Sometimes I sit and scroll through the camera roll on my phone and I think, Man, my kids have it pretty good. We aren’t rich and we don’t indulge our every whim, but my kids really have it pretty good these days.
We have a lot of down time on weekends and most weeknights right now. Our kids are 8 and 3, and we live out in the country with a great yard, sticks and mud, a trampoline, and a treehouse. We are also big on LEGOs, Netflix, and video games.
As I scroll through my pictures, I see truly happy faces. I have pictures from the county fair, the first days of school, a night when we played with glow sticks outside, pictures of them on the trampoline, catching fireflies, and eating at a rainforest-themed restaurant.
I have pictures of them riding bikes and eating ice cream on the porch, playing Star Wars outside with light sabers.
And all I keep thinking is, Man — they truly are happy and they don’t seem to have a worry or care in the world. Which is exactly what I want, but at the same time I can’t help but feel a little twinge of envy for the childhood they’re having.
Because they’re living the carefree childhood I never had.
Being a victim of sexual abuse, I lived scared and angry much of the time. And no child should ever have to live with that growing up every day. I became afraid of people and built a strong wall around myself with an umbrella on top to shelter myself from people. Sure, there were good parts of my childhood and I had a lot of friends and acquaintances, but I always kept them at arm’s length. I was so worried to trust anyone too much. And my life today is a lot of the same, though not as severe.
Growing up like that is a lifelong thing that sticks with you. There are a lot of distractions and blessings in life that can minimize its effects and healing is possible, but it’s always there deep down inside. I know that trauma well and I would do anything to shield any child from knowing that prisoned-mind existence, especially my own kids.
Providing a carefree childhood was a huge factor in my decision to become a work-at-home mom. It meant a lot to me to be their main caregiver and be there when they get home from school. I don’t live in constant fear and we live normal lives, but it’s just so hard to trust people and I know they’re secure with me.
I don’t judge anyone that works outside the home because I did it those first few years of my firstborn’s life, but it’s important to me now to just be as available as I can and spend as much time as I can around them.
As they begin school they are faced with a whole new set of challenges and it’s more important than ever to stay close with them, emotionally and physically. It can be easy for things to slip under the radar under the guise of “busy.” So I try really hard to guard the parts I can control.
I train them with life skills the best I can to boost confidence and self-awareness and we talk about boundaries, bodies, and personal space. I hope to instill in them the power I never knew I had as a child. I grew up thinking it’s just the way things were and the hand I was dealt. So it’s important that kids know what’s okay and what isn’t, and that they have a voice when something isn’t right.
My dream as a parent is for my children, as adults, to look back and remember how easy it was to grow up. To see the gift in that, and to want to pass the same thing on to their children.
How we would sit on the porch and just talk, or pick up branches in the yard after a good rain storm and throw them on the fire pit for another night’s bonfire. How on a whim we set up our small camping tent in the backyard for them to jump in and out of with grassy shoes. How we played Uno in the tent by flashlight and threw cardboard boxes on the fire. How we laid on the trampoline at night to look at the stars and their dad pointed out the planets and constellations.
That’s what I want for them. The best, most carefree childhood possible. I can’t predict anything that might happen. All I know for sure is that I will be here no matter what.
And I will do my best to provide all of the carefree childhood memories that our hearts, and the camera roll on my phone, can hold.