Childhood Lost

I was challenged the other day with the following question. When was the first time you really felt like a grown up (sic) (if ever)? Questionable spelling and snarky implication aside, the question is something I’ve pondered before.

The problem I face in answering such a question is complex. I have no true memories of my early years. The first true memories I can recall started when I was about six. Anything before those memories are memories I created based on the stories told about an incident.

I had many interesting childhood experiences, beginning with a near-death experience. I was six months old, and my great-grandmother almost killed me. That was my first trip to a hospital, and I carried the physical scars of that incident for decades. If that were not enough, my little brother dropped a brick on my head a few years later, again sending me to the hospital.

Of course, that one also made me the butt of many jokes as I grew older. Any memory lapse, odd behavior, or whatever was blamed on the brick. Luckily, I was reportedly wearing a sturdy leather cap at the time of the assault, or the jokes might not have been funny.

Early near tragedies aside, I cannot remember when I was not expected to be a grown-up, at least part of the time. The first clear memory of my childhood was alluded to in the first paragraph. I was five years old. That memory resulted in another trip to the hospital and laid the groundwork for prepubescent adulthood.

Surviving my early childhood was no mean feat. I made it, though, quickly transitioning from preschool boyhood to being the third adult in our little family. That may sound pretentious or over the top, but it was my reality. When I think of those years, two country songs come to mind, “Peter Pan” and “Love Triangle.”

Dad was so much like the guy Kelsea Ballerini wrote about in her song “Peter Pan” that it hit me immediately. Then there is Raelynn’s song “Love Triangle.” I was the anchor point in my family’s little love triangle. I was caught between Mom and Dad, trying to love and calm them or ride out the storms that often raged through our lives.

Being the oldest child, babysitter, and shoulder to cry on was interesting. I manned the confessional for Dad’s rants and raves. I was the kid who wanted to play ball but had to hold Mom’s hand or stand by and watch her wilting because of things done, not done, said, or not said that left her empty. I was the big brother who had to act like a dad when my little brother acted like a little brother.

Yes, I was grown up, long before I was old enough for others to think of me as an adult, much less a grown-up. That’s probably why I took every chance as an adult to experience something akin to the joy I saw in the faces and eyes of my children and grandchildren.

In closing, I acted the part and had to be the adult in the room years before I wanted to have that job. However, the first time it truly hit me that I was fully grown up was one night not long after I graduated from high school. That was when my father asked me to care for my mother because he was divorcing her to marry his much younger girlfriend.

© 2023

About S. Eric Jackson

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2 Responses to Childhood Lost

  1. The Hinoeuma says:

    Is it wrong for me to say that, I am not impressed with your parents? Then, again, I wasn’t impressed with mine…either. I am an only child so, I didn’t have younger siblings to deal with but, my parents were still like the 18 & 20 year olds that got pregnant, even when I was 12. My dad nearly went to Vietnam but, stopped short of getting there, resigning his commission in his senior year of ROTC. He just wanted to be a firefighter but, his grandfather said NO (YOU are going to COLLEGE…whether you want to or not). He was pretty much lost after that, for the rest of his life. He did a decade as Probation/Parole but, the rest was just wandering (literally & figuratively). My mom got caught up in the “Womens Lib” stuff and got a boob job, after my dad continually made jokes about having to mark her “front & back”, to tell the difference. She never grew a sense of humor. There was a bit of “swapping” going on with another couple and, eventually, my dad wound up having a full affair with the other wife, destroying both marriages. That woman was a real mess, in comparison to my mom. She wound up shooting herself during an argument with my dad over “seeing other people.” It took my dad 20 years to get over that.

    • For a number of year I was involved in a Life Skills or Lifestyle managment program originally started by Dr. Phil McGraw. During my involvement there, and my Life Coaching work later I heard a lot of stories similar to yours and mine. Sometimes I wonder how many people, including me, managed to make it through to the present day, giving all the emotional baggage some of them dragged along. Here’s a link to a piece I wrote a few years ago that you might find interesting.

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