This post might come of as kind of sad or depressing, but I promise you, it isn’t meant to be. The message I hope you get from reading this post is that children adapt and learn quickly from their environment. Even though I didn’t have siblings to play with until I was eight years old, I still had an incredibly fun and happy childhood. I didn’t have many friends before the age of five because none of my parents’ friends had kids and I wasn’t in school yet. To pass the time, I would play on my own a lot or with whomever was taking care of me at the moment. While my mom and dad worked, my primary caregivers were aunts, uncles, and grandparents. My parents were so fortunate to have them around because without them, I’m not sure how my parents would have taken care of me. Most of the time I would just hang with the adults and do whatever they were doing. I loved to play dress up in my aunts’ school dance dresses, and I especially loved to wear their high heels around the house, but two of my favorite things happened when I was with both of my grandmothers.
Being in the presence of a grandmother is something special. Both of my grandmothers were and are the best. My Grams is no longer with us, but I am so fortunate to still have my Nana. My grandparents were obviously very young when I was born, so spending time with them was fun. Both grandmas always made sure I had the best, but most of all, they both made sure I was having fun and learning at the same time.
A lot of kids played grocery store when they were growing up, but were they as method actor as I? Probably not. When I would “play” I got super into my role as a grocery store shopper. In my mind, I was a mother out shopping for her family. My Grams was the one who always played “Grocery Store” with me and I would get serious with my shopping. I would take everything out of our pantry and place it on the table and “shop” for it. My Grams would lay down flat on the couch and I would use HER as a conveyor belt! I would scan my items on her belly, she would say “beep” and then I would place my items in a paper bag, pay for my things and walk away. In some way, I guess I had the whole “self-checkout” thing down before it even existed. I was definitely on to something! This is one of my favorite past times because doing this made me happy and it was so simple. My parents didn’t have to pay for a grocery set because I used the real thing. I didn’t have anyone else to play with so I made my own fun, and I learned how to shop on my own. Some people might think this is weird, but a kid has to do what a kid has to do.
Playing at my Nana’s was fun too because I had cousins that would come over and I could play with them and we could watch movies together. Sometimes, when we loved the movie so much, my Nana would let us “rent” the movie from her. Back then, videos were on VHS so there were definitely rules and regulations of how we could “rent” a movie. To teach us responsibility, my Nana made us laminated “rental” cards, just like a Blockbuster membership card. I thought it was so cool to have my own card and she even printed on it “Nana’s Video Rental” or something like that and we had to sign the back just like a library card. One of the rules was that we must rewind the video before returning it, and we had a specific time allotted to rent the video and there would be a late fee for late returns, though she never really charged us. My Nana even had a separate rewind machine that was only used to rewind VHS’s so we had no excuse for it to not be rewound. Having a “rental” agreement was so much fun because I felt like an adult and if you read my last blog post, you know that is was my dream to be a grown up. I felt so incredibly cool that I had my own membership. It was the best. I wish I still had my “rental” card because you best believe that I would still use it!
I think everyone has weird quirks about them and I love quirks. I think they make an individual unique and fun! It was unique things like grocery shopping on my Grams belly and renting videos from my Nana that kept me busy as a child. Another weird and awesome quirk is that my dad used to make me call to order pizza one pizza night and I hated it because I was afraid to talk to a stranger and possibly mess up the order. My dad would quiz me EVERY SINGLE TIME a song came on the radio to make sure I knew that singer’s name and how they died. What I did not know is that all of those little things help me function in my everyday life as an adult. I’m happy that I played grocery store and rented videos because when I got to an age where I started doing those things on my own, I knew what I was doing. It also helped that I got to go to the store with my parents and I got to go to the rental store because I got interaction with other people. Now days we can order almost everything in advance or have it shipped to our door and children and even adults aren’t getting that face to face time with other humans. As far as the random song facts go, they are pretty useful when you’re trying to impress people when they aren’t expecting you to know something. Like I’ve said before, you might not think your children are listening to you, but they are and they will thank you for it later in life.
My parents are married and all of my siblings are from the same parents. I’d just like to get that out of the way because I get asked a lot if my parents are still together and if my siblings and I come from the same parents since there is such a big age gap between us. It is uncommon for people in my parent’s situation to still be married and there were times where they almost weren’t, but they have come a looooong way. I am a firm believer that no one has the whole marriage thing down because the truth is, life is constantly changing and we have to change with it. My parents have overcome many obstacles, but now that all their children are grown, it will been fun to see what their life will be like sans school aged children. My parent’s obviously did things a little backwards, but they did do things like other couples did. They got married, had kids (one before marriage, obvi), and bought a house. Their wedding wasn’t grand, but it was special.
