I spend a decent amount of time thinking about being a kid again. It’s not because I don’t like being an adult, I really do, but my childhood was a pretty good one. If you did not have a childhood that you enjoyed, I am really sorry. I’m a naturally empathetic person, and anytime I start saying anything happy and positive about my life, I automatically think, “who is this going to upset?” So if that’s you, I hope your life is better now, and if you are a parent, I hope you are making your children’s lives and memories better than yours got to be, and getting to live through them like you were a kid all over again.
I spend a similar amount of time worrying about how my kids will feel about their childhood. There will be a lot of differences between their childhood and mine, and many of those make me feel a little guilty, especially SUMMER. You see, my dad worked a desk job and played sporadically in bands for a second income (while finding time to come to ALL my sporting events), while my mom stayed home and then taught piano lessons on weekdays after I got old enough to be left alone in the house. When summer came, I got to be home for 2-3 months with my mom and brother! I LOVED being at home, playing at home. Sure there were week long summer camps here and there, or swim lessons, or whatever, but for the most part, every day was an adventure of my own making.
My kids are very happy kids and we are very close. However, unless something major changes, summers will be different for my children. I struggle with that choice sometimes.
Both me and my wife work. As it stands right now, my children will go to Summer Day Camp a few days a week. It would be every day if my parents weren’t in town, healthy, and in love with my kids. Now, Summer Day Camp is not prison, and they do a LOT of fun and wonderful things there, are cared for by loving individuals and go on crazy cool field trips. But on the mornings when my five year old daughter says, “Why can’t we stay home today?” I don’t know what to say. The truth is in choices she can’t understand yet about buying a house vs. renting one, paying off school debt, freedom in a little security and all sorts of other grown up things.
So sometimes I ask myself – would my five year old be envious of me when I was five years old? That’s a hard question to answer. We’re preparing her for things she can’t yet understand. I know my daughter wishes she could be home every day in the summer. I got to have that. It hurts a little that she doesn’t.
Could we change our lifestyle to make that happen? Of course. It would be a big change with financial ramifications, dietary changes, employment changes, probably every kind of change possible. And it would give them that experience, but at the cost of something else…maybe college tuition in the future, or parents that could take care of themselves in retirement, or not being able to do extracurricular things or take vacations, or parents that didn’t love their jobs or help people in need. We get to do those things and build that into the culture of our family.
When I think of how much I loved being with my brother and mom during the summer, it’s enough to make me question that choice. The memories we made are treasures. Wearing out a wading pool, sometimes two every summer. Catching frogs and putting them in the pool with us. Playing with our action figures OUTSIDE because we had time! Riding our bikes up and down the street to other neighborhood houses. Mom making us lunch every day.
In the grand scheme, the difference in happiness on a global scale is minute. My children are happy, well fed, healthy, kind, and have friends. Upon reflection, the source of my guilt isn’t really guilt at all I guess. It’s fear – the fear that if I make choices DIFFERENT than my parents made, that my kids won’t love ME as much as I love my parents. Because I love my parents. I loved being a kid. I loved being THEIR kid. But It’s not just that I want to be loved by my kids, it’s that I want them to feel loved like I did, and what if they didn’t feel that to the same degree? I always knew I was loved and sacrificed for. Will my kids know the same?
My parents are a big part of who I am. There are plenty of ways I am passing on their awesomeness to my kids. If I learned to love from my parents and if they showed love well, I can’t help but pass on that love to my children. The parts of them that I love are now part of me, and are becoming part of my kids. For each summer day I don’t share experiences with my children, I will fight for time on days when I am available. I will ask them about their highs and lows, and tell them how much I missed them and thought about them. The little five year old in me will come out to play, and we will all mine more treasures together.