A Childish Memory: Blessing or Curse?

I often say that when dealing with kids we should try very hard to remember what it was like to be one. I honestly believe that this is very good advice, but sometimes it can also be a bit of a curse.

When I was a little kid, I had a hard time sharing. Actually, I should reword that: I didn’t have a problem sharing when it came to other kids’ toys, but I was awful about it when it came to my own toys. The problem, I suspect, stemmed from when I was quite young and my cousin hid my Playskool flashlight while we were both staying at our grandmother’s house. When my parents came to pick me up it was still hidden and he insisted that he couldn’t remember where he’d put it. My grandmother did manage to find it before we left, but I was freaking out there for a few minutes because the thought of leaving a toy behind was absolutely unthinkable. It might seem like an innocuous event, but remember that small things can feel like a big, big deal to a kid. From that day forward I had formulated the belief that if I let other kids touch my toys they would hide them, steal them, or break them. Not a good attitude, but one I was powerless to expel from my head.

Now that I’m a parent, surprisingly, I find this attitude is still very much prevalent in the back of my mind. Recently we had our niece stay over for a night, and the two girls had a blast together, but every so often our niece would start playing with (what was evidently) the wrong thing, and my daughter would have a mini-breakdown. The first time it was her My Little Ponies. She had five of them lined up on the table in front of her when Niece ran over and took one to put in the farmhouse play set. Daughter looked like she was going to have the tantrum of a lifetime, complete with big, sooky, quivering lip. She couldn’t have looked any more upset if Niece had tossed the toy in a bonfire while laughing maniacally.

So here’s where “parent” brain began to have a vicious duel-to-the-death with “I totally remember exactly what it felt like to be in that position” brain. Of course I had to tell Daughter that she had to share, and that it was going to be fine, that she could have her pony back when Niece was done with it. But in my mind, while looking into those tear-filled little eyes, I was positively screaming bloody murder. Niece did absolutely nothing wrong (Daughter wasn’t even really playing with the pony at the time…it just happened to be physically in front of her), but my natural instinct was to tell Niece that the pony belonged to Daughter and to give it back right now.

This, my friends, is the curse of remembering (truly remembering) what it felt like to be a kid. Every time I try to teach my daughter a life lesson I get vivid flashes of memories from my own parents trying to do the same thing. The result is that I recall how frustrating it was to go through that as a child, as well as experiencing how frustrating it is from the adult’s point-of-view right this minute. It’s really just a vicious cycle of never-ending frustration.

Here’s another example to prove this wasn’t an isolated incident: food. I can remember, quite clearly in fact, my mother demanding that I eat my carrots when I was little. I hated carrots, and I couldn’t understand what was so damn important about my consuming them, especially when my father would side with me by saying things like, “There’s no point in trying to force it down her throat if she doesn’t like it.” Nowadays, here I am dealing with a picky eater who doesn’t even want to try things, and while I know that she has to have variety and that she can’t just get out of supper every night by saying she doesn’t like it, I keep flashing back to those feelings of, “Why would you force me to eat something I hate?!

I still believe that remembering what it’s like to be a kid is a good thing, but having too vivid a memory can definitely interrupt parental instinct a bit, and this is something I have a lot of trouble with. I’m working through it one instance at a time (while grinding my teeth down to little nubs), but it’s harder than it sounds.

Do you remember what it felt like to be a kid? Do you think that this makes it easier or harder to deal with children now that you’re grown? Do you ever have to restrain yourself from having childish outbursts because of how you acted as a kid? Please share!

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