I think I am normal. I am normal for my family. Normal for my family is being funny (I think so anyway), sarcastic (who, me?), nerdy (absolutely) and not overly emotional. That does not mean that I fit in with someone else’s idea of normal. And isn’t that what it is really about? Somebody trying to classify you into their sense of normal?
I grew up in what I thought was a normal family. Dad worked, mom worked sometimes when I was younger and all the time when I was older. My parents were married when most of my friends had divorced parents. I had a curfew and I had rules. I got spanked when my actions were really bad and got lectured for all the rest of the time. I turned out fine (really I did.) My family was very conservative, very pro-Reagan, and very literate. We all read and it was encouraged and embraced.
I did not know that other families were different but when I started to realize that other families had other rules, I was fascinated. My childhood best friend came from a divorced family. It was her and her older sister home alone in the summer time and I thought it was fantastic. We ran through the neighborhood, smoked her mom’s cigarettes (for about 2 days, we got caught and that was that) and checked in with her mom on the phone. My mom was patiently at home cleaning house, doing laundry, and trusting me. That was her normal.
Now that I am very much an adult I am kind of aghast at the amount of freedom that I had as a child. At the time I thought my parents were much too strict. I had to be inside and in bed by 8p.m. even during the summer. I had to check in every hour. I prayed for my parents to get divorced so I could have some freedom. (That prayer did not come true till I was 20 btw & I am still waiting on my freedom.)
But my mom let me ride my bike all over. I was able to go and play for hours at a time at my best friend’s house. I checked in by running into the house, yelling to my mom that I was going back to besties, and that was it. I could go up to the neighborhood convenience store and not worry about getting kidnaped or shot. I’m pretty sure that gingery girls with a pseudo-afro and big glasses were not big on kidnaper’s lists during my childhood. And this happened when I was 6. The same age that #6 is now.
#6 is driven to school because in our town we have no bus service, not because I enjoy wrangling her in the car every day. We live about a block from the school. I don’t let her walk there by herself. To have a playdate with friends the parents are vetted harder than a Syrian refugee. Who are they, where do they work, meet and greet beforehand? She has never walked up to a convenience store without her older brothers in tow. She has never ridden her bike beyond our driveway. And she would never be allowed to go to a friend’s house without a parent present until she is 30. What was my mom thinking?
Part of the pleasure of having a large family is that the kids have each other to play with. When the OG5 were little we did not have neighborhood kids. We lived either out in the boondocks or next to retired people. They played with each other and I never had to worry about playdates and who they were with. I knew. They were with other bad kids who were very closely related. #6 and #7 are so much younger than their siblings that they won’t have that same opportunity. And this worries me a little. Because they are going to have each other but they will also have other friends. That they want to visit.
I will try to be more like my mom, cautious but letting go. I may even let her ride her bike to school. While I am pacing alongside of her in the car. Times have changed. Parenting really hasn’t.