This is the stuff childhood is made of.
In the last few days, this phrase has been running through my head at the oddest moments.
My son’s face covered in flour, licking the batter from the electric beater.
My daughter’s laughter as she flings her head back to get tickled under her chin.
My son’s pride as he builds the tallest tower he has ever built.
Today it was the simple act: my 23 month old insisting on walking on the curb edge like a balance beam. I could have insisted that it wasn’t safe or that we needed to go faster, but there it was again. That phrase — this is the stuff childhood is made of. So I held his hand and let him experience this little joy, because I, in fact, vividly recall having this inner need to walk on ledges myself.
Wondering why this phrase all of a sudden is the driving force behind my thoughts and actions, I asked myself: WHAT IS CHILDHOOD MADE OF? What does this even mean?
Every childhood, like every child, is different. But I can tell you this. My childhood meant that:
- When I was sick my mom was the one to pick me up from school and sit and play board games with me at the coffee table downstairs.
- When I was discouraged, my dad sat down with me and built me back up. He didn’t leave room for self-doubt.
- When I was scared, my parents patiently sat in my room with me until I fell asleep. If I woke in the night, they were there to protect me from the gorillas in my closet or nightmares of being eaten by plants. (Am I the only one who watched Little Shop of Horrors too young?)
- When I had a sporting event at least one of them was there cheering me on, and the other always wanted to hear every detail.
- When my extremely hard-working dad had a day off, the only thing he wanted to do was play with us. He didn’t try to rest or take breaks, he soaked in the family time.
- When I wanted to talk, my mom was always there waiting. Even when I didn’t, she was still there.
- We made messes and were allowed to keep them that way.
- We ate leftover cake for breakfast the day after our birthdays.
- My brothers and I were allowed to fight — to love and hate each other at the same time.
- We all scattered around the family room to watch TGIF or The Cosby Show together.
- When it rained, we splashed in puddles. When it snowed we went sledding and built snowmen. We spent our summers at the pool and jumped in giant leaf piles in autumn.
My memories aren’t only of big family vacations, holidays or special events. It is the little, everyday moments that count. I have not one memory of my parents’ professional accomplishments or failures. Their daily stresses weren’t known to me. I was blissfully unaware of the hard stuff they were experiencing. I had no idea that there were financial worries. I had a happy childhood because they let me. They let us be kids.
Now I know where this phrase came from…
I’ve been frustrated with myself for being so distracted and pulled in so many directions all the time. I don’t want my children to remember me grabbing my phone every time I had a spare moment. I don’t want them to remember me being “too busy” or “too tired.” I don’t want them to remember having to keep the house immaculate or being expected to act years older than they are. I don’t want them to remember me stressing about “adult” problems. I certainly don’t want them feeling like they always had to impress me or vie for my attention.
I want them to remember the warmth. The emotion. The safety. The love. The laughter. The carefree. The playful. The innocence. The optimism. The tenderness. The support. The FAMILY.
I want them to remember BEING CHILDREN.
For this is what childhood is made of.