Your childhood experiences happened for a reason, and if you pay attention to the signs, those experiences will make you a better parent.
Growing up my family did the best with what little they had. I was born to a young couple, who to this day works harder than anyone I know.
I don’t remember a lot of new things from my younger days. My first pair of Nike shoes were hand me downs from a friend in my class and loved those shoes so hard.
Our family vacations were never on a plane, and honestly never further than a couple hours, usually at a campground nearby. While my friends were going away on trips to Florida or Myrtle Beach, or even more exotic places like Mexico, I couldn’t even imagine what those places looked like.
My reality was a tent, and I didn’t think anything more of it. Just that this was what we did for fun and it was our annual vacation.
I could go on and on about the things I didn’t have or didn’t do, but I feel like my past made me who I am today. At the time I didn’t care.
My family made sure we were in sports, which now as a parent I understand the expense of that. I’m proud of how far I made it in soccer. My sisters were in hockey and sports took up most of our time.
The money went where it would benefit us the most.
When I started out making my own money, I admit I used it in ways that weren’t smart. Splurging my entire paycheck the first day I got it. I learned quickly that’s not what life is about.
I will admit, I used to want to fill my life with the things I didn’t get to do when I was younger and give my son all the things I didn’t get. When you do that, you’re missing out on the greatest gift: gratitude.
For me, Canada’s Wonderland was a once a year trip. Usually set up by my aunt through her work. We would make the most of that day, arriving once they open and leaving when the park closed. We played the games, we ate the food, we rode the rides and we loved every minute of it. For that one day every summer.
Or baseball games in Toronto, for one day every summer.
See, when things happen for one special day, you tend to soak that up. When you do it often, you take it for granted.
Friends of mine in elementary school got to go to Toronto a ton, going to Madonna concerts and stage shows. Or shopping trips. At the time I was jealous!
Clothes were the same way. The new clothes I got were usually purchased by a family member, or my mom would buy something nice and I would cherish those pieces until they were worn through or too small. I wanted those things to last a lifetime.
Today, I’m still like that. I thrift often, finding clothes that I love. If I was chasing labels, I don’t think I’d have the same attachment to the shirts.
Not that I’m attached to material items, but if I’m going to buy something, I want to love it.
My parents had three daughters, so entertaining them every weekend would be expensive if we went to indoor playgrounds or to the mall. Instead, we learned how to entertain ourselves. We spent a lot of time outside, exploring. We were active.
I remember coming inside after playing all day, covered in dirt. I was wild and I loved it.
As a parent myself, I got caught up in the idea that I had to find fun things for my son to do all the time, when really, the best fun is when he’s outside on our street playing with his friends.
Fun doesn’t always have to cost a lot of money. I learned that from my family.
I learned that from my spending summer days with my grandparents when we would stay at the beach all day long. Or would just hang at my aunt and uncle’s house on a weekend. We had a blast there.
Weekends spent with cousins were the norm. I’m so thankful they were. To this day those people, and my sisters, are my best friends.
Growing up with not a lot means today I’m more grateful for things I have.
Our family has learned over the years that material items don’t bring joy. Experiences do. We will steal away for a weekend of fun somewhere in the area. A favourite is Huntsville.
We fish and hike. We explore the Niagara Escarpment every year on the hiking trails.
When we travel, there’s a real awe about it. We don’t take that for granted and are so happy to be able to experience another country.
The point is, my upbringing made me who I am today. I have grit and gratefulness.
My other point is, don’t run away from your past. Embrace it because it’s probably trying to teach you something that will help you live a fuller life.