My parents were great, and I realize that now. However, when I was a kid, I wasn't so convinced. I thought some of my friends' parents sounded pretty great instead. After all, my friends were allowed to eat Doritos from those tiny bags that, according to my mom, cost "an arm and a leg," and go to Disney Word for vacation. There were so many annoying things my parents did when I was little that, now that I look back, are actually super helpful, especially now that I'm a parent.
My parents were borderline hippies. We lived in a really old house they restored room by room, and no matter the weather we were instructed to go outside and play if we even so much as uttered the word "bored." My mom baked and canned and sewed and knitted. My dad fixed things, mowed our 1-acre lawn with a push mower, and enabled my mom's habit of finding furniture in rural Maine junk stores only to furnish our whole house with them.
Growing up in a tiny town, we only knew maybe two "rich kids" (and rich was very relative when it comes to central Maine in the '80s and early '90s), so most of what I experienced as a child seemed normal. Still, there was just enough of a hint of (relative) luxury from those few kids I grew up with, that I did think what my parents asked of me was pretty damn annoying. Little did I know I'd be repeating nearly all of it, both by choice and necessity, as a parent myself one day.
They Let Me Be Bored
"Bored" was a word on par with "stupid" or "hate" in my childhood home. Utter the word "bored" and you'd be sent out to pasture, or to the front yard, or the library next door or to go play in the woods behind the house. If it was raining, we were instructed to read a book. Doesn't that sound like the ultimate luxury now?
They Took Me On Educational Trips
When I was 14 years old I took my first international trip to Ireland. In February. Not Dublin, mind you, but the west of Ireland in the '90s when there wasn't even a highway that reached that far from Dublin, let alone connected any of the towns we visited. It wasn't until I graduated from college that I ever went on a beach vacation.
As non-luxurious as those vacations seemed to me as a kid, I now realize how transformative they were for me. Perhaps more so than a trip to Disney World would have been, although we'll never know if that's true or not.
They Didn't Let Me Watch Non-Public TV Until I Was 12
I really don't think I watched anything other than the occasional movie, and a whole lot of public television, until I was 12. Even then, most of the TGIF line-up was deemed "too inappropriate" and I know my parents gritted their teeth when they let me watch Saved By The Bell.
They Didn't Let Me Eat Prepackaged Food
The only time I was ever allowed to eat prepackaged food, was when my family went on summer vacation and we were allowed to buy one set of those tiny boxes of cereal to share between the three of us kids. Every single one, except the Raisin Bran, was gone by the second day. For the rest of the year, there wasn't a hope of a single bag of chips or those pre-made peanut butter and crackers.
I'm not as strict with my daughter, but I'm grateful my default isn't to buy single serving meals regularly, both for our health and for the environment.
They Listened To NPR While Making Dinner
My parents rarely had the television on, unless it was the Australian Open on a Sunday morning. Then my dad would stand in front of the TV for hours, as though he was just pausing to check the score.
However, while my mom made dinner, she usually turned on NPR and listened to the news. I thought it was so dull for so many years, but when I was in middle school I started to pick up bits and pieces of what was going on in the world. As a result, I took on a real interest in global events. That interest has remained, and it makes me so proud to know (and care) what's going on in the world my daughter will eventually live in on her own.
They Wouldn't Let Me Own Branded Anything
At our local grocery store there was one single toothbrush for toddlers that didn't have some Disney character emblazoned across it. I know there will come a day when my daughter insists on having an Elsa nightgown or a Batman t-shirt. Thankfully, I have my parents' example to follow. I want to show my daughter that mass-marketed products aren't necessary, don't make you cool, and sometimes the cheaper way is the way to go.
They Didn't Let Me Play Video Games
I thought it was the epitome of cruel parenting when I was little, but now I'm so thankful I don't (and never did) give a hoot about playing video games. There was one little game with a fish on the first computer we ever had, but the only time I ever played was about 5 minutes of Duck Hunter on Nintendo at a friend's house when I was 7.
Even growing up in the '80s and '90s, there were enough screens being invented and brought into homes that I'm glad I managed to avoid that one.
They Made Me Take Music Lessons
I only wish I had the time (and a piano) to sit and practice for an hour like my parents made me when I was growing up.
You can bet my daughter will be learning and practicing an instrument as she grows up, tool. Hopefully she'll think I'm just as annoying as I thought my parents were, only to repeat the same choices when (and if) she has children of her own.