My mom and I were chatting about parenting during today’s “shelter in place” order. She remarked on how, with four children, there’s no way she would have been able to keep two of my siblings at home.
I couldn’t disagree. My oldest sister and my brother were never the compliant type growing up. But my other sister and me? We would have cooperated – for completely different reasons.
My older sister is a rule follower’s rule follower. As the second of four children, and sandwiched between two kids who weren’t about that whole “obey the rules” thing, she took it upon herself to be The Good One. So her choice to stay at home back then would be (as it is now) entirely based on Doing The Right Thing.
But me? I joked with my mom: “I was BUILT for this. It’s like I have been preparing my whole life just for this!” We had a good laugh together, because we both knew how true it was.
When I was young, I spent a lot of time by myself. Sometimes, I would hang out in my room reading books, doing puzzles, or listening to music. Other times, I’d walk out my front door and go exploring, either in the neighborhoods or the forested area near me.
Either way, I would happily occupy myself for hours at a time.
(OK, so maybe it didn’t help that I only ever had one friend at a time, so I had to get used to spending time with the one and only me, but that’s a digression for another day.)
I would have been the kid who stayed home, but not because I felt the rules were important. My entire childhood was spent exploring the joys of solitude. Having to be by myself back then would actually have been somewhat validating.
Yes, there are people whose faces I miss. Yes, it breaks my heart to be away from family, friends and students. Yes, I deeply enjoy connecting with people on new and different levels now that we have to work our way around distance.
Still, I cannot deny that I welcome this retreat inward, these uncountable, satisfying hours alone with thoughts. Having this time allows me once again to inhabit my own inner world, and to accept and celebrate that part of me.
It’s been a while.