Over the weekend, I took Taylisha and the twins to the neighborhood in Seattle where I spent a lot of my childhood.
I showed them my grandparents’ house where my Mom grew up, my great-grandparents’ house where my Dad grew up, my first elementary school, the nearby community center, and whatever else I could remember from the neighborhood that hadn’t changed in recent years.
Of course, Caron and Austin didn’t understand what it was they were looking at or the significance of it to their Dad. They’re only nine months old. But just for me, I wanted the experience of bringing my boys to some of the places that helped shape me. I’ll bring them back when they’re old enough to really take it in.
Pushing the double stroller through the streets, alleys and sidewalks where I spent countless hours playing, learning and dreaming made me think about how much our environments impact us in our formative years. And even though I assume that my sons will wind up being like me in a lot of ways, that may not happen considering they’ll be raised in a much different environment.
My grandparents’ house was the home base for my Mom’s side of the family. It was my first daycare when I was a baby. It was where I’d catch the bus to after school for many years. It was where I lived for a time during my childhood, and where I lived during my summers in college. It was where we had most of the holiday gatherings and family get-togethers, until my grandma (widowed by then) decided to sell the house and move into assisted-living facilities in her final years.
My grandma had eight children, so she had a lot of grandchildren, which means I grew up around a lot of cousins in addition to my siblings. I grew up around a lot of uncles and aunts. I grew up around grandparents and great-grandparents on both sides who were around long enough not only for me to remember them but to be impacted by them.
I realize that my kids won’t have all of that.
My siblings and I all live in different cities, so my kids won’t see their cousins very often in-person. I was around my cousins so much that I basically see them like brothers and sisters. My parents live in different cities, and Taylisha’s mother passed before the kids were born, so my kids won’t get the full grandparent experience like I did. All of our grandparents are gone, so my kids won’t meet any of their great-grandparents.
Plus, the world is just different now than it was in the 1980s and ’90s when I grew up. My kids are going to have a much different upbringing. In a lot of ways, it should be better. In some ways, it will be worse. But it will be inevitably different.
For every parent, I suppose, the challenge is raising their kids in an environment that is not quite like the one in which they were raised, and navigating that unknown.