I’m willing to bet my entire shoe collection that your childhood wasn’t perfect. Your parents weren’t perfect. “I’ll NEVER do that with MY kids,” you probably told yourself over and over again even if your mother was June Cleaver. Or maybe you had a very difficult, awful even unspeakable childhood.
However, if you look back on your childhood and describe it as generally “happy,” then consider yourself first super lucky and second WARNED about what I call:
The Happy Childhood Predicament.
Here’s how it works.
Hopefully you have some memories of things that were wonderful and magical from your childhood. Experiences that made you feel safe and loved and excited! Maybe your memories include walking home from school with your brother, playing games in the street or trick-or-treating in the freezing cold with a big puffy coat unfortunately covering up your Rainbow Bright costume, but the excitement of collecting free candy made this an awesome night nevertheless. Even the house you grew up in and your daily routines can carry memories of wonderful feelings at a developmentally critical time.
So why is this a problem you ask? A happy childhood is a wonderful amazing part of life, which I hope for every human to experience. The predicament arises when we grow up, have children of our own, and then think things should be the same for them.
As much as you want to be sure not to re-create that one time Mom and Dad said “no” to letting you go to the Depeche Mode Concert which you never got over, most of us want even more to ABSOLUTELY give our kiddos the good stuff and if we had a happy childhood, we tend to think this means things should look mostly the same.
Your logical, rational mind knows it’s impossible to re-create your past exactly, but many of the women I work with worry about not giving their kids what they need because they can not duplicate what they had growing up. This is a lesson I myself am still learning and the first example hit me hard a few years back.
I was darn lucky to have a mom who stayed at home and was there every day when I got home from school. She’d have a very elaborate snack ready such as freshly baked bread with honey, and she would talk with me about my day. I felt safe and loved and happy.
When my kids first started school I was working full time and I felt very guilty. I worried endlessly about my kids not having me there to come home to. How SAD that they weren’t going to have that memory of coming home to Mom! Sure they had the world’s best Grandma watching over them, but their Mom was not there and to make matters worse she has no interest in baking bread when she can pick it up already sliced at Safeway. How heartbreaking! Right? Or is it?
It took me a long time to accept that my kids’ experience will likely not mirror my happy childhood much at all and that’s OK. It’s not supposed to. I’m not saying I can’t carry on some Lyman family traditions that work now for my own family or do some of the great things my parents did. It becomes a problem though, when I can’t create the same experiences for them that I had and I make it mean something is wrong.
This week alone I’ve talked to many amazing women who want awesome things for their kids, but they are suffering from The Happy Childhood Predicament. One woman feels heartbroken because her kids don’t have any neighborhood friends to play with like she did. Another feels just awful living in an apartment when she grew up in a nice big house. Another is just sick about moving her kids around so much when she grew up on the same block her entire childhood. One woman even said she feels like a total failure because her mother always kept the living room tidy and she can’t seem to ever get around to picking up her own toy-filled front room.
When I asked each of these women whether or not their kids felt sad about these situations, every one of them said, “Well, no. They don’t really know any different.”
The truth is your kids are meant to have a different experience than you did. It might be drastically different even and they can still have wonderful, amazing magical memories in the end. The world looks differently than it did when you were growing up and that’s a good thing! Your parents didn’t have to worry so much about how to monitor screen time, but you also didn’t have the luxury of figuring out anything you wanted to know in minutes through Google or YouTube. Most kids can’t just walk to school with a sibling in today’s world, but instead they might have memories of rocking out in the car to a duet of “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift and Mom, before heading into public school to sit still and be quiet.
Now I know that instead of memories of warm bread my kids will remember baking cookies with their Grandma. You may not be creating the same things you experienced but you can still give them opportunities to feel love, joy, magic and happiness. When you can release the idea that things should be a certain way, you’ll free yourself to create an awesome childhood for your kids.
So, if you had a happy childhood, celebrate it and share it but don’t hold yourself to recreating it. Do what’s best for you, for your kiddos and for your family at this time and place and celebrate that as well! Your kids will still create their own mental lists of the things they don’t like about your methods, but they’ll also have endless wonderful, magical memories of a happy childhood.
Love your guts…
PS: Stay updated on free webinars, offerings and more posts like this. Sign up HERE.