83. “When I Was Your Age”

Children probably don’t want to hear too many times about how we used to have to walk miles through the snow, barefoot, to a one-room schoolhouse. For most of us, it wasn’t true, and even if it was, one can get tired of hearing it. Occasionally I enjoy telling children that when I was a child, I used to have to walk all the way across the living room to change the channel. But I try not to say that too often.
Notwithstanding some memories we may have of speeches that began “When I was your age…,” children are curious about what life was like for us as children. It may seem, at first, like fiction. We could never have really been their age; we’re grown-ups, and always have been. But once the world of yesteryear takes hold, it can be fascinating for children. If the curiosity and fascination are respected and addressed, they can build a bridge from the adult to the child, and they can also grow into a love for history.
We all do have stories to tell. Our stories may be way in the backs of our minds, in an old box in some dusty corner, but it is worthwhile to go back there occasionally and show them to our children. Even the stories that may embarrass us can help our children. It’s nice for a child to know, as he/she is struggling with an issue or challenge, that her/his parent struggled, too.
When I was a child, there was a boy named Buster who lived near us. I wasn’t allowed to go on Woodfield Road with my tricycle. It was a busy road. I think Buster wasn’t allowed to go on it either, but I’m not sure. I’ll ask my parents next week – see if they remember. But Buster was an adventurous lad. I remember him as our local Tom Sawyer. And one day, Buster led me up to Woodfield Road. Buster was a born leader, and back then, I was a follower. My parents were authorities, too, but Buster was right there, and my parents weren’t. So whose lead do you think I followed?
I got punished. And I wasn’t allowed to play with Buster for a while after that incident.
I could have attached a moral to this story: “So always do what your parents say,” or “Don’t act without considering possible consequences.” But I didn’t. When I tell children this kind of story, I’m not trying be a latter-day Aesop.
It helps children to know that we really were children once, and that we faced some of the things they face. We liked to have fun. We liked testing limits. In some ways, we’re the same kind of creatures they are. And as long as we don’t tell the same stories too often, children want to hear about our childhoods.

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