We went to language school in Texas. This is where a new life started. As with any birth there is pain with it, both for the mother and the baby. We had just driven what seemed like forever. The green EZ-Haul truck had elephants on the side (Named Packy and Tailgater?), which was cool. Maybe that is what triggered my imagination about this trip to the “jungle.” Aside from the boringness of a long drive, there was the problem of the monkeys jumping on our truck. Whenever we would drive under trees, I just knew the monkeys were waiting in the branches, eager to drop onto the back of our truck. My dad’s assurance that it was just the padlock banging the back of the truck when we hit a bump did not convince me. It was a relief to finally get there and realize that whatever monkeys had attacked the truck had fallen off before we got to Texas, and our stuff was still intact in the back of the truck.
The swing set
Soon after our arrival my dad built a swing set for me in the park at school. Other kids in the neighborhood sometimes felt they could use my swing set…the nerve! The “my stuff” was beginning to be a problem. MY brother Timmy would want to play with MY toys also and MY parents were gone to school all day. Of course there were other kids on campus and sometimes I got to play with them.
The weather was usually hot and sunny. On one occasion it rained and I remember going outside as the rain was slowing down and being amazed at my first (and last) experience of it raining frogs. There were little frogs everywhere. Usually when it rains, it rains water, but this time it was frogs and water. That was a neat storm, I thought. When I mentioned this later to an adult, he smiled and said something about “sometimes it rains cats and dogs.” This made no sense. Cats have claws and could hurt somebody and a dog falling out of the clouds could get hurt hitting the ground. Also, what if there were cats and dogs in a cloud, waiting for it to be their turn to rain and an airplane flew through the cloud…
On a breezy day my dad took me to fly my kite. I had a large spool of string on a large wooden dowel and after dad launched it, was able to fly it higher and higher. There were many others flying kites, but mine was one of the highest. Slowly the realization came that I might not be able to bring the kite in, that it might end up tangled in a power line. This was bad. My panic brewed for a while like a storm across the plains, and then suddenly the thunder screams “DAD” When he came out he observed how high it was. I expected him to reel it in for me, but he instructed me to hold on to it, he would be back soon. At the time I felt frustrated that he didn’t just make my problem go away. Now I am very glad for his parenting style. He came back with a hammer, a drill and some nails. He hammered a nail into the end of the dowel, put the nail in the chuck of his drill and brought the kite in.
During this time I started taking an interest in aviation. Airplanes were phenomenal. I got a Fisher Price Family Fun Jet with little people and the luggage. And a red View Master model G with “Airplanes of the World” and “Pan Am’s 747.” Sharing my plane with my brother was a bit of a problem. My parents overheard me saying “Timmy, I love you, but you cannot play with my airplane”
Both my brother and I had tricycles; mine was the bigger one, because I was bigger. I loved being able to ride up and down the sidewalk in front of our house.
The Owl and the Lion
There was an owl that came and perched on the footboard of my bed at night. I was terrified of it. I knew it was waiting for me to fall asleep and attack me. Just the thought of it sitting there, staring at me while I slept was bothersome.
The Lion was also a tormentor of my dreams. I had a plastic toy lion that suffered dismemberment at my dad’s blade as he tried to show me that he destroyed the lion and I did not need to be afraid of it any more.
Concerning dreams, they were usually a pleasant experience in my early childhood. As I lay in bed going to sleep I had a box of dreams in my imagination, I would flip through them, like going through a card file. Each dream card had an illustration on the front, that was what the dream was about. I didn’t know the end. These cards functioned like movie posters, trying to inform me what the dream was about and urging me to select them to dream about.
It usually worked quite well. If I would select the snoopy card I had a peanuts dream. Snoopy and I would pursue the Red Baron. When I selected the cowboy card I was in the Wild West riding my horse, The 707 card made me a commercial pilot flying through the big blue sky on a sleek shiny new jetliner.
