Tuesday, June 26, 2012

6 Strange and Amazing Gifts From My Mom

As I end my "childhood" - I'm now 18, done with classes, graduating on Friday, leaving home for university in the fall - it feels completely normal and at the same time totally unreal.

Everyone under 18 thinks they know what I'm talking about but doesn't. Everyone over 18 is laughing at my youth. Bear with me anyways, please.

As I said, I'm moving out in the fall, and although my parents will continue to be my parents, it won't be the same. I'm done being a kid, even though I'll always be their child.

I'm at the age now where when I babysit, I'm seeing myself as a future parent. How I treat these kids is a reflection of how I'll treat my own - and in many ways, a reflection of how my parents treated me. For example, I use tricks I learned from reading my mom's parenting books (as a bored 10 year old), and I discipline in a way that sounds scarily like my dad.

But I do have my own quirks. Given that the youngest kid I babysit is three, I can get away with the fact that I talk to them like adults, capable of rational thought. I use logic and arguments to try and sway them, even in the face of tears. I think sometimes it works simply because it's so strange.

All in all, babysitting, which I didn't do much of before this year, has taught me to be grateful for many of the ways my parents raised me and my sister. In particular, I'd like to highlight 6 strange and amazing gifts from my mom. 
1. No TV 
I didn't watch TV as a kid. No Saturday morning cartoons, no after school shows, nothing, except on vacation, and even then only a bit. As a teenager, that changed, and now I'm addicted to Bones, but being raised without TV was an amazing gift of time and imaginative play. We did watch movies - mostly ones with singing, as you'll see next.
2. Showtunes
With my mom, we never listened to "kids music." My step-mother introduced us to Fred Penner and that was fun, but not soul touching in the same way the stories in the songs we listened to with my mom were. We listened to Broadway music - from Cats, from Fiddler on the Roof, from The King & I. We listened to the soundtracks of films we loved like Mary Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and of course, we sang Disney songs until we were blue in the face.

3. The Freedom to Tell Stories
When we were done singing and ready to go to bed, my mom would lie down with my sister and I and she would tell us "Savana stories". They were all about a little girl who would every so often spontaneously wake up to find she had been turned into some random animal. Savana would have crazy adventures trying to get back home and turn back into a human girl - all of them made up on the spot. 

As I develop myself as a writer now, I realize I should thank my mom for showing me that everyone has stories to tell, and anyone can tell them. You don't need to make your stories perfect before sharing them with the world. (although it helps if you're trying to get published/rich!)

4. Books (aka other people's stories)
I was raised as a reader. As a family, we went to the library at least once a week, and some of my earliest memories are of my mom reading to me in bed. That's how I read Harry Potter for the first time - alternating chapters with my mom.

When I was older and reading on my own, my mom kept a list of books I'd read and whether or not I liked them in a vain attempt to find me enough reading material. I still have that list, and it's incredible to look back on it. It has a record of the first time I read the Protector of the Small series, and the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I was eight years old. I still love those books.

5. Lego (technically Duplo)
We called it Lego, but our toy our choice was actually the larger, for toddlers version of Lego called Duplo. I built everything imaginable with those blocks, from towers as tall as my 6'5" dad, to elaborate zoos, to buildings with colour coded patterns in their fully enclosed roofs. My mom says that watching me playing with Duplo was her first hint that I would become an engineer. 

6. My sister
Here last but never least. My mom always wanted my sister and I to be close - to be friends, not just family. And while our relationship can be explosive and loud and we bicker sometimes just for the fun of it, I would do anything for my sister, and she knows it. When she calls me with a problem, I consider it my job to fix it. Sure, she drives me crazy sometimes, but I wouldn't change what we have for the world.

And so, despite my sometimes rocky relationship with my mom, I owe her many thanks. I hope she knows that.

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