Thursday, August 22, 2013

Confessions of a "Latch Key Kid"...

The Taboo Carnival
Welcome to the Taboo Carnival. Our topic this Summer is “My Parents Failed Me (A Little or a Lot)” This post was written for inclusion in the quarterly Taboo Carnival hosted by Momma Jorje and Hybrid Rasta Mama. This month our participants reflect on the parenting failures of their own parents or in themselves. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
I'm not even sure how many people will understand that title.  When I was a kid, a "latch key kid" was a kid who got home before their parents.  I honestly don't know the origin, and where as I could google it and give you the root origin of the slang term, that's not why I'm writing this.  No, today folks, I'm not going to talk about any products, or stuff I've made.  I'm probably not even going to mention my boobs more than a few times, but I'm betting they'll factor in too, because in truth, I harbor some resentment about that too.

Growing up, my mom worked.  She worked a lot.  My dad was in aerospace and had a tendency to have a hard time holding down a job for long stretches (or so it seemed in my mind and please forgive me Dad if that's way off and you by chance actually read this).  So my mom supplemented our income with a series of part time minimum wage jobs.  As most people know, when you have that type of job, you take the hours you get offered so you get offered more hours. That's what she did.  I had an older brother, but he was unreliable, and at best would be there to watch me MAYBE a few days a week when I got home, so for the most part, when I was done with school, I walked home, opened the door with my own key and spent several hours alone in an empty house.  This started when I was my son's age.  I was 7 and in the second grade when I got my very first house key of my own. I wore it on a chain so I wouldn't lose it.

I can't imagine my son walking home alone, let alone coming home to an empty house.  For this, I feel my parents failed me, and I'll explain why, but for now, let me focus on my own kids.  My older pair, the adult and the teenager were awful when they were young.  They could not be left alone until they were well into their teen years because they just could not be trusted to not set the house aflame or flood the bathroom or some unholy disastrous thing that I could not fathom dealing with.  They once tried to "bake a cake" on the kitchen floor by mixing all the ingredients on the tile.  So they were not left alone.  Maxwell on the other hand is a marvel.  He is my perfect baby, remember?  He could be left alone long enough for me to take a shower when he was a toddler.  I did have the older two to make sure they kept a bit of an eye on him, but he didn't need them at all.  He was just that kind of kid.  And now, he is seven.  He can do so many things on his own that I am still constantly surprised.  He can make his own food.  He can use the microwave.  He can get his own drink.  He knows not to go out in the backyard because there is the pool out there.  He knows how to let the dogs out, and not to answer the door and this list goes on and on and on.  I can't imagine that boy here alone.  I can't wrap my head around it.  But when I was exactly his age (actually 6 months younger because of the way his birthday falls in the school year) I started walking home from school alone to an empty house.  For hours.

As the years went on, it progressed to things like me doing the dishes before mom got home.  Starting dinner so mom wouldn't have to cook after work.  Then when my dad left, my brother left shortly after and I played housewife for a while because my mom just didn't have it in her.  When her second husband came along, I was set in this routine and resented his presence.  His mess.  I resented the fact that she'd skipped from relying on my dad to my brother to me to him and never relied on herself.  But I digress...

This messed me up permanently.  I don't like being home alone.  I don't like going places alone.  I just plain don't like being alone.  I blame this in part to the hours upon hours I spent alone in an empty house as a kid.  I could never do that to my own children.  Hell, I never even put them in a daycare setting.  We worked really hard when the bigger kids were young and damn near lost our marriage because of it.  Him working third shift and me working a split shift to keep from needing daycare until they started school.  When the little ones came along I was already able to be at home.  I'd rather be broke and with my kids than have a ton of money and them come home to an empty house.  The worst part about my growing up that way?  We never made ends meet anyway and I got a job two days after I turned 16 to help with the bills and had two jobs simultaneously while finishing high school before I left home at 18.  I ended up taking the five year plan in high school as well and graduated a year late in part due to my need to work.  But mostly because I just didn't want to go to school and deal with everything else.  But alas I did finish.

