Every once in a blue moon I mourn the loss of my children’s American childhood. Why do I feel this way, I think?
It happens when I reminisce about the great childhood days I had playing in the woods, building “shoes” out of shingles to walk in the creek and catch tadpoles, building forts, climbing trees, and catching butterflies. Of the days my parents played in a band in an outdoor auditorium while we kids marched around to patriotic songs holding an American flag. Or the days when I grew older and suddenly Oprah came into my life, as did boys, malls, and shopping at the dollar store for fake nails and nail polish. Or how about the high school days when I drove around town with friends to the movies, to the carnival, and to the theater to perform or watch musical theatre productions that filled my heart with song and dance?
Will my children ever know what it’s like to run around free in the woods, not worrying about a schedule or a time to return home? Will my kids ever wander aimlessly in a creek catching tadpoles or frogs, and studying the little fish on their own? Will my kids build forts in the woods, make new trails, or spend long lazy summers outdoors?
Or what about when they’re older…should I regret the fact that they won’t get hooked to American television after school, like I did? That they won’t get to see Oprah, Ricky Lake trash, or the TGIF specials that ran all Friday night for kids like me who weren’t old enough to go out and date?
Will they know what it’s like to go to the mall with girlfriends and talk about all of the boys they think are cute? Will they know what it’s like to watch movie after movie with friends at the cinema, having nothing more important to do? Will they get a chance to drive around town doing nothing in particular (and hopefully not getting in trouble)?
What about school? Shouldn’t every American child have memories of playing on the playground, dreading PE classes, or reveling in group choir classes and performances for the holidays? What about learning to do four-square dancing (I grew up in the midwest), playing dodge ball, or riding around on sit-down scooters in a gym?
Aren’t these typical American experiences that every kid should have? If it shaped me…shouldn’t it shape them?
When I get bogged down with the thoughts of what from my childhood, I can’t help but wonder what my parent’s childhood was like. Surely it was different than mine. In many ways, I can bet you that my childhood didn’t resemble theirs much at all! Did they mourn the fact that I didn’t have their same childhood? Did they wish for me that TV didn’t take over my life when I reached 12 years old? Did they wish that I could walk around town at a young age (living close enough TO town instead of in the suburbs) and go to the store to buy penny candy or some ice cream? Did they spend more time outdoors than I did? Were they more involved with their community? Did THEIR parents mourn the loss of THEIR childhood? Did they wish their children had been able to spend their classroom years in a one-room classroom, as well? What else did they feel their children missed out on?
Putting that into perspective…I have to stop and shake my head.
My kids may not have my childhood, but do they really need it? Is it really all that bad?
I mean, seriously. Look at what my kids DO get…
-They’re worldwide travelers that have had their hearts opened to new cultures and ways of life.
-They’ve experienced the ups and downs of physical exertion…what it takes to walk or climb long distances to reach the “reward” (experience) at the end.
-They’ve seen parades, festivities, and all sorts of unique things I would never have dreamed of as a child!
-They’ve touched history, walked in its path, and better understood that the world has a much deeper heritage than they would have ever realized from a book.
-Their minds have been opened to unique religious traditions that they may not share or fully understand…but they’ve been reminded that we are each children of God, and no one is any less of a person for believing in something different.
-They’ve learned problem solving in its most basic form…where do we sleep? Where do we eat? WHAT do we eat? How do we get there?
-They’ve been exposed to many different languages, and have learned the value of learning languages other than their native tongue.
-They’ve learned about currencies all over the world, and have picked up the currency in each country with wonder and delight…pointing out how it is all unique and questioning what king or ruler is portrayed on their bills.
-They’ve made friends with such a variety of people…I have to stop and wonder, “who COULDN’T they be friends with?” There’s no limit in their minds, as of yet. If a person is kind and loving–they’re friends. I hope it stays this way!
-They’ve tasted food throughout the world, and can tell you about different types of eating habits in different countries!
-They have friends and family back at “home” (wherever that is in the US) that they love to visit, and immediately become chummy with upon visiting. They get to stay connected with them face-to-face on Skype and Facetime! (imagine how that would have changed YOUR childhood?!)
-They’ve seen such a variety of animals at worldwide zoos…animals that I never knew existed until our recent travels!
-They’re learning that stuff doesn’t make people or families. It is the memories and experiences and love you share with others!
-They’ve seen the beauty of God’s geological creations up-close and personal. They’ve seen the testimony of a creator who loves them and blesses them with a wondrous feast for the eyes!
In the end…kids can never have their parent’s childhood. And should they?
No. The world isn’t the same as when I was a child. It’s also not the same as when my parents were children, or my grandparents were children.
This is my children’s childhood. It may not be the typical “American” experience…but seeing what that has morphed into for this generation of children…I’m thinking that’s a good thing.
A childhood is still a childhood, wherever it may be. It’s a time of discovery—both of self and the world around them. These childhood adventures will shape them into individuals who aren’t me or my husband…but themselves. Totally and uniquely them.