Childhood Flashbacks

A recent article in the New York Times, explains why childhood is in crisis and why every parent should wake up and act.
Written by Joel Balkan, a Canada based writer and law professor, I find the article pertinent and thought provoking for parents, educators, children’s writers, and children’s advocates.

This article triggered flashbacks from my own childhood and personal thoughts on the subject…

In the 70s, I heard, more than once, my mom and her three sisters lamenting on the difficult task to raise children who had everything. After all, my mom and my aunts were old enough to remember the scarcity of food and the price of freedom during World War II.  
However, my sister, my numerous cousins and I complained that our parents didn’t get anything, that we had no rights and couldn’t do anything.
Of course, we believed we would be much better parents than ours.  Our kids would be free to eat whatever they wanted and whenever they would like, they would do whatever they wished, without any restriction.
Yet, my kids, like my sister, my cousins and I did, believe they have no right, no freedom, that their parents don’t get them and that they will, when their turn comes to have kids, be much better parents.
Classic scenario of generations bumping against each other? Sure.
But to my own dismay, I cannot help but notice how my mother and I grew up in more similar ways than my kids and I.  The childhood my mother and father offered me, with all its restrictions and rules, based on their own childhood, regulated by adults, was also filled with amazing freedom, physical and emotional. 
I mostly remember my parents at dinner time and during our summer vacation. Other than that, my life as a kid and a teenager was spent either alone, reading, writing, listening to music on the radio or playing records,  daydreaming or with kids my own age, biking, playing in the woods, or later, drinking lemonade and coffee in smoky French cafes. All of that without parents’ supervision. 
I have been and still am much more present in my kids’ life, both physically and emotionally.  It is a deliberate choice I made and I enjoy knowing my kids better than I think my parents knew me.  Yet, I worry sometimes that it can be too much and that they don’t enjoy the privacy I had at the same age. 
Because we live far from town, I drive my children to school.  I also pick them up and supervise their free time filled with activities.  I know who their best friends are and who is mean on Facebook. 
At the ripe age of five years old I walked to and back from school and had no after school activity other than entertaining myself.  
Because life has become more dangerous (or we think it is), my husband and I say no to after dinner walks if it’s getting dark.  I took long bike rides before and after dinner, alone or with kids from my small village. 
My friends and I didn’t text each other to meet, we didn’t update our status online, keeping instead private diaries filled with our secrets, we didn’t tweet about our every thought and were satisfy to have only four or five friends.  
We ran through empty fields and along quiet roads, we jumped rope, climbed trees and made tree houses. We ate three times a day and only drank water.  We only saw the doctor when we were very sick and many of us kept crooked teeth.
Actually, we lived lives comparable to the one described in children’s books where adults are merrily a presence.  
I want to think that these thoughts are triggered by nostalgia hitting a woman in her mid life, but deep inside me I know I was lucky to be a kid back then.  The air was cleaner, childhood was based on down-to-earth games and education principles.
In my childhood, I could be invisible and quiet without alarming my parents, I didn’t have to collect friends like trophies to boost my reputation, my parents weren’t involved in my school and life as much as I am in my kids’.
It wasn’t a picture-like childhood, but definitely a simpler one that my kids will never know.
Yes, despite what my mom and her sisters thought, being a kid and a teen in the 40s and the 70s was quite similar.
And when it comes to childhood memories, my mom and I have more in common than my children and me. 
%d bloggers like this: