Did you have one? I'm not sure I did. If I did, I can't remember it. I'm sure I became an adult long before I was supposed to.
Is this a whinge? No, just a reflection.
I was having dinner with a friend the other night, and we were talking about how we would raise our future children (not his and mine, our own). We decided that it was important that the child would be allowed to have a full-length childhood, as much as possible. I don't mean no Peter Pan, no packing his lunchbox as he's off to work at 25, but to encourage the innocence and the honesty you only get from children.
I didn't have a childhood. Maybe my brothers did (I'm the youngest son of three sons), but I don't think I did. What I have is gleaned memories from faded pictures in an album. When I say "I remember that day at the beach", I really mean "I remember the story you told me of our day at the beach".
If I had to be cynical and blunt, I'd put it like this. I didn't just have an 'absent father', I had an 'absent mother' as well. I had a career father, and a career mother. I must have walked to school on my own the day I could walk. Dad was at work before we got up, and mum was still in bed (late starter). We get home after school, be home for a number of hours, and the parents would turn up, we'd have a family meal, maybe a quick family TV session, and then that was it. Homework, and bed. Dad would be in bed quite early, mum would stay up late - often TV or a book.
Oh, it wasn't all that bad - we certainly had more that our fair share of family holidays. Did we 'play' together though? Not much. There are no memories and no photo-evidence of shared sports with my parents, of rough-n-tumble games with dad.
I first noticed that I might have missed my childhood in my last year of school. I was walking with a friend of mine across some grass, and she looked down at the clover and squealed, "oh I love clover, it reminds me of my childhood!" I was hard-pressed to find a similar trigger.
Do I regret not having a childhood? Sometimes, but not really. I think it's the reason where I am today: fiercely independent, but craving attention. Bit of a dichotomy, really, but it's me. When I left home at 17, my parents gave me the ultimatum: "if you think you're old enough to leave home, you're old enough to support yourself". And I did. I have always found jobs when I needed them, found money when I needed it, had friends when I needed them. Oh, I've had weeks where I barely ate until payday, but that’s character building. We are the product of our experiences. I am the product of absent parents and the need to survive. I'm proud of who I am.
My parents still support my elder brothers, in their own way. The eldest still borrows money. On the morning of his wedding (now there's an entry or five) he hit my mum for $600 for hire cars. The middle brother works for my father. Works when he wants to, not when dad needs him. Bit of a rough treatment for dad, but hey, why should my brother do anything different, he's getting away with it. Surf good today? Then he won't be in at work. What a life, eh?
I still remember the day my relationship with my parents changed. They had come up to the city to see me, and they came to *my* house, through *my* door, sat at *my* table, and ate *my* dinner that *I* cooked. Unfortunately, since I came out to them, they have never visited again. Too frightened of what they'll see? Me not wanting them to have to face it? Probably a combination of both. But still, the relationship changed into an adult relationship. Now mum rings up and talks business, shares, acquisitions, taxes, accounting. It's good, I think we're friends. I'd like to say so. My relationship with Jens is still out of bounds. Talk about Jens isn't, talk about who he is to me, is. But as I say, we're still friends.
My parents are coming to Europe. They'll be here for a couple of weeks, staying were? You guessed it - *my* house. :) I can't wait. For the duration of the childhood I've forgotten, they were my masters. We went out to a restaurant? They'd be in control. Where to go for holidays? Their decision. What clothes I could buy? Their decision. But when they're here, the situation will reverse. Oh, I promise not to tell them what clothes they can buy, but they'll be stuck in a country where they don't speak the language. Helpless, even. Call me sick, call me twisted, but I'm going to love it. It’s a role reversal and I'm looking forward to it. For those reasons, but also for good reasons, in that I'll be able to help them, support them, and treat them to a great time in Europe, all on me. I can't expect the Aussie dollar to go to far, but since I'm earning good British pounds, I'll be in a much better financial position to pay for them. Heck, they paid for me for 17 years, it's only fair I can give some of that back.
This entry has gone all over the place. I guess I can't write much about a childhood I don't remember. I hope my children have better luck...