Once upon a time, I was a child…
I look at my kids most days with a mixture of pride, amusement, and befuddlement. Sometimes I feel like a bystander watching them with soft observant eyes, comparing mental notes to my own childhood. Was I that spunky? Was I that incredibly loud? Did I have that same kind of crazy kid energy? Hmmmm….I think you know the answer.
At that age, I was watching Sesame Street and The Great Space Coaster, unpacking toys from my hallowed Happy Meals, hoarding bazooka gum wrappers to read later, and playing chase with the wily ginger-haired twins down the street. I remember taking pride in my red suspenders and bright corduroy pants, patched up at the knees with bright quilted flowers and butterflies.
I remember having a quiet, thoughtful conversation with a neighborhood friend, asking why her shoes were two sizes too big. They were careworn hand-me-downs. Her mom said she would grow into them. Looking back, I realized her mom couldn’t afford a new pair. As young kids we didn’t quite understand. It didn’t quite register until years later. Instead we laughed and played with whatever we could get our hands on, often coming home with dirt smudged on our faces and a twinkle in our eyes.
Then there was the evolution of my hair. Bowl cut graduated to pigtails graduated to ponytail graduated to spiral perm. Full stop.
Flipping through the leaves of an old family album, I would remember things with greater clarity. History condensed down to these album pages. I pause.
When did I become my parents? Why did childhood summers seem to last forever while the last few months race by – only to remind me of my own ephemerality. When did I become so old?
My solitary moment is shattered when my toddler daughter chortles and rolls around on the floor. She’s swiffering the floor gleefully with the force of her entire body. At the very same moment, not even a yard away, my son is obsessively doing the floss. His arms swinging back and forth with metronome precision, rapid-fire style. It’s a race in a never-ending loop. Impressive. Thank you Fortnite for this mind-numbing visual.
I can relate to my kids’ range of pure emotions that take them on a rollercoaster ride all in a 24-day cycle. Peals of laughter that would deafening in an echo chamber, hard stubborn expressions when the wrong sort of vegetables appear on their plates, and the saddest of disappointments when they fail at something important. I look at them through Seussian lenses, delivering the exaggerated character expressions that warrant their quizzical looks and verbal appeals of “mommmmmmmm…..”
While times have certainly changed, the fundamentals of being a kid have not. While we navigate our grownup world, we have the ability to hold on to our childhood essence for a lifetime. To play, to laugh, and to be authentic.