A quick interruption before the post… I still have three giveaways going on. Enter to win a week of summer day camp for ages 5-12 here, a fun Shrek-tacular prize pack here, or a $25 Wal-Mart gift card here.
Growing up was always something exciting to me. I remember anxiously awaiting the first day of school when I would get to go to kindergarten, when I got to be a Girl Scout, shaving my legs for the first time – all of them were moments I longed for. Being a grownup was always something full of such mystique for me, and I couldn’t wait for it.
I know I’m not alone in this, and the first day of high school, passing the driver’s test, going to college, getting married – all those are milestone we look forward to. For most of us, it’s only after we’ve passed these milestones that we look back and realize that maybe the race to grow up didn’t need to be quite that much of a focus.
A book I read recently led me to think about this – about how today we’re forcing kids to grow up earlier and earlier, and how much they’re missing out. I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali with Delphinne Minoui really brought it home – a ten year old girl, already married and divorced, forced by her circumstances to grow up faster than any child ever should.
The recent video with the dancing seven year olds is another example, although at least (and it’s hard for me to even qualify this) – at least their loss of innocence wasn’t nearly so visceral.
For me, I was lucky for the most part. I may have moved around a lot as a kid when my dad was transferred, but I was fine with that. My parents loved me, and they didn’t put too much pressure on me to grow up any more than behaving in front of company.
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses, though, and there are some things where I can still see the scars – relatively minor as the psychological damage may have been.
When I was eight, my mom left my dad and we moved to a small condo where I remember helping my mom clip coupons. I don’t remember a ton about that period, but clipping the coupons has stayed with me, along with my mom searching for work and driving a tiny, used two door Ford Escort – the cheapest car she could find. The fear of not having enough money and even of spending has stayed with me since then.
In some ways, this isn’t a bad thing, as I’ve never had any debt problems and do a great job of saving money (hey, it’s how we can afford to have me stay home with my husband as a school teacher). However, my reluctance to spend money is sometimes irrational and causes me to miss out on experiences or things that I really ought to – or could – enjoy.
My parents did get back together after less than a year, and they’re still together today. When I was twelve, though, I had another experience that still scars me today. My dad went into rehab for alcoholism (successfully, I might add), but it was traumatic at the time. My parents never really did a great job explaining it to me, although I remember my mom sitting my sister and I down and telling us she had some news and then asking us what the first thing Daddy did when he got home from work each night – that’s what stuck with me. After our numerous wrong answers (take off his tie, I remember was one of mine), my mom reminded us that he got a drink (“Johnnie Walker, Red and water” my sister and I chirped in a sing-song voice that looking back tells me we maybe saw far too much).
Dating through and after college, that fear stuck with me. I’m not a big drinker, and I never have been (hey – couple a fear of spending money with a fear of becoming alcoholic, and you have someone who doesn’t drink much). I never understood the joys of going out to get drunk, and I probably never will.
And I was, and maybe still am, paranoid about that regular drink, like that’s the proof that whoever I’m dating is on their way to becoming an alcoholic and recreating the situation my mom faced. Granted, there were a couple guys I dated who probably did achieve that, but most of them? They had no issues – I was the one who had an issue, and inevitably it became an issue in the relationship.
What “happened” to me – or rather, the events of my childhood? Minor. Completely off the radar compared to what it could be. And yet, I can see the impact they had on the person I am today.
Now I try to picture the person I would be today if I were married and divorced by eight years old. And I can’t. I can’t imagine the scars I’d have, the fear I’d have, the issues I’d face. And it breaks my heart to know that Nujood has yet to grow up to realize the scars she bears – and to know that she is far from alone, that childhood marriage is a regular occurence yet in certain parts of the world.
And if you’ll excuse me, I have two children I need to go hug. And some childhoods I need to preserve.
I received the book “I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced” as a member of the Silicon Valley Moms Book Club. There was no compensation involved. Be sure to check out what other SV Moms had on their minds while reading about Nujood.