I rattled off that last post really quickly and now have had the whole afternoon and evening to mull over what I wrote. And I keep thinking, “Did I actually say that the best memory of my childhood was watching TV and eating Chef Boyardee?!” I mean, I am a child of the 80s, but honestly!
I did spend a lot of time on that couch in the living room growing up, and on the couch in the family room too, right in the soft corner of it. It’s where I’d fall asleep on Saturday evenings and then wake up for Saturday Night Live and then fall back asleep again because it was too late and I didn’t get half the jokes anyway, but in the back of my dreams I could hear people laughing over the Sweeney Sisters or the Church Lady.
I don’t know what my actual best memory of being a kid would be, since saying that other one makes me a bit embarrassed. Maybe laying there watching tv is my best memory not because I was laying there watching tv, but because I thought I had enough time in my life to lay there and watch tv. I was in no hurry. I was carefree. Maybe that’s it!
And is it normal to not remember a lot of your childhood? I remember snippets. And some occasions I remember very clearly, but a lot of my childhood I don’t have a clue about. By all accounts I had a great childhood. I had super loving and extremely supportive parents. There was never any financial stress in our family. We had a lot of nice things and could pursue any interests that we had, but we also learned to work hard for things (I paid for half of my first drum set when I was 14 — the old 1970s silver Tamas). None of us were perfect and my childhood did not go “incident-free”, but, by all accounts, I was very blessed growing up.
Still, life has a way of weaving things together, into things we don’t understand, into things we need to unpack later on. And I was a very perceptive and sensitive child, so it’s taken me a lot of years to unpack some of the things of my childhood. I think it’s important to do this. Whether or not our childhood was harsh or easy, there are always things we need to come to terms with. Our little brains pick up on things growing up — things we don’t understand — and we need to look back at those memories and try to figure out what we were really experiencing.
In fact, we owe it to ourselves, because I think a lot of our fears and our insecurities and our tensions come from how we grew up. And often we don’t realize it because it is simply our way of acting; it seems normal. And it’s not always anything big. But sometimes it is something big. Sometimes things you thought were big deals weren’t. And sometimes you find out that little things were or have turned into big things. And we cannot continue to be bound by the things that took hold of us when we were children. Time does not heal all things. Time sometimes simmers things up until the moment when they can become a big boiling mess. And sometimes it’s complicated.
Now, I’m not going to presume to know how to make sense of people’s childhoods. Hell, I can barely make sense of my Chef-Boyardee-eating childhood! But sometimes we need to go back and see things the way we experienced them when we were kids; go back and revisit some of those memories. And some of it is scary and not nice. But, it will never be nice. And until we go back to those things there will never be resolution and we will always have a sort of haunted feeling. And some things cannot be resolved. But I think that even just the recognition that we were deeply hurt will help.
Anyway… I feel like I’m getting into territories that I have zero knowledge about. I’m no counselor. But I have been doing a lot of “facing myself” these past several months. And let me tell you that it is a scary thing. It is a scary thing to admit your faults and your insecurities and how you’ve hurt people and how you continue to hurt people. And it’s scary to admit that you’ve been hurt by others. I hate that it’s so hard to face these things.
Lately Madeline has been coming to me and “confessing” little bits of her own misbehaviour to me — things I never would’ve known about, things that maybe are not actually a big deal, but they’re a big deal to her. And seeing your child come into an awareness of her own limitations and mistakes, is a very eye-opening experience. It makes you realize that we really should not be afraid to admit our failings.
It took Madeline well over a month to fess up to one particular thing, and she was so nervous when she was talking to me that I asked her if her heart was racing and if she felt all jittery inside. She said, “yes” and then sighed in relief a bit. But to me, there was no reason for her to be nervous. She can tell me anything. And that’s how we should be with each other. Unafraid. Because we are all making mistakes. And when we try to live in denial of this it only breeds fear — we’re afraid to be ourselves and others will be afraid to “be themselves” around us.
When we see the humanity in ourselves, in others, and in our pasts, then we have found our starting place. And the nice thing about our limited and messed up nature is that, somehow, it has the ability to receive grace. And that grace can work retroactively, to take us back to those moments from our past that we’re embarrassed of and to heal us of the hurt and confusion and let us start again. (It also gives us courage to face our futures and our shortcomings there.) I imagine we’re never quite done unpacking all of the bits of history that have made us who we are, but I’m glad for the moments of grace I’ve been given.