Weddings have been around for a long time and even though weddings have evolved over time, the gist is about the same. Family and friends come together to celebrate the union of two people and eat and drink and have a heck of a time. In most weddings, the father of the bride walks down the aisle with the bride or groom and “gives them away”. This is all usually done in a fancy environment and your kid is usually not in attendance because first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage (for the record, I don’t believe you have to be married to have kids). Certainly, at most weddings, guests do not show up with their half naked baby in tow…because it is a wedding…but someone did just that at my parent’s wedding. I understand that styles change, and to each their own, but in the case of the wedding of my mother and father, some standards were thrown out the window for some people who were in attendance (but did they even have standards to begin with? Probably not). Maybe it was because some guests thought, “Oh, they already had the baby so this is just a formality”. Or maybe it was because the wedding was being held in a backyard and not a fancy reception room. I don’t know. What I do know is that it was the most exciting day of my life because my mom and dad were getting married and my mother looked beautiful in her dress. My dad, while he was handsome as ever, wore black dress shorts and a penguin tail suit jacket (please see the below photo). I was five years old when my parents got married and thought it was normal to be at their wedding. Looking back at it, I probably thought all little kids attended their parents’ wedding. I think I may have just started school, or was about to start, so I had no little kid friends to compare lives with.
The coolest part about my parent’s wedding was that I got to give my mom away to my dad (and one of the guests gave me a Precious Moments doll). I got to wear a pretty dress and flower crown (I was obsessed with both), and I was able to walk down the aisle with my mom like a grownup. I think my childhood dream was to be a grownup. Most kids probably wanted to be things like a firefighter or superhero, but I just wanted to be a grownup and walking down the aisle with my mom allowed me to feel like one. She didn’t have a relationship with her dad, so it was my responsibility to fill that part. I think that as I write this, I am just now realizing that I wanted to be her protector because she didn’t have one. She was my protector, and I was her’s. Yes, she had her mom, her siblings, and my dad, but in my eyes she was my responsibility just as much as I was her responsibility. Sounds strange, but it makes perfect sense in my brain. I think those kind of emotions are pretty heavy for a five year old and it shows.
Like any adult in a wedding party, I got to stand at the altar with the bride and groom. In reality it was more like, “You’re our kid daughter so ya, duh, you are a part of this as much as we are,” but I didn’t feel like a little kid. At times I felt so grown up, and when I wasn’t included in things, I got offended. Those aren’t really feelings that a five year old usually has, but I did. I also thought about things like how people were going to get home safely if they had been drinking, and I consciously thought about what to and what not to say in front of certain people. To me, that is a ludicrous skill to have at five years old. People might have known or might not have, but I was ALWAYS listening. Not that I was being nosy, I was just taking mental notes of how to be an adult. This is why I tell my friends to watch what they say around their kids because it could potentially stick with them for their whole life and impact how they make decisions. I am glad the adults in my life growing up weren’t dumb dumbs because I would be royally screwed.I think as a kid I was always in my own thoughts and analyzed things way too much, which is where some of my anxiety comes from. I was never that kid who would go off and play with other kids, partially because I was the only kid around, but also because I was more interested in what the adults were doing.
Someone once asked me if I always knew my childhood was different or if I had to be told it was different and the short answer is yes to both questions. One thing that you have to understand about having teen parents is that I didn’t know any different, just like you didn’t know any different about your upbringing. I knew that my parents were young when they had me and I knew that we were not a typical traditional family, but what is typical anyway? To be honest, I dislike when people talk about what should be “traditional” or “typical” because we live in a world where things like that shouldn’t matter. You should do what is best for you and your family and do what is ‘traditional’ for you. I was always treated like an adult while growing up, I was never lied to and my parents never fabricated stories to hide things from me. I am sure they told me sugar coated versions of some things to keep my child brain safe, but for the most part, they told me anything I wanted to know. I always knew that I came from a complex situation and that my upbringing was different from other children, but I was and still am proud of my upbringing. I was the luckiest five year old because I got the honor of walking my mom down the aisle and witness my parent’s marriage to one another. Most people can’t say they got to participate in something so special. My parent’s marriage wasn’t and isn’t perfect, but whose is?