There are days when I would give anything to be a kid again. To have no cares in the world. To never have to worry about responsibilities. To have nap time (!). To be fearless. To feel and see and believe in positive things.
When you're a kid, all you want in the world is to be an adult. You want to sit at the adult table during family gatherings, not at the kid table. You want to be included in the adult conversation. You want to stay up past 8:30, drink wine with dinner, and be able to drive yourself places. And then? You grow up. And you realize that the adult table can get kind of boring. All people talk about there is work, news, and politics. You realize that not much happens after 8:30 . . . if you can manage to stay away that late after a long day at the office. Wine with dinner makes you even more exhausted. And driving means gas, insurance, a car payment, and endless hours of navigating traffic.
You learn that the grass isn't always greener.
I think this will be one of the most fascinating parts about raising a child. Fascinating and difficult. I will understand the desire to want to grow up, but I will also know what lies ahead. How will I balance my desire to protect my child from all the bad things, the disappointments, while wanting him or her to remain innocent for as long as possible? Or will other kids - anxious to grow up too quickly - shatter that innocence before I have a chance to stop it?
A couple of weeks ago, a child in our neighborhood, age 10, called 911 and told police that a man tried to kidnap him from his school parking lot about a mile from where we live. For three hours, police on foot and in the air searched for the kidnapper while the neighborhood stood by and watched - a nervous wreck. Parents were standing outside with their kids, probably wondering the same thing I was: Would our quiet little neighborhood ever be the same? Would kids still be out in the streets riding their bikes and skateboards? Playing with sidewalk chalk? Walking to each other's houses? Running around in the field out back? Splashing in the pool?
But it was all a short-lived nightmare. The boy, confronted with surveillance video, admitted to having made up the story. Time to breathe a big sigh of relief, right?
Not for me. Yes, I was happy that there was no kid-snatcher. But it led to even more questions and worries. Why would a child make up such a story? Such an elaborate story, at that. He gave a full description of the man, even telling police officers about the lettering on the "kidnapper's" shirt. (He's lucky some poor guy wasn't picked up jogging or biking along the main road outside of our neighborhood for wearing a similar shirt.) He scared the living hell out of his parents and the rest of the parents in the neighborhood. And he forced those parents to, in turn, scare their children. A day later, the news stations reported that the boy lied about the kidnapping after a fight with his parents about his after-school plans.
It's hard being a kid. Not being able to do what you want. Having someone tell you how to act, where to go, and what to do. But growing up is harder. Thinking your kid was almost taken from you. Thinking someone else's kid was almost taken from them.
And wondering how you would handle that situation as a parent.