I believe a child’s life should consist of having fun and making the grade at school, not worrying about home invasions, stressing over finances, and figuring out how to patch holes in sheetrock. Bearing the title of “the man of the house,” and living in a single-parent home with my mother and sister proved to be very stressful at times. However, my childhood wasn’t constant stress; I had my fair share of good times. But worry and stress did influence almost every decision I’ve made thus far, and choices based on those emotions can have horrible consequences—despite their value in teaching self sufficiency and self reliance.
I loved my dog Daisy, she loved me, and we had great times. I decided a handkerchief would work for a collar since we couldn’t afford the real thing. My mother (as usual) had something to say about it “Don’t use a good handkerchief on that dog!” I didn’t listen.
Then Daisy went missing. Boy, was I heartbroken my best friend, gone. A few days later, a stench emanated from the floor and being “the man of the house”, I investigated. I looked under the house and saw Daisy’s silhouette near some pipes. She had gotten her “collar” tangled and died. For a moment I imagined my friend struggling fighting to breathe and then the inevitable death. I didn’t cry. Instead of getting depressed—men of the house don’t get depressed—I tried to focus on the bright side. Mom bought me a new flashlight to use when I pulled Daisy out. What a great flashlight! It served its purpose. And I never used it again.
Unsurprisingly, I suffered serious physical and emotional problems at a very young age. Having to face reality at such a then, can be incredibly exhausting. You could imagine my inability to relate with peers in school. The environment was false. And as we all know, the outcast is always the target of beatings and ridicule. It was damned near impossible to relax and enjoy it. I mean, the other kids didn’t even own a socket wrench set! How could I even begin to converse about cartoons and games not experienced?
I realize now, though, at age 27, those experiences have left me incredibly self-sufficient and reliant. I’ve become a jack of all trades. From academics to music, photography to auto mechanics, plumbing to carpentry—believe me, I can handle it.
This is why, I am thankful for having to face reality as a child. Self sufficiency and self reliance are fundamental; and instilling these ethics into my four-year-old boy is my goal. Whenever he yells, “Dally, I can’t do it! Can you do it for me?” I reply, “Yes, you can!” I want him to accomplish things on his own, yet provide the safety net of support I didn’t have when he fails. I lived my life with all the losses, illnesses, and heartache so he wouldn’t have to… at least while he is a child.
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