I remember when I was ten like it was just yesterday, remember that summer in 1979, when I turned eleven, and Dad, me and my brothers left my mom with my grandmother and drove to New York to visit my dad's parents. I remember thinking at that tender age that I knew it all, was an expert, a mini-adult. After all, I read my parents' books, had stumbled my way through The Thorn Birds, for goodness sake. I knew the term french letter, even if I had no idea it was a condom. I was learn-ed. Although Lily could handle the size of The Thorn Birds, I can't imagine placing that book or most of the other books I read in those early pre-teen years. Rosemary Rogers, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Celeste de Blasis, and Danielle Steel were authors I devoured behind my mother, although I can still remember the bemusement I felt over a lot of the, um, spicier details.
Lily and I read some of the same books, like the Harry Potter series, but the romances are in my bedroom, out of her sight and reach. While my voyeuring into my parents' books to see what worlds they'd visited did me no harm and my parents were probably not aware of just how early I started reading their books, I can't imagine letting the girls read those books or the ones I read now, not most of them. Instead, I am still joining worlds, reading the books that Bobby and the girls read--I have experienced Lemony Snickett, Harry Potter, warrior cats, that horrible Junie B. Jones (who really needs a time-out), and countless other books the kids have read over the years. I still journey into worlds my parents have been, reading after them their books, and now, the girls' books. It's lovely, in so many ways, to see the overlapping, especially as Bobby reads my sci-fi books, and walks in worlds I tread before him, and my dad tread before me. There's magic in knowing that three generations have read the same books (indeed, do today, with the Harry Potters, among others, being read first by my parents, then by me, then by Bobby and Lily).
So I sit here, at the beginning of the summer, my Lily's 10th summer, and I think of all the ways we are alike and all the ways we are different--and I know that she could not begin to imagine what it was like to be me at that age--the responsibilities that sat on my shoulders at that age, the adult world I tried my damnedest to inhabit--my way of avoiding dealing with kids my age, who were a complete mystery to me. She could not picture a world with no home computers, cell phones, nintendo ds's, and my little ponies...nor could she imagine that once upon a time, when I was her age, my brothers and I ran wild, wandered through fields, gazed upon rattlesnakes with wonder and fear, and roamed. Roamed. Rode bikes. Played outside all day until darkness fell. She cannot imagine a childhood where adults were afterthoughts and where kids ruled the day while parents worked. Where kids got into trouble and figured their way out of it. Where we regularly walked a mile down the rode to the little store to get a soda and back again, thinking nothing of the effort of the walk.
I try to imagine a world in which my three could roam the world, alone and free to wander and explore, where they ran into their friends on their jaunts, where the climbed barbed wire fences and wandered cow pastures, and I shake my head. I try to picture my Lily wanting to cook, so doing so--turning on the stove and experimenting as I did, at an even younger age than that. I see her pulling out English muffins, working the can opener for the tomato sauce, and using sliced cheese to make mini-pizzas in the oven, and then I shake my head and know that it's not even on her radar. She'd microwave pizza rolls instead, IF she even thought of that, and there's no need--an adult's always with them to help with those things.
At the expense of being safe (they have autism, after all), my children's experiences in being their very own Lord of the Flies (my childhood with my brothers certainly had that flavor to it) have been curtailed. Bobby was 18 or so before he was left home alone, and even then, I was scared to death. Here's the thing, though. Independence isn't learned by being dependent.
Bobby's skill set increased when we started letting him try and fail. And yes, there've been plenty of bumpy rides along the way the last five-six years of increasing independence, but he's able to navigate grocery stores independently. He's able to cook meals for the family. He's doing great, and it took letting him DO it.
We've begun in the past year to let loose a bit with the girls, to let them do--let them get their own breakfast, get their own showers (still have to check in and do touch up shampoos and teeth brushing and flossing and stuff), pack their lunch, get their own snack, walk across to their grandparents alone (across the driveway!).
As I sit here at the beginning of this summer, my Lily's tenth, I am going to keep juxtaposing the ten year old me on top of the ten year old her, and remember that I did okay, I learned a lot when I was allowed to try, when I was left alone to do it, and I'm going to see if she can't find some of her own adventures.
I'm just going to make sure The Thorn Birds is tucked out of reach.