When did my childhood end? Was it when my father almost died and I gained the responsibility of taking care of the family. Maybe it was years earlier when I had to tell my parents and grandparents that my uncle had died.
Could have been when I had to call my father to let him know that his father had died. I kid around about it, but sometimes I feel like the Angel of Death. I have had to let more than a few family members know about the death of another. And let’s not forget having to pass along the news of the deaths of friends.
You don’t forget moments like that, you don’t forget moments where you cause the people you love to cry.
At least I don’t, those kinds of things stick with me. They linger in the shadowy recesses of my mind and poke out at the oddest moments. I don’t think about them as often as it might appear, but they poke up from time to time.
Last week I got together with a bunch of old friends and had a great time catching up. We laughed a lot and shared stories about our kids. And then we talked for a moment or two about the dear friend we lost and I found myself thinking about the day he died and the calls I made. And I remembered one call in particular. I remembered how early it was and how she said “no” two or three times and started crying.
Can’t tell you why that moment brought back the call but it did. Maybe because it feels like it happened to us in a different life. A time when we weren’t all married and those of us that were fell into the category of newlyweds. The P.C. days, pre-children that is. Back then we didn’t lament over the state of public schools and the cost of private. We didn’t talk about retirement plans.
As the conversation flowed from past to present to past to future I looked around the room and watched the children play. Such serious talk from their parents was not even an impediment to screams of laughter and incessant giggling. And that made me smile.
They had no idea because they live in a child’s world. I used to live there too. I remember enormous chunks of my childhood. I remember good times and bad, but I have almost no significant memories of my parent’s struggles. They didn’t burden my siblings and I with those.
It is something that I have tried to emulate. I don’t want my children to feel the pressure that I feel. I don’t want them to worry about things that they cannot control. That doesn’t mean that they are completely oblivious to their parent’s feelings. They know when we are happy or upset. When grandma died they saw us react, they know that it is ok to feel sad about saying goodbye.
Not shy about telling them that some things are too expensive to purchase or that some of their friends have parents who make far more. They need to know those things. They need to understand that it is not a competition. I could have better everything if I wanted to. I could do a lot of things to live a lifestyle that is more similar to that lived by some of their friends, but I don’t care.
Don’t care about owning the best car or biggest house. Don’t care about being able to go to Europe on a whim. Doesn’t mean that I don’t want more money. It doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t mind having the ability to do some of these things with greater regularity because I would.
But money doesn’t buy happiness. You can’t fill an empty heart with cash. You can’t heal a battered soul with first class airfare or a Lexus. Although for those who are curious I am told that Godiva chocolates have amazing restorative properties.
Anyhoo, the point is that a child’s world is composed of shelter from some of the parental concerns and supplemented with heavy doses of self worth. I want them to gain their sense of self from what comes within and not from what they get at the store.