“Mom, what were you like when you were my age?” is something that I am asked on a regular basis by my daughter. That question fills me with fear and a fair dose of nostalgia.
She is seven now, and I see so much of myself in her. I see her vivid imagination and partiality towards ‘living in her head’. I see her determination to do as best as she can at school. I see her easily affected personality, and I hope she evolves into having a thicker skin than I did during childhood.
So I tell her that I loved to draw, and write. I loved to sing (albeit without tune) and I adored playing with my friends. I’ll tell her the bright side of things, as I remember them, even though at the age she is now, my life at that time wasn’t all roses and daydreams
about princes and fairy castles.
It saddens me still that she can’t ask my mom and dad to tell her stories about my childhood. I’d hope (and I’m pretty sure!) that they’d spare the sad days and have regaled her with funny stories. Like the time I created an artwork that sublimely represented breasts, or about the time I embarrassingly re-enacted the reason for Easter, in front of our then-church leader.
That question will fill me with dread when the teenage
years hit. I was an awful teen – morose and uncooperative. Angry and insolent at every turn, I wasn’t pleasant to be around. I carried a lot of guilt about that in my twenties, and faced up to it when I sat talking with my dad on his deathbed. He laughed and said “you were the most difficult but you made me proud when you stood up for yourself”.
I hope she knows that no matter how I may have been as a child, a teen or even as an adult, the similarities between us are not the defining aspects. As I look at her now, meticulously counting out numbers on her hands whilst she completes a mathematics worksheet, I see differences too. I was enthusiastic over words, whilst she seems to find her greatest joys in maths. She loves to get into the water, whilst I refused to learn to swim until I was eleven.
I’ll divulge a few details to her though, to let her know that it’s okay to have flaws. I’ll tell her embarrassing stories
from my childhood, when I felt small, so that she knows it’s okay to mess up sometimes. I’ve told her (and now you know this too!) that I once wet my pants in class, and hilariously mixed up the term “cross country” as a child.
As much as my personal pride still dents over those things, I know I’m helping her to feel better when she stumbles over something in life.
Are your kids anything like you were at their age?
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