I can’t speak for everyone, but being a parent has made me especially reflective of my own childhood. As I go through the early stages of my children’s lives, experiences they have often make me think of similar memories from when I was growing up, except I now see them from my parent’s viewpoint. This newfound ability to step into my mom and dad’s shoes has helped me develop an even stronger appreciation for the way I was raised and how much my parents obviously cared for myself and my sister.
It also, unfortunately, has changed a few of the warm ‘n fuzzy memories floating around in my head, because now I know what my parents were really thinking. And it ain’t pretty.
Sample Memory #1 (Age: approximately 3 years old): Hazy-yet-idyllic recollections of snuggling in my parent’s bed in the mornings. The warm sun is just beginning to peek through the curtains as I giggle and crawl over my mother and father. I’m having so much fun playing with my parents, and squeal with excitement whenever my dad traps me under the covers and pretends he can’t see me. Mom is more quiet, laying tranquilly to the side but always ready for a cuddle. Ah, bliss.
Newfound Understanding Of This Memory: This recollection was joyful and charming, but not for my parents. My parents were exhausted, tired, and just trying to grab a few extra minutes of sleep before beginning their day but their damned 3 year old daughter had other plans. I can guarantee it was no later than 6:30am, and that the reason I was “crawling” on top of my parents was because they were desperately clinging to the hope that seeing them laying still would entice me to lay down and rest, too. Chances are also good that while I was eagerly scooting back and forth on top of them, my feet were kicking my mom and my elbows were sacking my dad. My father was not trapping me under the covers for sheer play-purposes, but because it gave them 30 seconds at a time of quiet before I would begin thrashing and shrieking again. And my mother? She was laying so quietly to the side because she had been up all night with my screaming baby sister, not because she was a serene person. She was also praying that my father would pick up on her not-so-subtle ignoring of the horseplay and just take me the fuck out of bed so she could catch another 20 minutes before Hell Spawn #2 woke and needed nursing. Ah, bliss.
Sample Memory #2 (Age: approximately 6 years old): The backyard is blanketed in white after a massive snowstorm as my mother ushers my sister and I out the door. “Have fun and build a snowman, girls!” she says with a smile. “You stay out here and play until mommy calls you back in, ok? I’m making us a special meal for lunch, and you wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise, would you?”. “Ok, mom!” we cheerfully reply as we traipse across the deck. We play merrily in the winter wonderland for a full hour-and-a-half until we are called back inside for a lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup and *gasp* hot chocolate with marshmallows. What a treat!
Newfound Understanding Of This Memory: My mother had been cooped up inside with us for three.full.days as the blizzard raged outside, and was this far from checking herself into the mental ward for a nice, refreshing break. Our eagerness to get outside in the sparkling sunshine was only outdone by her eagerness to close the door on our cabin-fevered asses. And the choice of grilled cheese and tomato soup? Actually a special treat for mommy; with a start-to-finish time of 10 minutes, its the grande dame of lazy lunches. What a treat!
The funny thing is, reflecting on my past has also given me some insight into my children’s experiences today, and has helped me develop a better understanding of what could be going through the minds of Mason (and eventually Avery) right now. I’ll continue Part 2 of this article on Tuesday …. in the meanwhile, what memories do you have from your childhood that you now “understand” better?