Every parent was once a child. Sometimes it feels so long ago, as though it couldn’t have happened. Other times, it’s like it was just yesterday.
Today, I am a mother. But, once, I was a child, a child with a mother. Not every child has a mother, and not every child has a mother they love and adore. I was lucky. I am lucky. I still have the mother I absolutely adore. The mother who raised me to be the mother I am today. All because she let me be a child. She let me live my childhood to its fullest. She encouraged me to explore what childhood is so I could pass on that gift to my own children.
My Mom’s Approach
My mom is the youngest of five and my dad the second youngest of six. My mom was raised by very busy Chinese parents who owned and ran the quintessential Chinese laundry. In a Jewish neighborhood. My dad grew up with his grandmother and at boarding schools in Hong Kong because his dad was wealthy and could afford it.
They say a parent’s childhood impacts the way they parent. This was absolutely true of my parents. Neither were stellar academics and neither had overly involved parents. It wouldn’t be wrong at all to say they remedied that with my siblings and me.
My parents stressed academics, as well as those quintessentially Asian activities of piano and swim. Annoyingly, the three of us were surprisingly good at both, but you would be hard pressed to find any of us doing either.
Our primary parent, though, was out Americanized mom. She had a carefree childhood and ensured we had as much fun as possible. She let us explore activities and interests and encouraged us to find things we enjoyed. She made sure we had several times as much playtime as chore time, stressing that children should be playing and not working.
My Mom’s Advice
For as long as I can remember, my mom always told me the same thing.
Be a child for as long as possible because adulthood is so much longer.
Kids naturally want to grow older so they can enjoy everything that comes with adulthood. Like independence. But kids fail to see all the hard work that comes with being an adult. My mom made it clear to us that being an adult comes with many responsibilities while childhood doesn’t, and we would be nuts to trade that in.
As the oldest, it was sometimes hard to take that to heart. Being the oldest in a Chinese family, and a daughter, meant it was my duty to help care for my siblings and be a good role model. Sometimes I felt like I had to grow up a little faster. But, as an adult, I see what my mom was trying to tell me.
It’s good to hold onto childhood, to remember what it was like and how much fun I had, and that it’s okay to get in touch with my inner child as an adult.
My Magical Childhood
My brother would say my childhood was literally magical because I’m a witch. Yeah, and who ate the mint chocolate chip cookies that tasted like toothpaste a year and a half ago? Also, if I were a witch, he would be a road right now.
Anyways, I have a childhood I’m fond of remembering.
Early mornings riding my bike around the backyard every summer.
Digging for dinosaur bones with my siblings.
Playing Rapunzel with my brother while the addition was being built.
Climbing trees. Until I found the thorns.
Family game nights, and word games at the dinner table.
Sticking mac and cheese noodles on each prong of my fork.
Building boats out of blocks.
Discovering chat rooms with our mom.
Watching my siblings fight over the TV to the point there was a hazy spot for the next few weeks. Yeah, I probably should have stopped that one.
It’s amazing how the memories pour out like water. They’re always there, hovering on the edge, waiting for me to smile and invite it into my life. I’m lucky to have so many good memories. I’m lucky to have the childhood I did.
Most of all, I’m lucky to have a childhood I adored. The memories are clear, and I’d do almost anything to go back and relive those years. I can’t, but I can give my kids an amazing childhood they’ll remember and love forever.
After all, they might be parents one day, too. And I hope they remember they were once kids, too.