I had dinner with my childhood friend Margaret tonight. I sneaked a photograph or two of her sizing her mousse up. When I posted one of them on Facebook, she responded warmly, and one of the hashtags she used was #camelotdays.
Margaret is my childhood pediatrician’s daughter, but that’s incidental. She and I are personally connected mostly from Grace Episcopal Church. Both of our families belonged to the church. Also, she and I both attended the Episcopal Day School there, which was the de facto elementary campus of The Donoho School. Each of us remembers those years as the happiest times of our childhoods.
Now there are a couple of things going on there. First, and more obviously, we were two bright children who were well cared for. We had no worries about basic needs, and as eight- and nine-year-olds aren’t generally saddled with a lot of responsibility, we rightly remember it as a carefree time.
The second is that, in each of our cases, there were later circumstances beyond our control that set us on paths that we now recall as less than ideal.
Boo effin’ hoo, right? Life sucks, Bo. Get a helmet.
I get it. But stay with me. (And I’m speaking for myself below, not for my friend. Margaret planted this for me to consider during the drive back. We didn’t have this conversation.)
It’s easy to feel resentful, but there isn’t much point in the feeling itself. I know there are people who spend their lives mad at their parents for something (or more than one something) in their childhoods. OK, fine. Even if you bring no charitable bent to the sentiment whatsoever, you’re up against the hard fact that the past is immutable. What does raging against it accomplish?
And if you’re at all inclined to issue a little benefit of the doubt: is it more likely or less likely that your parents were doing the best they could?
I think the value in identifying and being as honest as possible with yourself about the sentiment is that such enables you to mine it for possible productive inputs into your present and future. Have you taken responsibility for your own happiness? Are you pursuing it as effectively as possible? If not, where is the disconnection?
Anything there to guide your own parenting? How do you think your own children will answer this question?
You only have so much emotional oil. How will you burn it?
I think I’d like to start 2018 guarding mine a lot more carefully than I have been.
Always great to see you, my special friend Margaret. Thank you for the laughs, and thank you for this to chew on.