I loved this recent article about one dad’s rediscovery of his daughter when he picks her up at camp. I enjoyed his keen insights into parenting, his happy memories of summer camp (I wish Miles and Nina could experience this!), and his wonderful sense of humor.
But what stuck with me was this quote:
The best moments of childhood—the memories that stay with you into adulthood—are ones where your parents aren’t there. They are moments you experienced truly for yourself. In Homesick and Happy, Michael Thompson writes about a study where people were asked about their happiest childhood memory; more than 80 percent name a parent-free moment. Thompson explains that kids are better off when they accomplish something without having to think about how their parents would view it.
Is that really true? I thought about the happy moments from my own childhood that stick out technicolor in my memory:
— sitting on a smooth, flat rock in the middle of a creek on my great aunt’s farm on a sunny Easter Sunday afternoon, relishing the sound of rushing water and the thought of a week off school, just beginning
— our annual family trip to King’s Island, and riding “The Beast” roller coaster with my mom at dusk
— playing with my dad in the waves on beach vacations
— cutting up all my mom’s “Good Housekeeping” magazines to make a scrapbook of clothes and houses I wanted to have someday
— climbing trees, riding bikes, and playing tag with my brother and the kids in our neighborhood
— browsing the library and checking out enormous stacks of books
— reading a book about breaking clues and trying the puzzles at the end, sitting at the desk in my bedroom under warm yellow lamplight on a cold fall night
–the occasional Sunday nights when my parents relented on bedtime and took us out for pizza with another family from church
— going to work with my mom when I was off school for a snow day and buying apple turnovers at a little German bakery on the way there
— jumping on the couch in our basement
— coming home from school to find all the furniture in my bedroom rearranged
— staying up late with my grandma, eating popcorn and watching The Tonight Show when it was still Johnny Carson and good
— my mom creating treasure hunts with clues leading all over the house, ending with a small, hidden treat
Only about half of these experiences were parent-free. (Interestingly, almost none of them involved those parents spending a lot of money). Then again, I’m one of the few people in the world who had a truly wonderful childhood in a healthy family. Your mileage may vary, as the saying goes.
What do you think? What were your best moments, and what was the context? Is Thompson correct?