Walking through my neighborhood on an unseasonably sunny Saturday I watched, with pleasure and longing, children cavorting (yes—they were cavorting!) and playing along the sidewalks. It made me yearn, yet again, for the days of being the mom of young children. But why, I asked myself, why do I miss that time so much?
I believe that I’ve finally come up with an answer. I understand it so much better now.
My childhood was a good one. My parents did the very best they could with limited resources, both financial and emotional. They gave us food, shelter, clothing. Check, step one for Maslow.
They gave us love and security. By the time I joined the family there was a modicum of security; I never worried that we would be out on the street. Check, step two up the pyramid.
My parents loved us and impressed upon us the importance of family. It’s part of their legacy that my siblings and I value each other greatly to this day—another successful step up the pyramid.
This is where, for me, the disconnect begins and the happy childhood ends. This explains why I yearn for the days with my youngsters: joy.
My childhood was healthy, secure and loving but it lacked joy. My parents simply didn’t know how to experience and then impart joy. We laughed because my brother Tommy would do silly impressions. We loved the special occasions of ice cream and potato chips. But I don’t remember the freedom of unadulterated joy: running, screaming, jumping, rejoicing in the world.
As a parent I always wanted to give my children the “things” that I didn’t have. And foolishly, I thought it was things–cool clothes, toys, summer camp. Turns out, it was joy.
As I walk down the street and see the children cavorting on a sunny day I realize what I miss is the joy of childhood—the joy that I didn’t have, but I hope I was able to give to my kids.