Family vacations are great opportunities to introduce your children to the wider world. My family has wonderful memories of camping, flying off to distant lands to visit historic sites and museums and enjoying a myriad of food and cultures. But a vacation to the extended family is another thing altogether. Suddenly, as much as you try not to, you are thrust back into the family hierarchy you have been in all of your life. It can revert you back into that child you thought you had grown out of with all of her sweet and thorny past.
It’s a challenge to decide how much of my past life before marriage and motherhood I should share with my own children. Ideally of course, I see myself as an older, wiser person who can bestow the wisdom of my experience to my young charges. The reality is, not so much. When I was a younger person, I was in the shoes they are in today. I was finding my way, stumbling and falling, exploring and experimenting the many paths life had to offer me at that point. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but did I really want to share all of that with my kids?
Some of the choices I made back then were strong and smart and some were just downright dumb. Would it help them at all to know that I had been this vulnerable person making mistakes along the way? Granted not all were mistakes and I am proud of what I have accomplished to this point. But I wasn’t sure I wanted my kids to realize that the mother in charge right now was once a wild child in her own right.
I had the good fortune recently to travel back to my childhood home without my children. When I was younger, I never truly felt at home in this city. I was too odd and I didn’t fit any of the accepted roles that seemed to be prominent at the time. I didn’t wear the right clothes and was generally considered weird, even by those closest to me. So it should come as no surprise that I left my hometown as soon as I humanly could, went as far as I could and have never returned. Until forty years later. And it was surprisingly lovely. I found the ghost of my young self everywhere and yet she was okay. The epiphany came that as odd as I had been, I still belonged there. There is no cookie cutter human and the melting pot of personalities is what makes life so tasty.
Still many of memories that rushed back to me were ones I had not shared with my children. In fact I had forgotten quite a few of them until I revisited those places I had inhabited as a teenager. But it made me realize that I could share with them if I wanted to or not. What was most important was what I had learned about myself during my own journey thus far. Full disclosure is optional.
We are all writing our own life story as we travel through time. It is ours to keep private or to share as we choose. My children are writing their own stories too. I know some pages will be private and some they will share. They are both in an amazing place in their lives right now. I am so grateful for that. And yet I cannot wait until they have written their next chapters. I know they will be too good to miss.