The Latchkey Kids: A Tale of Three Siblings
In honor of Mother's Day's approach:
We grew up in a time and place where nannies and daycare were works of fiction, as distant and intangible as unicorns, goblins, and gnomes. Even if my mother had known someone who could offer childcare, we still would have ended up home alone because people living in trailers can not usually (at least in those days) afford childcare. So, to our delight, we were raised as latchkey kids.
I know my mother still harbors a lot of guilt from not being home with us. It still saddens her to remember leaving us to our own devices while the neighborhood mothers clicked their hen-like tongues at her. Ironically, while they judged her mothering and, in turn, planted the seeds of guilt still haunting her, they also begged to have their children placed in her classroom. Life is like that.
We try now to counsel her with our own sort of therapy, a combination of "what we gained from being latchkey kids" and "what happened behind the scenes that we now feel safe to tell you." Experience has taught us to rely more heavily on the former since the latter seems to trump her blood pressure medication.
There really are so many things we gained from being home alone. For instance, if I hadn't been a latchkey kid, I would have never had the time to perseverate over my speed reading game, and, thus, I would never have broken past 1000 words per minute (I was obsessed with the fact that JFK could read 1200 words per minute--I was an odd child). We would never have learned how to cook, clean, and throw our laundry in the wash without being told. We would never have gained the sense of responsibility that we still hold on to after all these years. Most importantly, had we not been latchkey kids, we never would have formed the priceless bond we now share. That bond has helped us through some very rough times-- it's as if God knew we would need a little extra glue to keep from coming undone.
As for the "what mom didn't know" stories, well, let's just say we learned how to conspire and entertain. We learned how to make imaginary worlds from nothing but sticks and mudpies, the former ending up in Brother1's eye and the latter finding a home in my belly. We learned that although Indians may have been able to press their heads to the ground to hear approaching horses, this does not work the same when tried on paved roads (no one was killed). We learned that dogfood will make you sick if you eat too much of it and that we should not cook things we catch ourselves, even if we are good "hunters". We learned that tying up Brother2 and putting him, with an attached "For Sale" sign, along the rodeside is not good because, contrary to what we believed, kidnappers probably will pay for children. We learned that hiding in trash bags to scare the garbage man is not funny. The list goes on and on.
Did being latchkey kids change how we felt about our parents? I would say no. We never felt that we were loved less than other kids because you know when your parents love you--it's a combination of instinct and good parenting. Morever, I think the experience made us extremely independent and creative, two qualities crucial for our "adult" careers. For this, we will always be grateful to our our parents.
Did being latchkey kids hurt us in any way? Well, we did spend more time in the emergency room than most kids, and we probably shouldn't have been watching Days of Our Lives every day. Apart from a few physical and intellectual (remember when Marlena first met Roman?) scars, however, I think we turned out O.K.
So, Happy Mother's Day a little early. Whether your kids are latchkey kids (if that's even still legal) or taken care of by you or someone you've hired, take comfort in knowing that they'll turn out just fine as long as you love them. If we can turn out O.K., any child can.