The Smeary Lens of Nostalgia

June 22, 2006

Over at Salon, King Kaufman interviews Cristopher Healy, who’s written a book called “Pop Culture: The Sane Man’s Guide to the Insane World of New Fatherhood.” One of the interviewer’s questions stuck me as especially poignant:

I find myself wanting my kids to have the same kinds of experiences that I had growing up — like my childhood was somehow exactly the way childhood should be. And that always backfires on me, because, for instance, you can’t go 10 minutes watching old cartoons without seeing some racist imagery or something unbelievably violent. So I feel this weird disappointment that my kids can’t have the same childhood I had, when really, my childhood was fine but it’s not some model that needs to be followed.

This quote stopped me dead in my tracks. I have come to know that modern motherhood comes with a basket of guilt. I was never a particularly guilt-ridden person until I procreated. Now I’m getting to know this strange new companion, guilt. This is a primary form that my guilt takes: nostalgia for my own childhood and cruel comparison.

My post earlier this week, about kids playing outside, reeks of guilt. This was my childhood in the woods; this is my son’s childhood in my urban back yard. This template gets repeated with a hundred different variations, and Jude always getting the short end of the stick.

Now that I’m an adult, I view the world with a critical eye, whereas memories of childhood aren’t handled with the same scrutiny and judgement.

How do you reconcile?