I went to a training session today. Everyone knows how fun those are, and it lived up to my every expectation. However, for a corporate training session it wasn’t bad: there were only two moments of jaw-dropping obliviousness to what kids are really about.

1. “We believe that childhood is a precious time, and that children have a right to experience the relaxation and subtle rhythms of happiness of summertime. With careful planning, supervision and adherence to the summer program curriculum, this can be accomplished.”

I’m sorry? Are you sure that’s not how it can NOT be accomplished? Because what I remember about summer is that the subtle rhythms (very poetic for a corporate training manual, don’t you think?) of summer come primarily from not having to do anything, doing really random and pointless stuff because you want to, when you want to, and definitely not adhering to any curriculum. And supervision? The very word is the antithesis of summer vacation. If you don’t step on broken glass, eat nothing but Cheetos all day until dinner, and have permanently grass-stained joints, it’s not a real summer.

2. “What is the purpose of the summer reading program?” Answer: “To prepare children for school in the fall.”

The reading program in itself is pretty good, relying very little on sterile compilations of “literature” written for “reading comprehension” by drones who are probably doing penance with a whip every night (and if they’re not, ought to). The kids actually pick their own books and read at home, getting stickers and so on for accumulated time spent reading. It could be worse.

It’s just a very sad example of how reading for pleasure wasn’t mentioned at all, and is rarely mentioned with any belief behind it.

Anyway, thinking about summer and also about how my husband loved being a kid, I realized there was a lot of stuff I really loved too. So much of it was emotionally overpowering, though, especially my favorite game, Pioneers. In this game we all dressed in our most raggy clothes and collected plants and berries, probably poisonous, and stockpiled them for the winter. We probably rounded up wild horses and fought Indians, too. My memories are fuzzy now. I remember wearing my blue dress with ruffles, the soles of my feet black with weeks of no shoes, and running. Running so fast that my hair blew straight back.

I got so into it that I sometimes forgot I wasn’t really living in the Wild West, and fantasy started to take over…the game in my head got so good that when the neighbor kids broke character for whatever reason, murderous rage hung around me like a black fog.

Thinking about how my husband’s childhood was good because he had nothing to worry about, I don’t know if I specifically had any problems. I mean, there wasn’t a problem I was trying to solve. My house was full of tension, all the time. I’m not sure why. My parents fought, I know that, but I’m not sure what about. They had hot, angry, strained voices in the kitchen. I love the sound of the coffeemaker burbling because if they were making coffee, they weren’t that mad. I think. I tried to ignore it but it was hard to do. It strikes me that my husband was technically raised by a single parent, although his grandpa was there–his paraplegic grandpa. There were plenty of fights in his hearing, I’m sure. And his childhood was happy, spent pushing his toys around the carpet.

I wonder if it was my parent’s fault? Or am I less able than he is to just shrug off, focus on what’s good, not worry? Was his mom just a happier person than mine? Why wasn’t I happy?

One time a boy took a stick and killed a toad with it. A toad I’d been playing with, feeding bugs. Named. He drove the stick through it into the ground. If I could have killed him, I would have, but he was too strong and he got away from me. I used the only weapon I had and chased him, pretending to try to kiss him, thinking that it grossed boys out so much I might as well use it as revenge. How twisted. My heart was breaking and I was running after the murderer with my lips puckered.

I would get up in the early early morning and swing on my swing while the sun came up and the dew sparkled everywhere, and sing to myself. That’s what I thought Heaven looked like. I think I’d still be happy with it if it turns out to be that way.

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