A few years ago, Daughter Olivia moved into the complex known as Crescent Town. At the time, I was worried because when I was her age, Crescent Town was not a place I would have even gone, let alone lived. But she’s been very happy there and she’s never been mugged.
So last fall, after having difficulties with Toronto Parks and Recreation’s swimming programs for Jaden, I was surprised to find that Crescent Town Community Centre offered private swimming lessons for $90 for 5 and that they were available to the public. I never would have considered it if Olivia hadn’t lived in the complex – unharmed.
Off Jaden and I went to swimming. Jaden is a special child and suffers from severe anxiety in certain circumstances and impulsivity at the best of times. Sending him into the men’s changing room alone was just not an option. From the first day, Jaden had instructions to keep his eyes down and to stick close to me, while I found a quiet corner where I could use his towel not just as a shield for him but also from him. There’s no family changing room so that was about the best I could do.
On one of the first occasions, there was a woman in the change room who totally freaked out on me for having Jaden in the room. Not much I could do. She was extremely aggressive, rude, loud and in my face but I carried on, continuing to instruct Jaden to be respectful of the fact that he was in foreign territory. Funny, when I left that day my house keys were no longer in my jacket pocket.
The second time this happened (different woman), I asked his swimming instructor if there was an alternative. She said, “don’t worry about it, I’ll make sure it’s okay”. I thought that would be the end of it.
Last night, as we approached the door of the change room, Jaden said to me “eyes down, right grandma?” and we went to our corner and he changed. Imagine my surprise when an employee followed us into the shower saying “people are complaining about him being in here”. I said “this has been taken care of, tell them to complain at the desk”. She repeated herself, I repeated myself, she repeated herself…you get the picture. When we got into the pool, I told the swimming instructor about it and she said “that shouldn’t happen”.
In any event, I left Jaden in Niv’s care – not without a major wobble on Jaden’s part about me leaving – to go and pay for 5 more lessons (including the one he was about to have). As I waited at the counter I was aware that another woman had also come to stand near me. When the pool employee finally came to the counter, rather than speak to me, although I was there first, he spoke to her. She raised her arm, pointed at me and started shrieking that I had a 9 year old boy in the woman’s change room. I turned and looked at her realizing it was the same woman who had shrieked at me on the previous occasion.
Things escalated and when I turned my back on her in disgust she shoved me, hard enough that she hurt me and, although I didn’t back down, frankly frightened me. Thanks goodness she did it in front of the pool employee!
So now I had a dilemma – am I going to be able to bring Jaden for more lessons? Do I bother buying more? How do I get him out of the pool, showered and dressed after his lesson other than using the Women’s? The pool employee was very good, calmed me down and suggested I lay a complaint against the woman. He assured me that the pool staff would be able to determine who she is because the whole event was videotaped!
When Jaden and I returned home and told Joe about it, there was no doubt in his mind that I needed to call the police about the assault. I was reluctant at first but then realized that as this was not an isolated incident but the second encounter with this woman and things had escalated. I was also reluctant to go back to the pool because of it. Sure signs of dealing with a bully.
Toronto’s Finest were called; I requested that charges not be laid at this time but that the woman be found and cautioned. Fortunately, as a special child, Jaden has the right to access facilities like this pool and either they must find accommodation for us or they must ensure that we have a safe environment and women like her must leave us alone.