If you’ve never lived in a small town, let alone grew up in one, it’s difficult to imagine a community where everyone knows your name. To those who’d never met me, I was identifiable as “Rich’s kid” or “Shawn’s little brother.” In the fall of 1982, I experienced my first bout of independence through the institution of preschool and a series of library programs. More importantly, my brother transitioned to Kindergarten and I ruled the roost for the first time.
Being a bit of a mama’s boy, I had the opportunity to revolve our daytime schedule around ME. I infer that parents are too quick to model their priorities around their child’s activities these days, but my mom willingly adapted these mornings to suit my fancy. Years later, I concluded that “four is the perfect age” due to a unique circumstance of autonomy coupled with a lack of responsibility. I’d wake up to a dose of Sesame Street and sitcom reruns; we’d hit up preschool on even days, spend time at Sunnyside park and occasionally stop at Dairy Queen for a treat. The most difficult part of my day was attempting to tie my shoes. I was winning at life.
(We were a couple years removed from the velcro revolution.)
I often romanticize this era of my childhood, which I attribute to a poor recollection of the facts and the full-time motherhood I received. If today’s children are less nurtured than their predecessors, it’s in direct correlation to parental hours in the workplace. Of course, the parent cannot be faulted any more than a cheeseburger for its price in 2019. All the same, it’s the world as is, and its elder has little promise of return.
Notably, friendship spawned within this controlled environment of small town populace. I shared a best friendship for ten years; losing it within months does not denigrate the good times. Sometimes I wonder what 4-year-olds can share in common to establish and maintain a friendship. Kids regularly approach my wife and I on account of our pups, so I believe the courage to be in the contentment with life. Bitterness and pain have not taken root, and the child can openly express themselves excitedly to anyone willing to let them play.
Play… that’s the word. Play has been forgotten. Give a group of kids a slide, some swings, and high-flying bars, and they’ll make a game of it. Don’t touch the lava and girls have cooties.
No offense meant to volcanoes.