Different Childhoods

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My children and I had different childhoods:
They had play dates. I played.
They wore knee pads. I skinned my knees.
They held sparklers. I set off cherry bombs.
They had training wheels. I fell off.
They wore seat belts. I hung out the window.
They played on the computer. I played in the dirt.
They got vaccinations. I had childhood diseases.
They had safety plugs. I got shocked.
When I was 4 years-old I broke into a house up the street with my 3 year-old accomplice, Patty Burke. Patty was a follower. Her face never looked clean and her mother was always taking naps during the day.
We decided to visit our friend Jenny. But, Jenny wasn’t home. Nobody was home but we walked in anyway. We clambered upstairs, turned on the faucets in the bathtub and skedaddled home. The bathroom flooded and the water seeped through the ceiling ruining the cherry furniture in the dining room below.
My father had to pay the damages.
This is what I've been told. I don't remember any of it but I do know I must not have been missed.
When my kids turned two, I built a fence in the yard for fear they might run into the street. They slept with bed guards, wore non-slip socks and didn't leave the house without 45 SPF sunscreen plastered on their faces. I cooked what they liked and forgot to make them do chores.
I had too much freedom. They had too much attention.
I followed my own counsel. They followed the rules.
Is there a right way to grow up?

Playing School

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During the same years my daughter was still young enough to believe pretend was a place to visit, she would hurry home from school to “play” school. 
She was the teacher. I was the student.
We owned an antique oak and cast iron classroom desk. It took two people to lift. An inkwell in its upper right-hand corner served as a history lesson. Carvings of initials, illegible hieroglyphs really, marked time on its surfaces.
My daughter conducted class from that desk. She stocked it with her very, very important school supplies and spent an inordinate amount of time opening and closing the lid; rustling papers, foraging for the perfect pencil, fiddling with an assortment of erasers.
She was all busy-ness.
Finally ready, she’d sit plank straight on the edge of her chair, clasp her hands together on top of the desk, swing her feet and begin.
“Okay class. Please take out a piece of paper. We are going to draw a picture of a lion. If you need more crayons, raise your hand.”
She spoke in a high sing-song voice, enunciating each word, sounding close to condescending and I wondered where she learned it.
“Now. Does the boy lion or the girl lion have a mane?” She said. “Do you know where lions live? Do they eat grass or monkeys?”
She asked a lot of questions. I was a good student.
“Let’s see, where do lions live? Well, I know they don’t live in New Jersey. Maybe they used to, but not anymore. Hmmm . . . maybe Italy? Alaska? No, lions don’t like snow. I know. Africa!”
“You are right. Very good. You get a star. Okay, now we are going to do math. Please take out your rulers.”
Patience is not my virtue. I loved “playing school” … for all of ten minutes.
“I have to go soon,” I would say.
“But we haven’t had reading circle yet.”
“Next time. Mommy has things to do.”
“Did you finish drawing the picture of a lion?”
“I’ll hand it in tomorrow.”
“Wait, there’s homework.”
“If you want to play school with me, you can’t give me homework.”
Every day, for a too short time, my daughter hounded me. “Mommy you wanna play school with me? Pleeeze.”
Her eyes — blue pools of hope and worry — melted any resolve I had into a hug I’ll call heaven.
“Okay,” I’d whisper in her ear, “ but only for a little while.”
Her joy flattened me.