I had a pretty idyllic childhood. I’d say “I guess I had a pretty idyllic childhood” but I’m not guessing. It really was. Seriously.
We moved from a small city to a small town the summer that I was three and a half. My brothers were eleven and seven.
I have a few memories of our corner of the small city, probably mainly due to photos, but there are definitely things I remember: the fact that we lived kitty-corner to the neighbourhood playground, the fact that we had a dual-armed spinning sprinkler, the fact that we used to put our bathing suits on and play outside during thunderstorms, the
fact possibility that the street sweeper used to spray us with water, the fact dream that I could float down the stairs from the second to the main floor. Oh, and the playground had the coolest horse-type ride-thingy that I have ever seen, as well as an awesome spinny-carouselly thing and a tall slide.
I have many memories of our small town. From before Kindergarten through to grade 13 and beyond. My dad went to work, my mom stayed home (until we needed cable tv, then she went to work). We went to school, spent summer days in town at the lake or slightly out of town at the beach. We did our groceries at the little italian store downtown, where the proprietors knew us and would babysit while my mom shopped. My friends and I played in the backyard or next door in the vacant lot; my brothers and I climbed trees and rode bikes; we made snowmen and went tobogganning. We had picnics, barbecues, a week at sleep-away camp in grade 4.
My small town remains my hometown; remains my home. Sometimes when I watch movies and I know that people think “nobody grew up like that,” what with picnics and summers at the lake and mom at home ironing I want to shout at the top of my lungs, “I did! I grew up like that!”
These are the types of memories I want BoyGenius to have. Well, times have changed, though, haven’t they? We live in a large town outside of a large city. We don’t have a downtown where we can shop. We don’t have vacant lots around and if we did BoyGenius wouldn’t be allowed to play there without supervision .. he can barely ride up and down the sidewalk in front of our house without HardWorker freaking that I’m not running alongside him! We live near a lake, but our beach is usually closed due to bacteria levels, so there’s a bit of a problem with that memory as well, although he’ll swim in any water, anywhere. We don’t get as much snow as we used to, but we make the most of it when it shows up. He certainly has trees he can climb in our local park, and he’s very good at that. We have a sprinkler and a slipe’n’slide but we also have water conservation. We have thunderstorms that I’d love to take him out in but HardWorker thinks we’ll be hit by lightning. Most playgrounds don’t have spinny things or even slides higher than 5 feet these days. BoyGenius hashad picnics and has even seen me iron on occasion. BoyGenius doesn’t have siblings, so that memory won’t happen. He’s got friends, good friends even. He knows my lake, my beaches, my backyard and my trees … he knows some of my memories of these things and I’m hoping that I’m helping him make his own; not just memories of my childhood but his own of a perfect childhood. But how can I ensure that he’ll remember his childhood to be as perfect as mine was?
Isn’t that what we want for our kids, for childhood to be every good thing it’s supposed to be, with none of the hurtful, abusive crap that seems to be lurking around every corner? Can we keep our children safe while still allowing them the possibility of an open-to-new-experiences, carefree, memorable childhood? Why does it seem like an impossibility sometimes?