An odd thing about my family is that we were never all that interested in the past. By that, I mean that it wasn’t a priority for us. Perhaps it was the fact that our genealogy became largely untraceable after a certain point on my father’s side. Whatever the case, the present was always much more important, and the future so much more so. A few attempts were made to establish traditions through the years, especially around the the Holidays, but few of them ever gained any strong footing. We were always much more established in today, in what was going on now, and where it would lead…not at the expense of history (I was always taught well and knew the family’s past), but as a matter of focus. The past was over. Learn from it and move on.

As a result, I dwell very little on my childhood…at least, I did until I was married. Something about starting our own family brought me back to those times. I’m fortunate in that my parents still live in the home in which I grew up. So, returning there, I can experience quite a flashback of memories if I let it happen. I began to dwell a great deal on my high school and college experiences during that time.

Over the long weekend, Karen’s side of the family visited, and brought along my little nephew, who’s not quite two years old yet. I managed to teach him about light switches and at least one new word over the course of the weekend…I was rather proud of myself.

After the family left, and I was retreating into some much needed introvert time and processing the weekend, I started to think about how formative all of those interactions were to this little guy. Every time any of us interacted with him in any way, he learned something. I started thinking about memories that suddenly recurred to me that I hadn’t thought of in years…lessons I learned about life from my parents, good and bad, both in the form of advice and in the form of the “school of hard knocks,” all from my early childhood. These are times that I almost never recall.  I wonder at how my parents, or any parents, assume the enormous responsibility that is raising a child. I’ve seen it done wonderfully, and I’ve seen it done horribly. The interesting thing about the situation is that its fun…that the responsibility, while it should be taken seriously, shouldn’t weigh us down with indecision and panic. I confess the thought of having our own children has weighed me down with those exact emotions at times, but I think now of how playful the whole process is…playful in the sort of way discussed recently over at Transpositions: a theatrical, exploratory sort of play in which we all need to engage.

Someone told me this weekend that he has seen old couples stay young because they were unexpectedly raising a child…that something about the process preserves an emotional and mental youth. Perhaps all play is just that way, and we should all engage in that sort of play for exactly that reason, lest we lose our wonder, or our sense of adventure, or…dare I say…our innocence?

Here’s to staying young!

Photo Attribution: eschipul  

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