07 July 2011

My Childhood is Not My Son's

I saw in the paper today that the festival in Pamplona is beginning this week and that they will be running bulls through the street. And if your like me, when you hear the word "Pamplona", you immediately get a picture of Ernest Hemingway in your head. It’s strange how certain words have immediate connection to vivid images.

For example, this week we got our first watermelon. And as I take my first bite of watermelon, I see my childhood friends (two boys, who in this post will remain unnamed). It seems like my brother and I had watermelon at their house all the time in the summer.

An image comes to my mind of us 4 boys, all sitting just outside their front door in the bare dirt where a bush once lived. (This is the same dirt in which we found their frozen cat one February, and the same planter in which we once mutilated a catfish as we tried to de-bone it.) In my mind, we are sitting in the hot shade, in wet cut-offs, with watermelon juice on our chins and our bare feet in the dust of the barren planter. We have seed spitting contests, then spit them at each other, then return, running and jumping back into their rusting round pool.

I was lucky to have an absolutely beautiful childhood. My friends and I had tons of free play time away from any adults. We did everything a kid could want. We were allowed to wander and to experiment and to sometimes get seriously hurt. But it was wonderful, and those memories sustain me to this day.

And as I’ve written before, I sometimes worry that my children are not allowed the same free time. I never did much in the way of organized sports, partly because it would have cut into my freedom. I certainly didn’t relish going to soccer or baseball. In fact I think it was more like dread. Soccer was OK, but I hated running laps or standing at the plate for fast pitch baseball. My son on the other hand truly enjoys his sports. He loves a competitive sport and a demanding coach. Is this is because he does not have the freedom I once had?

My wife and I try to give him as much freedom as a 10 year old can have. No doubt, he has seen much more than I did at his age. He knows how to navigate the city, knows an extremely wide variety of people, and he likes to help me build and repair things.

In the summer, he and his sister live at the swimming pool. They go early in the morning for swim team, and sometime stay until evening. They don’t just swim. They play capture the flag and kick the soccer ball. They eat there and meet new friends there. They do much of what I did, except less dunking and throwing of rocks ... and yes their watermelon is seedless.

So yes, I worry about my son, but I also need to recognize he is not me. He is a different personality, and he is living his own childhood, not mine. And if I step back an look at him growing into a young man... I think he's turning out alright.

3 comments:

Dave said...

It is wonderful there are many active things you two do together or that he has an interest in.

Those kids on the couch with the video games all day miss out and sacrifice their care-free days of youth.

corrinesan said...

There's something to be said for how you've let your son make his choices and haven't tried to force him to have your childhood. I think there's always worry that your child is missing something that later in life with be the key to everything. I always know that my worries have turned irrational when I get to the point where I think "What if she's outcast in college because she didn't listen to Justin Bieber???" The only thing that matters is how often I hear her laughter.

Joe Wessels said...

Once having been your neighbor for nearly five years, and a guy who truly loves children and cares about them deeply (my family or others), I was always impressed by what caring, creative and loving parents you and Catherine were and are... When people tell me they'd love to live downtown, but can't, because, you know, "the kids," I cite you two as prime examples of how to do it and do it right. Sure, O and C will have a different childhood - in a city with all that comes with that choice. But, I bet, they will be just as well-rounded and thoughtful and interesting as you and Catherine are... and if "the kids" choose to be parents, I bet the same will be true for them.

Your post caught my eye and my imagination. Both because I had a similar childhood in a similar part of the world as you, but because it took me back there and got me thinking about how I would parent. Thanks.