I think that there are a few stories about everyones' childhood that make regular family circulation. They're the ones that, whenever the family sits down to talk about family history, keep popping up and make everyone laugh about how cute so-and-so was when they were a kid. There are three such stories about me.
The first is when I was two and a half. My mother was carrying my sister down the stairs of our apartment building and I was waiting at the bottom when someone pulled into the parking spot closest to the door. There were no assigned parking spaces, but this was the spot that my mother normally parked because it was very conveniently located to getting two small children up the stairs. That day my mother had not parked there but in my 30 month old mind this was OUR parking space so I walked directly up to the driver's side door, reached up, and tapped on the window.
"EXCUSE ME!" I shouted at the lady, or so the story goes.
"Can I help you?" Asked the lady.
"Yes. You are in my mom's parking spot. She needs this spot so that she can get my sister and I in and out of our apartment, you have to leave now."
"Um, there's no assigned parking." Said the lady, seemingly baffled as to why she is having this conversation with someone who is still young enough to drink from a sippy cup.
"Maybe you don't understand, ma'am. We NEED this spot and it's OURS, so you really need to move your car NOW."
"Maybe YOU don't understand that there are no assigned spots in this parking lot!" Apparently the lady started yelling at me. Who would yell at a toddler-even an articulate one? Apparently this lady. So I started yelling back. When my mom got down the stairs she saw me with my hands on my hips, giving a stern lecture to the car lady about how impolite it was of her to park in the space where my mother normally parked.
Of course everyone gets a big laugh out of that story-especially to hear my dad describe the lady's furious face when she confronted him later about "controlling his daughter" and how my dad just looked at her and said "SHE'S fine-SHE'S not the one fighting with a two year old in a parking lot."
Another big laugh getter is a story from just a little bit later. When I was about three, maybe four (no one can exactly remember) I was furious with my dad-no one remembers why. But they DO remember me tugging on my Nana's sleeve, crawling up into her lap, and saying-prim as you please-"Nana, we need to have a talk about your son." I really do wish I could remember the look on my Nana's face when I said that; I'm sure it was priceless.
The last story about me isn't so much one particular story, but is more about my character as a kid. My first complete sentence, at no more than 18 months, was "I told her no Mommy". As a kid my little sister would literally DO and EAT anything. My mother had both the ER and Poison Control on speed dial. Our pediatrician was like one of the family-you name it my sister ate it or did it. Jump off the couch and get a concussion? Twice. Eat poisonous plants? More times than I could count. Gum off the side walk? Check. Jump out of a two story window? Check. Drink half a bottle of mouthwash? Check. There was nothing my little sister wouldn't do-and that entire time I followed her around telling her no.
NO don't talk to strangers.
NO don't eat ABC gum.
NO you can't jump from the top of the monkey bars.
And then, when she inevitably did whatever it is I told her not to, I always made sure that my parents knew that I had advised her of the risks. In addition to being articulate I was a very calculating child.
The reason I bring all of this up is because Hubby and I were talking about this today. Once we were done talking a little and laughing about it Hubby asked me why none of our kids are like that-why none of the kidlets are talking in full sentences and telling people off in the parking lot as babies. I told him that it was just because all of our children have different talents than I did, but the truth is I'm glad they're not like me.
I had to grow up way too fast. Those stories, while cute and fun to laugh at, always make me a little sad. I didn't talk at 18 months because it was fun and I had things to say-I did it because I constantly had to watch out for my sister, and before I was even out of diapers I was responsible for monitoring her and reporting to my parents if she had done anything while they weren't looking. I didn't tell off that lady just because I was highly opinionated (though I was and still am today) I did it because I felt that someone had to protect what my family needed and no one else was stepping up. I referred to my own dad as my Nana's son because, even in preschool, my relationship with him was more adult-to-adult than parent-to-child.
I am SO GLAD the kidlets aren't like I was. I'm grateful that my babies have carefree childhoods and stars in their eyes. I'm pleased that they think we have an unlimited supply of money and they don't worry about bills when they ask for birthday presents. I'm so blessed by the fact that they think that Hubby and I can fix anything. Nothing makes me happier than to know that, though there is good and bad in everything, our children will grow up and look back on their childhoods as a magical time of joy and exploration and freedom. A time when Daddy was the strongest man in the world, Mommy's kisses healed every wound, and chocolate chip cookies were always in abundant supply-and though I know that they will have to be adults someday, a part of me will always wish that they could stay as UNlike me as they are today.