As I’ve been mentally sifting through my memories, particularly for my Flashback Friday posts, I’ve noticed something.
Partially because I’ve been recovering from the stress of being evaluated, I’ve been focusing more on the positive memories I have. They’re both easier to access and much more pleasant once I do access them. In examining them more closely, I’ve noticed that there are several things my positive memories have in common with each other. Not every memory has every commonality, but all have at least one and many have a combination.
In many ways, I think my childhood was fairly ideal for me and I’ve found these commonalities to be fascinating and noteworthy.
The first, and most striking commonality, is that my positive memories are almost exclusively from times when I was allowed to do what I wanted or needed to do, in my own time, without very many restrictions.
I’m not advocating that children be left alone to do whatever they want all the time – a very important part of parenting is to help prepare one’s children to function appropriately and effectively in the world to the best of their ability. Adults also need to keep children safe and if one child is posing a threat to themselves or others, an adult obviously needs to step in and assist with the situation.
However, I do believe the necessary preparing, teaching, and keeping children safe can be done respectfully and that parents generally tend towards being too quick to jump in with corrections or even punishments without first seeking to understand the whys behind their children’s behavior or desires.
There also needs to be respect for an individual child’s timing: When the child is actually ready to learn or do something vs When the adults in their life think they should be ready to learn or do something
For example, my elementary school years were a disaster, socially speaking.
I had done reasonably well in preschool, but I remember it being a situation where I largely controlled how much contact I had with other people. We had reliably scheduled activities and I could easily do them in a solitary way. Then the year before 1st grade I stayed home and had a great deal of control over how I played with the neighborhood children, who were all younger than I was.
Once I was in elementary school, I was expected to interact regularly with the other students and teacher in a strange, new environment with confounding unwritten rules.
I did my best, but messed up constantly which meant that I was frequently in trouble. I also didn’t understand why I was always in trouble. Since I was assumed to have much more social knowledge than I actually possessed, nobody ever clearly explained why what I was doing was wrong.
It was a great relief to be pulled out of school mid-4th grade.
By the time I had been homeschooled for nearly two years, I’d decided on my own to attend middle school only for music classes. Being in school on my own terms made all the difference. I was still predominantly a mess socially, but I was able to largely avoid contact with most other students while doing something I loved.
What made the biggest difference though? I’d chosen to be there and I’d been primarily left to my own devices (“Here are your schoolbooks, finish them by the end of the year, we’re here if you have questions” = heavenly to me!) for the previous nearly two years.
It was vital for my wellbeing and eventual small social successes that I was supported in going back to a public school environment both in my own time and on my own terms.
The second commonality involves books and reading.
Books were everything to me when I was little and they are still an important part of my life.
I first began reading words before I was 2 years old and I was reading entire picture books before I was 3. By the time I was in elementary school, I was reading at a college level. I’ve confirmed those facts with my parents repeatedly over the years just to be certain.
Throughout my first two decades of life, I was frequently getting in trouble for reading too much because I would read everywhere and anytime.
The library was a sanctuary for me in middle school. I would go there every week, browse for hours, check out 40+ books, and return them all read the next week. I lived in a small town and was the eldest of several children so I had a lot of freedom to blissfully walk around town all by myself.
I loved walking to the library and the used bookstore where I would spend more hours browsing, reading, and eventually choosing a book or two to buy.
The third commonality is that, during my positive memories that did involve other people, I was accepted for who I was. These types of memories often involve an interest or talent of mine in some way because those were the main authentic bits of myself that I actually felt comfortable showing other people.
For example: when I was participating in music classes as a homeschooler, I was accepted by the teacher because I was excellent at playing my instruments. After all, I had both the time and inclination to practice for hours on end at home. I was accepted by many of the other students because I was always willing to help others with their instruments or with music theory.
My knowledge and abilities have often been the key towards gaining acceptance and even friendship from other people. I’ve discovered over the years that when I’m an expert in a topic or even simply good at what I do, people are much more willing to overlook, excuse, and even forget my rather out-of-place behaviors and statements that inevitably pop out when I spend more than a small amount of time with anyone.
The fourth and final commonality is nature.
I’ve written much more about this here, but most of my best memories involve being out in nature in some way. I’m sure this also ties in with being left alone, but I still enjoy being out in nature even when I’m with other people or if other people happen to be present.
It makes sense then that my very favorite memories of all are the ones when I was fortunate enough to be alone with a book out in nature ❤