There were occasions where my dream would take an unexpected turn. And then one night as I lay in bed selecting a dream I ran across a new card. It was a brownish-maroon card with no illustration. I was curious and paid for my curiosity. What a nightmare! That night I dreamt I was surrounded by a pasty brownish maroonish color, and that was it. Nothing else. Just me and that color. There was no up or down, I was floating in the color, there was nothing else to see, there was no light and no dark, just brown, brown, brown. That was the last time in my childhood I used that technique for falling asleep.
The Cowboy boots
I had a pair of cowboy boots that I loved as a child. I was outgrowing them but did not want to give them up. My parents would tell me I couldn’t keep wearing them, they were bad for my feet, but I couldn’t be a cowboy without cowboy boots. I didn’t have any other pair. My parents would try to throw them away and I would rescue them, until finally they were thrown away cut up. There was no hope for them now. I felt so wronged. The boots belonged to me. How could my parents take over My Things.
Not far from our house was every boy’s favorite military vehicle, a tank. This tank was stationary. We couldn’t drive it around, but we could climb on top, and the kid driving would make engine noises with his mouth. Some of the braver children would climb onto the turret of the tank, staying on top was hard enough. It was kind of cylindrical, so if you weren’t in the center it was easy to slip off. It was too large to ride as a horse, but small enough that the pushing and shoving of playmates caused many to fall by the wayside. The fallen child would yell to the driver to stop and wait for him to climb back up. This was not always possible in the middle of a heated battle, and sometimes he was instructed to seek cover and we would come get him latter. When you felt yourself starting to slip, you would try to grab on to the nearest thing handy, a playmate. They were not eager to be pulled off also, so many times figured it was better to give you a shove before you could pull too hard. We had our casualties. A friend broke his arm, and we were told not to get on the tank anymore, although some continued to do so.
I also had a birthday piñata. We got it in Mexico. I was all excited anticipating this piñata. My parents filled it with candy, and on my birthday they hung it from a tree and let us kids swing at it with a stick while blindfolded. There were two problems though: First, they kept pulling it up just as I was swinging at it. That wasn’t fair. The second problem was that they let somebody else hit the piñata. I didn’t mind if they swung at it, but it was my birthday, and I felt I should get to break it open and I should also get the candy.
Nursery school was a frustrating experience. My parents were studying through language school and I was dropped off at the nursery. There was a routine that I followed that caused my Mom (and my Dad) a lot of grief. It started at night when I was put to bed. I would ask what we were going to do tomorrow. Of course, unless it was a Friday the answer was nursery. Then the crying would start. The next morning I would cry when I was dropped off, and until my mom was out of hearing distance. Then I would play with the other kids. When parents started coming to pick up the children I would start crying again, wishing it was my mom that was picking me up. When my mom showed up I was “still” crying. This made her feel horrible, as if she was making me suffer all morning.
I was a prideful selfish bully. I remember urging another little boy to build a larger tower of wood blocks, intending all along to kick it over when he was done. It pleased me to see the blocks flying. It pleased me to see the nursery workers get all upset, and it pleased me to see the other children cry. I was a horrible child.
Excursis: Tips for parents that drop their children off for childcare
Don’t linger. The sooner you move away from the doors and windows the sooner your child can stop crying. Don’t make him cry longer than he has to. If you need to stick around go to the lobby, the parking lot or a shop next door. Leave your cell phone number and the childcare workers can call you if little Johnny doesn’t settle down, but usually we stop crying once our mothers can’t benefit from our pain.
Be positive. If little Johnny sees this is something you hate to do, he knows he will hate it also. There are many benefits to interacting with other children outside your home, let him do it. Have a positive attitude; help him look forward to it. This is true when you pick him up also. When you see he is crying when you pick him up, you need to be strong and upbeat. I know that is hard after a long workday. This should be a “Yay! We can be together” time not a “I am so sorry I left you so long with those bad people time” Use duck parenting not betta parenting.
Be on time. Try your best to pick him up on time. He feels horrible when his parents are the last ones to show up. All his playmates are leaving and he is still there. Obviously there are situations that cause delays, but don’t delay over “me” time. Don’t delay picking him up so you can get a few more chapters of your book read in quiet or you would rather do your shopping without Johnny tagging along.