I hated childhood. I was born an adult, and was forced to inhabit a child’s body for eighteen years. During that time, I was under the control of adults, many of whom imposed rules and restrictions that I felt were unfair.
Let’s take the classroom, for instance. Some hapless educator somewhere invented the “read out loud” system of learning. This involved subjecting the entire class to a droning rendition of whatever it was, read one sentence at a time, one student at a time. This was torture. I recall reading ahead in the selection to see what happened, and getting caught red handed on page thirty when everyone else was still following along on page ten. I was scolded for this. I knew that I wasn’t the only one bored, but somehow, I wasn’t able to hide my distain for the process. And don’t even get me STARTED on spelling bees.
My mother imposed all kinds of ridiculous rules around the house. For instance, there were chores. I know children need to shoulder responsibility. But really, I knew in my heart of hearts that Mom gave me the stuff to do that she really hated. It wasn’t to teach me responsibility—it was to get somebody else to vacuum the stairs. Mothers also seem to hate it when family members want to eat at places other than a table. Children find that potato chips are much more delicious when eaten between sheets. I was told that I couldn’t have any peanuts in the bed, either. Sheesh.
When I was a kid, I always wondered why there seemed to be two kinds of conversations: those involving one adult addressing another: interesting conversations about books, local scandal, humor, sex, and medical conditions. The other kind of conversation was that aimed from an adult to a child: patronizing comments about how much said child had grown, observations about whose nose said child possessed, and feeble attempts at engagement, such as “How do you like school?” Is there any normal child out there who really likes school? And by the way, there is no third kind of conversation. Kids don’t have conversations with each other. They just babble, and sometimes it is aimed at another child.
Children have lots of energy. Adults seem to spend a huge amount of their time trying to contain it. My parents had an escalating framework of controlling strategies. No jumping on beds. No bouncing of balls on walls. Absolutely no somersaults near the stairs. As a child, I had a hard time in winter, because I was prohibited from sliding down the stairs on my quilt, and life was boring.
All of this weighed on me for years. I harbored resentment against grown people for their endless rules and magnificent power. I felt that I was in tune with children everywhere who hated being patronized, patted, and controlled. I made a pact with myself. I swore that when I grew up, I would do everything that I wasn’t allowed to do, and more.
I have been eating toast in bed ever since.