As a child I stood in front of the mirror and I wanted it to swallow me up, like Alice. And sometimes I’d dream that my real family had been kidnapped and replaced by a secret government agency that was trying to just string me along for some reason. It all made so much sense in the middle of the night.
Mostly though, I lived in my own world, or really the children’s world of the 1970s – that era you see described in memes as no helmets, no seat belts, no Internet, drinking from the hose and look how fine we turned out. It’s funny though, that we like to say this stuff to today’s kids as if we ourselves had nothing to do with the crazy world they live in now.
In my world back then, parents were just… I dunno. I mean, they fed us and that was about it. Mom read me bedtime stories. They didn’t completely sound like the adults on Charlie Brown specials, but it really wasn’t that far off. They sort of just… didn’t matter much. We found our own adventures, made our own rules, ripped holes in the knees of our jeans from climbing trees and riding bikes, and I don’t remember once thinking these were things I needed to explain to my parents, or to blame them for.
I would love that freedom now. But “kids these days” know that world hasn’t existed for a long time. Maybe they don’t even believe our silly stories. Who really knows what all happened… TV news brought fear, fear brought locks and more TV, and somehow social media is how everything is done now. Kids don’t rip so many pairs of jeans. They ride bikes under our watchful eyes, and we tend to tell them not to do most anything we would have back in the day. I hear way too many parents fuss at their kids for even a spot of dirt. Gasp. Anyway, I can’t undo this, can’t manage to find the magical mix of nurturing and lackadaisy that brought me up at least knowing I could own my own problems. True, I owned too many, but I’m beginning to see that as a gift too, now that I can let go more.
My parents didn’t make my mistakes for me, and I don’t remember ever thinking they were responsible. As a parent in this new world, it seems like that’s all we’ve done sometimes. I spent countless hours trying to make sure my kids were “enriched” with experiences. And when anything went wrong, and oh did things go wrong, I took all the blame laid out for me by myself, other parents, and the kids themselves. But seriously, I think at some point we each have to own our own mess, tend our own wounds, and get on with the business of being ourselves. I don’t think I did a good job preparing my kids for that, in spite of tremendously good intentions. I do have full faith that they will figure it out sooner or later, and know what to do to be their best true selves. I think that I’m now in a first do no harm kind of place, and that will have to do until the mirror swallows me, or them, and we figure out this was all just a dream.