I watched my daughter walk away from me this afternoon, down the block toward her friend's house. She just turned seven last spring and we have let her go around the neighborhood alone (with a walkie-talkie), but today I wanted to be with her most of the way. Partly because she was sobbing as she left our house - she couldn't find the little virtual pet store neo-something doodad that her friend wanted to "link" with, and there was no time to do a full-on sweep of the room because the friend could play for ONLY HALF AN HOUR, Mahh-hahh-hom! It seemed to me letting a small, bawling young girl shuffle a quarter of a mile by herself was begging for some creep to offer his version of sympathy, and it may have been reasonable grounds for various neighbors to call CPS about the mean (bad) mom sending her poor child away to suffer alone.
Walking alongside, biting my tongue against such unhelpful comments as "If you kept your room picked up like I tell you every week..." and "Maybe it's time to stop spending your money on ridiculous crap that gets lost or broken" forced me to take a glimpse of the world through seven-year-old eyes for a few minutes. I just do not remember actual moments when the world was so small - when not being able to find something to share with a friend truly overwhelmed me enough that I would cry. For five entire minutes. Frankly, I wish I could because it would be a great relief. To have the biggest problem in my life be a lost toy - wow.
I like to think I can empathize with my students when there is relationship drama. I can call up the times I spent weeping in the bathroom during a dance because a particular song was just too hard to bear since the boy I loved didn't love me back. (Open Arms, anyone? Pretty sure I spent most of 1982 in tears). But at the same time, I'm a little mocking of those times. I'm not really remembering the anguish my young self felt - can we do that? Today I really started wondering, because I do love my daughter so much and want to be sympathetic, yet it was hard to get there.
I stopped at the top of the road and let my daughter walk on; her friend was outside her house waving and jumping. Paige turned to look at me half a dozen times as she walked, and I waved each time. She had stopped crying by then, having moved on to a sort of grumpy/sad resolve. I watched her and I thought of how tall she's getting, how she is so at ease with her quirky sense of fashion, how much she loved losing her front tooth this week, how I do not recall any of these things about my own seven-year-old self. I get general flashes of how I behaved, who I cared about and who I didn't, clothes I liked wearing and hairstyles I hated, but I can't pull up any trains of thought or genuine emotion. Are we supposed to be able to do that? Would it be any help at all, or would it just make us feel so old? It seems to me it would be quite helpful, to let the lens narrow a bit in our busy, big world.