- Published on Wednesday, 12 September 2012 01:00
- Written by Jackie Madden Haugh
Waving goodbye to my daughters as they boarded a plane in June to visit their brother in Barcelona, Spain, I couldn’t help but think, “I want to die and come back as my kids.” Oh, the life they’ve lived.
Back in the olden days of the 1950s and 1960s, times were hard. Children in San Carlos had to trudge 10 miles through the snow to school – uphill, in both directions and in bare feet!
OK, I’m exaggerating, but it was a requirement that I get to St. Charles Catholic Grammar School on my own, either by foot or bike. Today’s common mode of luxury transportation, the carpool, didn’t exist.
Life was simpler back then. We had only one black-and-white TV, one rotary phone (no call-waiting) and a huge oak tree in the backyard with a dangling rope that served as a swing when I wasn’t hanging one of my brothers. For our main source of entertainment, we checked out books from the local library.
Shopping sprees at the mall were an unheard-of phenomenon. My mother only bought me something new when I outgrew what I had or if a new influx of hand-me-downs didn’t arrive from the neighbor next door. From the time I turned 10, I had a job. Summer vacations were filled with baby-sitting and teaching swim lessons.
When my four children arrived on the scene in the early 1980s, I vowed to give them everything I never had, so I became an overindulgent mother.
First, there were the shoes that lit up as they learned to walk, because I didn’t want to miss one glittery moment of their development. If one new bathing suit was good, 10 were better. God forbid they put a wet one back on. And, as they got older, each had his or her own computer and cellphone. Staying connected with friends was paramount.
Yes, I spoiled my children. I was determined to lasso the moon and hand it to them on a Pottery Barn wooden platter. But now that they’re out of the house and on their own, I’ve had time to reflect on it all and I must say, perhaps it was I who had the ideal childhood.
Every moment of their youth was accounted for. Not only did they spend long days in school with intense instruction, but there were also hours and hours of homework that couldn’t even begin until the afternoon sports, dance, music lessons and swim classes had been completed.
What ever happened to the simple childhood, with mothers yelling, “Be home at 6 for dinner” as kids ran to play in the neighborhood?
Today, the competition to be the best feels like it’s at an all-time high. Just look at the rigor it takes to get into college. And once they’re finally done, it starts all over with landing a job in these challenging economic times.
Perhaps those olden days weren’t so bad after all. I truly grew up in a carefree fairytale land. The only struggle I remember was scratching and clawing my brothers to get to the kitchen first to grab the last chocolate chip cookie.
While I’m happy to say my four kids somehow survived it all and don’t seem worse for the wear, I wish for them a simpler life when their babies are born. It all goes too fast as it is. Why not slow down the pace a bit and enjoy the reason you have children in the first place? To spend precious time together and shower them with unrestricted love.