Today as I was driving, I tuned into the easy listening station. You know, the one that starts playing Christmas songs at the beginning of November. I turn to it every once in awhile with the hopes of catching a song from my youth. Today, I was not disappointed. Lo and behold, after the commercial about the monster truck rally, Kenny Loggins’ Footloose came on.
Immediately, I was taken back to a childhood friend’s home. We were jumping on the trampoline screaming “burning urine” at the top of our lungs. As I listened, I wondered why her mother never corrected us. Suddenly, it dawned on me that she probably never knew of the misheard lyric. She wasn’t there. She didn’t watch us as we risked life and limb on the trampoline, except from the kitchen window…maybe…if she felt so inclined.
She also wasn’t there when my friend and I explored the pastures, dodging cow pies and the animals that produced them. One time, we wandered all the way to the highway and no one ever knew but us. We climbed trees and swung from ropes in the hay mow in the barn. We cuddled filthy kittens and crawled through chicken poop on the hay bales. It was wonderful and pure and unadulterated fun.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve been involved in quite a few conversations about free range parenting versus helicopter parenting. One thing that has emerged from those conversations is the realization that my fondest, most vivid childhood memories don’t include my parents. Instead, they are filled with the faces and voices and enthusiasm of my friends and my brother and my cousins – my peers and the ever-so-cool kids who were just a little bit older. Those are the memories triggered by songs and smells and conversations about parenting philosophies.
So, where were my parents? They were there. If I look hard enough, I see them looking through windows and peeking behind doors. They are driving us to camps and friends’ houses and events and lessons. They are cheering us on and grinning goofily as I take my first steps. They are behind the camera and waiting in the car. They are signing permission slips and shelling out money. They are excited and petrified as they wave goodbye. Every time.
They made the memories possible. They provided the opportunities for me to create those memories of rolling pastures and Kenny Loggins. They let me live and play…unadulterated.
Where does this leave me? With a little more clarity of purpose. It is my job to weave myself into the fabric of my children’s lives. My beliefs, opinions, perspectives, and ways of living will shape my kids. My parenting will teach them the ways of this world and how to live within it. I need to be the yarn with which memories are woven without making every memory about me.
As a parent, it’s my job to lay the foundation and help guide the building process. I need to always be there for them without always being with them.
I give a lot of credit to my parents for being able to raise my brother and me the way they did. I have realized so much about my own childhood since Q was born. We feel so much pressure to always be doing; it takes strength to just let our children be.
It’s not about me. If when my kids look back on their childhoods and their fondest memories are of them playing and exploring with their peers, I will consider that a success.