I have always considered 8 years old to be the most comfortable age. You’re done being a little kid but you don’t really have a whole lot of responsibility yet. You can still make friends by sharing the teeter-totter and there isn’t any drama that can’t be solved by a shared ice-cream. You are able to explore more but can always count on someone else enforcing your boundaries if you go a little too far.
I don’t wish I was 8 years old–I wouldn’t want to do this all over again!–but I do think back to what it was like and sigh sometimes. For me it was all climbing trees, $10 crafts, and singing the Beatles with my parents. I had a few friends, even a couple best friends, and I had a serious love for gymnastics. Boys were just people. Fighting was too much trouble. Books were my haven. Trees were my chapel. I rocked my frizzed-out hair and elastic-band shorts, my round glasses and my purposely mismatched socks, my puff-paint T-shirt and my mom’s costume necklaces. I didn’t realize people thought about me at all, much less worrying about their opinions. I didn’t think about other people much. Only when I had to.
Being a kid is such an easy thing to put away in my memory sometimes. I forget, maybe on purpose, what it was like to trust adults implicitly and to believe my life would always be the same, like the wonderfully endless summer. Instead, I believe in the grasping rush of reality that is being an adult. There are no seasons, only speeding months and year being swallowed by year at ever increasing speed.
I don’t buy the whole “embrace your inner child” thing. We mature for a reason and I would rather embrace the process of being made useful in the world. I don’t need to cling to that guarded time of my life, hoping others will look out for me. At the same time, though, I do think it’s important to remember what that time was like, especially being a parent. When I forget I used to be a child, I end up bullying my kids and subconsciously pressuring them to be mini-adults for my own convenience. Not good. I want to give them the boundaries to enjoy being a kid, not rush them out of that time.
It’s the tension in parenthood that saps my strength at the end of the day. Be firm, but kind. Keep them safe, but let them explore. Enforce responsibility, but let them be silly. Hold them tight, but let them go… Yeah, I have gained a whole new respect for my parents in the last six years! They gave me a great environment to enjoy being a kid. I hope I’m doing the same for my kids.