After an interesting epiphany this weekend, I have begun to consider some goals for my family life. I really do miss the kids when they’re gone. At first, and I am just not ashamed to say it, I really didn’t miss them. There was simply so much I wanted to do, even if it was doing absolutely nothing, that I welcomed the few days they were off with their father. I mean, I really welcomed those days. Sometimes, I looked forward to them so much, the guilt would start to creep in and the shame. But, I just got worn out so badly when they were with me that every other Thursday I was pretty much useless, highly irritable, and practically distraught. Fridays would often be a complete haze. But, I’ve realized for the past few weeks, this hasn’t been the complete case. Yes, every other Thursday is tough to get through. And every other Friday I am a bit molasses-like. But, I have found myself surprised when it’s been ExMutant’s turn to get them. And then, I think about them all weekend– not so much in a “I wonder what they’re doing now” because that tends to take me down a dark path, but more like “I bet MutantBaby would love this. MutantDaughter would look so pretty in this. MutantEldest would think this is so cool.”
I went to a gelato place on Sunday that also serves panninis and pizzas. Yes I absolutely swooned over the pepperoni brushetta wondering at the amazing flavor. I struggled to not inhale my proscioutto pannini so fast I wouldn’t completely savor it. I died and went to heaven with every lick of my Bacia gelato cone. And I decided I simply must bring the kids here right away. I fantasized about how my little family and I could become regulars, after all it is oh so close to my house. Surely MutantDaughter’s eyes would bulge at the pink strawberry gelato. And MutantEldest will love the challenge of reading the Italian flavors. And MutantBaby just loves to eat so that’s a no-brainer.
Rewind to Saturday night when my friends and I were talking at Girls Night (a goal I am loving sticking to) about our childhood memories. One said something that jumped at me– “Yeah well it’s the really bad stuff that sticks with you”. That immediately set the Mom Guilt swirling and scolding me for all of those times I’ve lost my patience with my children and been oh so very mean. But then I thought, “Wait a minute. That’s not my experience.” And although I did not directly contradict my friend, I did share my own random memories from childhood and what struck me from them was how ordinary they were. While I do remember some not-nice things, my memories are far from being all not-nice. I remember a lot of fun things actually, mostly fun ordinary things like:
- I remember playing in the yard with the sprinklers and hose.
- I remember playing pranks on my brothers, especially the middle one.
- I remember how my grandfather’s (my Dad’s side) work van had no seats in it and we’d “surf” in it while he swerved all over empty streets to knock us down.
- I remember playing Pirates on my brothers’ bunk beds when there was a thunderstorm outside.
- I remember playing hot lava in their room and scrambling across the tops and sides of the furniture in a hilarious attempt to not touch the molten lava floor.
- I remember my Dad taking us to TCBY or Baskin Robbins for ice cream.
- I remember sleepovers at my grandparents on my Mom’s side so my parents could have date nights.
- I remember my parents piling us in the car every night so they could go and get their Cuban coffee at the window of the cafeteria while we went absolutely wild all over the car.
- I remember reading books everywhere I could prop myself up– in a tree in the front yard, in my bed, on the sofa, against a door frame.
- I remember my parents would go to a regular meeting for couples and we’d get to play with the other couples’ kids.
- I remember my grandmother on my Dad’s side teaching us table etiquette at McDonald’s.
- I remember how we’d all help my Mom clean the house on the weekends and it was actually fun.
- I remember my grandfather on my Mom’s side telling us fairy tales and riddles in Spanish and marvelling at how different they sounded.
- I remember my dad taking us to McDonald’s for breakfast or Happy Meals later in the day.
- I remember all the road trips we took with our pop-up camper, then our larger pop-up camper, and finally a trailer.
- I remember sailing on my grandfather’s boat.
- I remember my Mom teaching me to match and roll socks together and that being my favorite chore to do.
- I remember how we’d crash Hot Wheels cars down the hallway.
- I remember my grandmother on my Mom’s side fitting me with dresses and being so excited about a new dress but so worried a pin would pinch me.
- I remember making brownies and truffles with my Mom.
- I remember my baby brother sneaking into my room to sleep with me, or at least on the floor next to me.
- I remember my Mom sleeping with me when I was sick.
- I remember when my Dad would go on retreats, we were allowed to sleep in their bed with my Mom.
- I remember when he wasn’t on retreats, we’d jump all over them on the weekends in the morning.
- I remember my Dad making us smiley faced chocolate chip pancakes. Or sometimes he’d spell our initial.
- I remember him making us eggs in a basket.
- I remember learning to ride a bike and the crash into a shrub that upset me greatly and made me give up but then returning and the thrill of figuring it out.
- I remember trips to the roller rink and the bowling alley.
- I remember going out to family dinners at places like Red Lobster and Sizzler.
- I remember playing Barbies with my youngest brother and that many times it was at his insistence, not mine.
- I remember crayons and watercolors, my Lite Brite and Colorforms.
- I remember the ice cream truck.
- I remember sticking our plastic pool at the bottom of our swing set’s slide and hooking the hose onto the slide to create our very own water slide.
- I remember when I graduated from Kindergarten, my parents took me to Pizza Hut and my mother presented me with a gift of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit board books.
I am very fond of the childhood I had. Now that I’m a parent, I’m able to appreciate that my parents gave me such a great childhood. And I want so badly to be able to do the same for my kids. See, I grew up experiencing first-hand that great adventures didn’t require fancy destinations or even airplanes. I experienced a childhood mostly without cable television as my mother hated it. I remember going to the movies but it was a big deal when we went– not a regular thing. I remember excursions to Lionel and Toys R Us as even rarer occasions but oh how thrilling to come home with a new Barbie or My Little Pony. When I reflect on my childhood, I really do see it as a simple and happy one. And that is all I want for my kids.
I think the key to this is not the cost of an experience but rather the frequency of it. That seems to be the key to my memories. There is a healthy mix of ritualesque memories and special occasion ones too and even though the special occassions were hardly out-of-this-world types of things, my parents did a good job of making it clear they were special occasions. So I’m going to try and make some sort of goal, or set of goals, to consciously bring a piece of my childhood into my children’s lives in a natural, simple way.