On childhood bliss

by DaniGirl on June 16, 2005 · 8 comments

in Uncategorized

A few years ago, I spent a while talking to a psychologist trying to untangle some of the knots my ex-husband left behind, and one day she told me that after hearing so much about my childhood and how I felt about growing up, one of the best things I could do with my life was to raise a couple of kids the way my parents raised me. Is that not the most amazing compliment you can ever imagine?

In response to my 101 things post, Cooper from Been There – which is a really good blog, BTW – said, “What did your parents do right and why did you love your childhood (outside of school) so much? I want to know this so I can do that for my kids. Tell me!”

I had to think about this for a while, but I think the answer is that I always felt secure. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that I was loved: by my parents, two sets of grandparents, even my pesty younger brother. Unconditional love builds a safety net so that you have the courage to stretch yourself out a little bit, to try new things, to be brave, knowing that if you don’t quite make it, there will be someone there to catch you, or at least pick you up and dust you off and work out some of the dents in your ego before sending you off to try again.

Also, my parents worked fairly hard at preserving my innocence. Ignorance truly is bliss. While I could tell you in graphic detail where babies came from for as long as I can remember, I had no idea that for the first years of my life my parents barely had two nickles to rub together. My granny used to buy clothes for me, because my folks just couldn’t afford it. I had no idea until I was much older. And while I was reading the newspaper daily starting when I was in elementary school, and we watched the news every night, somehow I managed to stay completely sheltered of the cruelties of the world for most of my childhood.

It helps, too, that my parents were very much in love, and I can’t recall a single instance of them fighting, truly fighting, in front of us. Conversely, I wonder if this is where my fear of conflict comes from (hey, make that 102 things about me – I don’t think I mentioned I have a deeply entrenched fear of conflict and hate fighting of any kind) and sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to see that people can fight and resolve a situation rather than just not seeing the fighting in the first place.

One thing that makes me a little bit sad that my boys won’t have the freedom I had, because I have so many happy memories of just taking off and wandering around the neighbourhood when I was just five or six or seven years old, or playing hide and seek with the neighbourhood gang until it was too dark to see. It makes me a little sad that they will grow up in such a different kind of world than I did. I used to walk to school and back again every day by myself at the age of four – can you imagine that happening today?

What do you guys think? What makes for a happy childhood? What will you do that your parents did, or what will you desperately hope you will never do?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 mgood June 16, 2005 at 2:47 pm

As much as I might bitch about it from time to time, the best part of my childhood was lots of time to myself – to read, draw, imagine or wander. I try very hard to give my daughter her own mental space. I will never over-schedule her with activities and sports and playdates – not just because I hate them, but because if she can’t learn to be by herself and with herself, she won’t learn to be herself.
Can you tell I’m very much myself, fellow Leo?

2 Running2Ks June 16, 2005 at 3:09 pm

My parents always spoke to me in a respectful way. Opinions were often voiced in our house. Like yours, they never fought in front of us (only once, and it scared the heck out of me, and never again). They taught me the value of money and saving it. They let me roam free when I was late in elementary school–but times were different. They stressed the importance of education, and made sure that they did without so that we could go to college without a bill hanging over the start of our lives. They demonstrated manners everywhere. And the loved (and love) us a lot.

3 SilverCreek Mom June 16, 2005 at 7:50 pm

Gosh..>What I liked about my childhood was taken away at some point…another blog. BUT I always remember how we would all eat together and have wrestling matches before the hockey game. My dad was away early and came home late. So this was a special time.
The one thing I swore I would never do is yell…and much to my chagin I am yelling and HAve no idea what to do about it. So today I wentout and bought some books. I want my kids to remember ME not my yelling.
Good blog Dani

4 AnnaJ June 16, 2005 at 9:54 pm

Dani, I too feel quite similar to you with regards to my parents. No matter what was going on in the world, I always felt (and still do feel) loved. I know that no matter what time or what happend I can call them and they will be there. I too did not know that my parents had nothing while we were growing up. It wasn’t until the early ’80s when they were finally able to buy themselves some new clothes!!! Thank goodness as the ’70s were over ๐Ÿ˜‰ I did not know until I was much, much older that they sometimes would take us to Montreal to visit our Grandparents and not know if they would make it home on the gas. They kindness of others has always helped them (us) through. Today, my parents are doing great and I am so happy that they can spoil themselves rotten and actually get upset when they try to spoil us or the kids :). I feel very blessed with my Parents and only hope to do half as good of a job!
Anna – sorry for the novella ๐Ÿ˜‰

5 Troy June 16, 2005 at 10:14 pm

What a wonderful post, Dani.
I feel really lucky to have had the childhood I had, growing up with two loving, respectful parents in a small town where everybody knew everybody and nobody locked their doors. I’ve many times wished I could somehow give my girls the same sort of childhood, but too many things have changed since then.
But even if I can’t control society, I can control my actions, and my parenting methods are very much like those of my parents’. I can also say that, now being a dad myself, I have a very different perspective on a lot of the things they would do and say that once upon a time annoyed or irritated me.
Tough stuff, this parenting racket. If one day my daughters look back and feel thankful that, even though their old man wasn’t perfect, their childhood contains more happy memories than bad or sad ones, I’ll die satisfied.

6 Becki June 18, 2005 at 3:46 am

I, too, grew up in a home where I never, ever, questioned that I was loved. I had my parents, my father’s parents, my dad’s unmarried sister, and my sister (my brother was in college when I was born). Then next door was my father’s brother, who married my mom’s sister, and their kids. There was just so much family around and it just felt so warm and safe. I’m sad that my kids will grow up so far from aunts and uncles and cousins.

7 Phil June 19, 2005 at 6:40 am

I guess I have a completely different childhood than the rest of you. But the strange thing is that I am currently parenting the same way you are.
I also have an aversion to conflict, but mine developed because my parents always fought. Some of my earliest memories are of my mom sitting in my big rocking chair in my room, crying because my dad had ridiculed her. As I got older, they just screamed at each other almost daily. Then my brother died and they blamed each other. Finally my dad left for another woman. Even then they still yelled at each other over the phone.
I learned a lot from my parents… I do the opposite of what I remember. I’m like George Costanza on Seinfeld when he starts doing everything the opposite of what he used to do.
I also feel as you do about the freedom we enjoyed as kids… My own kids do not have that freedom. They are not allowed in the front yard by themselves. They can’t just come and go from the house as I did at the age of 5, walking to my friends’ house to ask “Can Robbie come out to play?”
But I figure that my kids are doing A LOT more than I ever did. I encourage them to use their imagination wherever we are, and we spend a lot of time outdoors hiking or skipping rocks on the lake. We’ve made the backyard like a fantasyland, and they love nothing more than to dig holes in the dirt, search for bugs, swing, climb trees, etc. Their childhood is going to be one filled with happy memories.

8 Danigirl June 20, 2005 at 2:38 am

Wow, thank you ALL so much for such candid and heartfelt answers. I guess we really cover the spectrum, don’t we?
For those of you with less than ideal childhoods, I’m suddenly afraid that I came off – I don’t know, maybe a little bit too oblivious? Anyway, I really appreciate everybody’s honesty.
Troy summed it up well: tough stuff, this parenting. I’m increasingly grateful to have all of you to share the funnies and the rough times, too.
xo Danigirl

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