So what brings me here today?  Well, a lot of things really.  It's the start of a new school year and I was thinking about when I was in second grade.  My mom is driving me nuts lately.  In fact, she's making me question a lot of my parenting choices again.  The boobs come up again here.  At dinner the other night, Phiz climbed up in my lap for his after dinner boobs, which he literally ALWAYS does, even if he's got a drink at the table (he doesn't always, he likes to pour them on his plate instead of drink them).  I needed to scoot my chair back and he was being very impatient, and I told him he wouldn't fit right then.  My mom looks at me and says "If he won't fit, maybe he's too big to nurse at the table honey."  She wasn't being mean.  She was just being honest with her feelings.  Have I mentioned before that I wasn't breastfed?  My mom claims she never made milk.  My grandma says that's bullsh*t and when I was a baby she was so engorged she had to get a shot to dry up her milk.  I don't know which is true, I just know that I resented the comment after my recent battle with mastitis while she was pretending she didn't know I was even sick.  Remember WE LIVE TOGETHER?!?  I have no idea how she didn't know when an AMBULANCE came to pick me up to go to the EMERGENCY ROOM! But ok, mom.  Moving on, he's my last child, my last nursling and he can nurse as long as he likes.  There is no such thing as "too big" to nurse at the dinner table if you want to in my opinion and this is my house too.

Also, I wrote this today because I'm entering it in a contest which I think is pretty brave of me, but as you guys know, there are more of you now than there used to be and I think that's so cool I want even more people to come read too.  This whole thing has been so cathartic for me.  It's the best therapy I've ever had to be able to write here and in truth, I'm grateful for the *almost* anonymity of the internet.  So there you have it.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  Until next time...

August 2013 Taboo Carnival

*** Visit Momma Jorje and Hybrid Rasta Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Taboo Carnival! Enjoy the posts from this month’s Carnival participants!
  • I Am Not My Parents — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares a guest post from a mama whose tumultuous childhood witnessing the daily volitility of her parents' dysfunction empowers her to provide her children with the peaceful, respectful, non-voilent childhood she longed for.
  • Am I a Liar? — Jorje of Momma Jorje *really* didn't appreciate being considered a liar as a child. Click to read how this has affected her relationships.
  • Confessions of a "Latch Key Kid"... — Lois at The Myth of the Perfect Baby talks about being left alone after school as a young child and her thoughts on extended breastfeeding at the dinner table.
  • Sometimes Families Break Down — Joella at Fine and Fair shares a guest post about how a mama ended up being estranged from her family and what she hopes to do differently.


Momma Jorje said...

O.M.G. Um... Epiphany? I was also a total latch key kid! My mom was a single mother. I was walking to and from school (alone) in the second grade, too. In fact, there was a phase of time when I had to put myself to bed at night because she was at work. I'd go to sleep on her bed (in a perfect sleeping princess pose, so as not to mess her bed which I'd made all nice because I missed and loved her so much) so that I *knew* I'd get to see her when she got home... only I *never* remembered getting up to go to my own room (she was not able to carry me).

I have never been good at "alone." In fact, I have never *ever* lived completely alone (not if you count babies)... maybe for 1-2 weeks at a time, that's it!

I never put this together! Just... WOW.

And I totally agree... there is NO WAY my DD would even play outside without me out there at 4yo and I used to roam around an apartment complex playing with neighbor kids.

I also wore my key around my neck so I wouldn't lose it. I did find the WIKI on "latch key kid" interesting, you might want to check it out.

Thank you for sharing you experience! And thank you for participating in our carnival!

Lois Griffin said...

Thank you for including me! Yeah, it's really impacted my adulthood more than I'd like to admit. I think it might have been different if my brother had come home more often, but he was 4 years older and used the time to hang out with his friends rather than to hang out at home. I'm so lucky to be able to be with my kids, I actually just realized today I know a mommy that's having to leave her kids for an hour a day but its SUCH a different situation (she's got a way more responsible older teen in charge and all around more sensible group of kids than I've got), it scares me to think the most responsible kid I've got is the 7 year old! I looked up the wiki also...can you say nailed it?!? LOL