Rushing childhood, why do we do it? I find myself doing it all the time without meaning to. I have the best of intentions, but then get frustrated when it doesn’t work out the way I had imagined in my mind. And ohhh, do I have so many examples!
Henry’s second Halloween comes immediately to mind. Henry had just turned one a month prior and I was soooo excited about that Halloween. He’s not a newborn this year! He can hold his head up! He can even eat solids! I used to love Halloween when I was a kid! He’s just going to love it this year! I was so excited that I had made his costume and, in my mind, he was going to love it! I mean, what little boy wouldn’t love to be dressed as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man???? Mine.
I hadn’t thought the costume through at all and had constructed the entire thing around this incredibly thick sweater with a closure in the back made from… a safety pin. I had a little sailor hat that I had haphazardly sewn and the whole costume was bulky, scratchy and nothing I would probably want to wear, let alone my one year old son.
I have an incredibly vivid memory of chasing him around and trying to safety pin the shirt in the back. The entire time he was crying and desperately trying to escape his Halloween crazed mother who was chasing him with sharp objects. I remember Andy coming out of the bathroom, taking one look at the situation and saying,
“Meredith, you should just let him be. He doesn’t know what’s going on. Isn’t this holiday supposed to be fun for him?”
I married a very smart man. He was completely right. Henry was one and had no concept about what was going on. To him this was just another night, where it seemed that people were taking immense pleasure out of hallowing out gourds and shoving candles in them. He wasn’t lying awake the night before dreaming about all of the candy he would get. He wasn’t even eating candy yet. I was projecting my six year old brain onto this little boy that wasn’t even really walking yet.
There were plenty of things like this before. There was Henry’s Back to the Future themed first birthday, where I spent two weeks constructing a DeLoren out of cardboard, put together a mini Marty McFly costume and then, on the day of the party, attempted to shove Henry, wearing the costume, into the car, eliciting screams and cries from the birthday boy. Maybe at five or six he would have liked a cardboard car with gull wings, but not a one year old.
There were attempts to take him to see Santa, the first he slept through, the second was an all night affair that had him tired and just wanting to go home when the fat man finally showed up.
This year was different, I vowed that Henry would have a comfortable birthday and Halloween costume. We took him to see Santa, but when the line looked like people trying to get tickets to the opening of a new Star Wars movie, we decided to bag it.
There’s a small part of me, OK, a big part of me, that is so excited to create those childhood memories with my kids that I had. When I find myself jumping the gun and projecting my memories on my kids, I try to say, what is he getting out of this? What kind of memory am I creating? And if it’s Christmas morning and he would rather play with cooling racks in the kitchen than open his gifts, that’s totally alright with me.