I've never been one to buy into the myth of a "normal" childhood. I just don't believe there is any such animal. Everyone I know had some kind of issue to mar what others believe is "normal," be it a parent's divorce, an illness, a sudden move to a new town, family money problems, alcoholism, you name it; life isn't easy.
For me, when I was seven years old (exactly one day before my birthday, as a matter of fact), my parents picked up and left Odessa, then-USSR/now-Ukraine. It wasn't until we were physically sitting on our suitcases on the train that they told me we were going to America (they hadn't told me before because they were afraid I'd tell someone else and we'd be arrested, or at least heckled). For the next four months, we travelle from the outskirts of the USSR to Vienna, Austria to Rome, Italy,
by bus, by train and by car, with periodic escorts by the armed Jewish Defense League because the PLO had vowed to kill us.
We eventually ended up in San Francisco, CA, where I went to school speaking no English. When I finally did learn English, I became a pint-sized translator for my family, escorting my mother and grandparents on visits to the doctor's office, the social security office, making phone calls for them, etc.
So that's my not "normal" childhood story. But I never had a problem with it. I thought, hey - see above - life isn't easy, no one's childhood is normal, all's well that end's well, aren't I lucky I got through it all without any permanent scars, crippling neurosis or post-traumatic stresses?
Or so I thought, anyway. Until my older son got closer and closer to turning seven.
All of a sudden, as he passed the six and a half mark and proudly started telling everyone he was "six and three quarters" I freaked out.
I didn't realize at first that I was freaking out. But I did notice that my reactions to his behavior were mushrooming out of proportion. Suddenly, I found myself refusing to do anything for him - pour him a cup of juice, help him tie his shoes, toast his bagel, look for a lost library book - insisting, practically screaming, that he do it "himself."
"Don't you understand," I finally heard myself pleading with my husband. "He's almost seven years old and he can't take care of himself. How is he going to survive if he can't take care of himself? I'm not always going to be there to do things for him. I have to teach him to be independent. He's almost seven, damn it!"
I didn't know that was in there.
But, apparently, I - or some shadowy part of me -- believes that, from the age of seven, a child has to be ready to take care of themselves, because you never know what might happen.
I wonder where I got that idea.
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