the direct inter-personal question-asking and advocating. And if I could be there for a while, and again after a while, I'd be confident I could help her with anything she was struggling with and get those wrinkles sorted out with her. Without being there, I don't know. She tends to just shut down.

    It took me 45 minutes to talk her through a logistical conundrum in Calgary one weekend she was alone there. She was out of phone minutes, didn't have a house key to lock up and get back in if she left to go buy some at the store, was supposed to meet somebody but didn't have clear enough directions or a contact number, didn't know how long it would take to get there, didn't know what the place would look like ... and she seemed just helpless. She wanted me to somehow sort it all out for her, make it easy so that she didn't have to actually ask any questions out in the real world and figure it out for herself. Or maybe she just wanted to whine to someone about the fact that eventually she would have to go and do that stuff. She sort of hoped I would know what the box office would look like and whether the tickets would already be paid for and how to find the backstage door ... arghh. She did eventually manage: I had a meeting to get to and hung up the phone telling her she'd just have to do it, sorry.

    I know she could cook and eat and do her schoolwork and practice hard and not get into trouble with the law or make stupid choices in her relationships. It's just the logistical stuff that involves speaking to strangers and asking questions that I'd worry about.

  8. Anonymous11:37 am

    What are your husband's thoughts on it all? You know men and their daughters!!

  9. Chuck's certainly open to the idea. It's all about the logistics, though.

  10. Could you consider trying it and if it doesn't work out, well then so be it? I mean of course there would be some repercussions, financial and otherwise, but still ... might be worth a shot. I think my daughter is very much like yours (she says she can't wait for 17 to move away to attend university, and if she chooses a gap year she does NOT want to stay home). They have such a strong need to be on their own, for independence and privacy, but then they too have those inhibitions that hold them back. I bet the further away she is from home, the more willing she will be to experiment with speaking to strangers and such. I think in Calgary, even when you aren't there, you in way are there in her mind, so she still sees what she does as being "watched" (even though it's not). Does this make sense? I think a huge portion of these girls' inhibitions comes from not wanting to be seen when they do new things, and I don't mean by strangers, I mean by people who know them, especially their mothers. Even if it is simple as asking for directions, I bet a whole new setting, all new faces, no close relationships with anyone, will make a lot of things easier. Kids like this are not at all the norm. Having people around who care for them inhibits their behaviour so I can see the attraction she has for a new place. Does that make any sense at all??

  11. Anonymous10:00 am

    I've been reading your blog for a long time but never posted a comment.

    My older sister moved in Montreal when she was 18. Although it wasn't 4000km from where we lived (only 500, but still, it's not at the door!), my sister was used to living in the country, in a small town where we know everybody. She loved Mtl right away when she got there and really had no problem to adapt. Now, I've been living in Montreal for the past 6 months. I really enjoy the city and find it very "easy", whenever I need help, I get it without any problem.
    The question-asking/advocating difficulties Erin has might just be related to her age. I was the same at 17, and so is my little sister now (she's 17). I have to say leaving Home and moving in different cities helped us on this front. And as I said, you don't have to "fight" here to get help (like in the previous city I lived in), people are nice and open minded. They must be used to it, there are so many immigrants here!

    Anyway, you know your daugther well, but somehow, the way you describe her, I'm confident she would get used to living here quickly.

  12. flinny5:28 pm

    I also think that the question-asking/advocating thing is an age thing. I was the same too, and even now (I'm 26) there are times when if there was someone else to do it for me, I'd gladly step back and let them do it. If you're on your own then you have to do it, and learn!

    I grew up in a very rural area too, and when I was 17 I moved three hours away for the summer to pursue my particular interest, living in a little box of a room in a big city armed with the new technology of the family mobile phone (my parents were worried). I had to figure out rent, buses, getting food and so on. It was an amazing summer.

    To be fair though, my grandparents lived a 40 min bus + 1hr train ride away, and every Friday evening I'd head back to them and get picked up and looked after for a bit. I'm sure I'd have been fine without it, but it was a big help knowing they are there. I also was staying in a nurses accomodation block - i.e. student type rooms, doorman etc so there was some extra security.

    How long would it take a friendly face to get to Montreal if Erin needed help and called? Because of parental illness/grandparents getting older, two years ago I did begin to feel that if I needed help then there was nobody I could call who I knew would just be there. That's a big deal, even though I've lived alone both at home and abroad for years.

    Could she enter university early, or even try to see whether the university accomodation office could place her in accomodation with other students etc/ let her know about houseshares with other students?

    That said, Erin seems a whole lot more independent than I was at that age, and I'm sure she'd manage just fine and have a brilliant time! :) Especially with you there the other end of the phone as necessary.

  13. Ahh, I see what you mean. I am very introverted, and while I can seem OK out in the world and have conversations and be outgoing when needed, the logistics is what gets me at times too. For that, yes, Montreal is far far away! If she was living with a family (yet with independence) or had a good solid room mate...I know in Chicago there were even apartments for young women with an older woman there too ... most who lived there were Europeans just moving to the US and needed help navigating around the city, feeling safe, help with all that stuff. I wonder if that would be a good in between before getting her own solo place?


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