When I was a young girl, my Auntie Ann gave me a special doll that quickly became, and faithfully remained, a favorite toy of mine. Her name was Mandy. She looked very much like I did as a child… blonde, shoulder-length hair with no bangs; big blue eyes always open to the world surrounding her; she wore a navy short-sleeved dress with white polka dots and a slight ruffle just above the knee. My favorite thing about Mandy was the bright red flats she wore. I was not really into shoes at the time, but I was drawn to the vivid color and some intrinsic part of my little girl persona melded with my future self and it clicked that red was my color and shoes were my future.
The sense of nostalgia I feel when reflecting upon my childhood is almost overwhelming. It is not so much the physical pieces of matter I miss, as it is the precious memories they evoke. Playing house in a friend's backyard, riding bikes around the neighborhood on a hot summer day, the feeling of freedom coupled with a sense of safety as we explored the streets of my tiny hometown. Climbing the huge oak tree in my backyard, using my handmade (by my own father) red wooden swing as leverage and proceeding to jump from the branches high above the ground, swinging wildly to the undiscovered world waiting below.
These treasured recollections of the past. The triggers of nostalgia from my youth. I hold tight to the memories; to the simple joy, freedom and security I felt as a child. It never occurred to me, after taking this trip down memory lane, what a gift it was. I realize now, at the ripe old age of 41 that not everyone experiences that nonchalant carefree existence as I did.
As a mother of two sons, I emphatically hope my boys will have pleasant memories of their own childhood.
I know their memory triggers will be vastly different from mine. It feels like theirs is a world wrought with uncertainty and overwhelming chaos. The stakes seem higher; the push to perform seems more pronounced. The rate of growing up seems like a fast track to an adulthood I cannot seem to wrap my mommy mind around.
I miss simple. I miss pure, innocent, naive and sheltered. I wanted that for my boys before they were even born. I desperately want it for them now that they are ten and eight years of age. It breaks my heart when I realize that I am not sure I can provide it. Do all parents feel this way? An overarching desire to provide a simpler childhood than the present time, society, media and other strong influencers of this current generation permit? Is it just me?
As Harry Styles so angelically sings, "It's a Sign of the Times." Perhaps the human mind kindly and forgivingly colors the past with hints of tranquility and contentment. Is it possible that the worries I encounter for my children are just a normal part of the parental journey many are blessed to have? I know parents often say, I want more for my children. I know what they mean; but in this sense, I am advocating for less.
I want my boys to ride bikes around our familiar neighborhood without my incessant worry that they will be abducted by the child predators I hear about on the news. I want my sons to feel safe going door-to-door to sell Boy Scout popcorn or trick-or-treating in their own neighborhood. I want my oldest to be able to play catch with a football in our front yard.
I do not want my boys to turn on the TV daily and hear about school shootings and the political unrest this country has not known in decades. I do not want to wonder daily if my kids are being bullied on a social media platform when I think they are contentedly doing homework or mindlessly playing video games in their bedroom.
I do not want my sons to grow up questioning themselves or trying to fit into a mold society deems acceptable, despite the core beliefs I feel so strongly they learn. I do not want to send my children to a school with a curriculum that is daily changing faster than I can acknowledge, frequently leading me to wonder what they are learning in school that is different from what I learned at their ages. I want less for my growing boys…
Less push to skip over childhood and enter the ranks of the grown.
Less confusion, anger and disrespect.
Less push to keep up, outshine and over-do.
Less social media and video games.
Less homework, hurting and hiding.
Less stress, strife and suffocating the wild and free childhood spirit my generation knew, or at least, I knew.
More carefree summer days. More ice cream on the way home from school. More schoolyard basketball with friends. More riding bikes, fishing in ponds, listening to classic music (aka music from their mother's generation, as much as it pains me to refer to it as classic) and reveling in life's simple yet soulfully lasting pleasures. More tradition and less division to color their remaining days of childhood.
At times, less is more. I believe childhood may qualify in this case.