At what point does childhood end? Is it when we turn 16 and can have a job? Does it happen when one becomes able to vote in an election? Does it happen when one is able to have a beer? Or does childhood end when becomes a parent?
It is a difficult question to answer, without going into a debate. My intent here is not to create a political, societal, or life heated debated.
To me, the end of childhood was on March 28, 2015. Granted, I had already been a parent for 10 years. I was able to vote. I could drink (but never really liked the feeling of not being in control). I live in my own house, on my own income. Yet, I still had the fun dreams and visions of life. Disney movies are still up there on my Top 50 list of favorites. I knew that there was someone I could call, regardless of time, who would help me make decisions that mattered. I enjoyed going over to a house and asking what was for supper.
But, on March 28, 2015 the of my childhood started. My father was a courageous man. He was diagnosed in 2013 with an aggressive form of lung cancer that had spread to his brain, liver, and spine. He was originally given six months. Those six months can and went. He was given another six months. They also came and went. In November of 2014 we took a family vacation to Disney World. It wasn’t just myself, my husband, child and parents. It was extended family. In total, the 14 people who meant the world to my father went to the happiest place on Earth. We made memories that have stood the test of time. We saw the ocean, the Space Center, and had the time of our lives. For a week, nothing existed. Cancer did not have a hold on my family. It was just us and the experience of a lifetime.
We returned to life as normal, but knew that this was our last Christmas, my last birthday, and my son’s last season with his papa and my father.
The day he passed, my childhood ended. I knew what it felt like to experience a hurt so deep that you can’t express it. To feel that you must now the one to make all the decisions. It was then that life would never be the same.
In the two years since, I have found more of myself than I thought. I still love Disney. My Little Pony is nostalgia also. A game of capture the flag? I’m there! But there is also a sadness around holidays for the table is missing a chair.
I have also realized that suffering is part of life. In the Buddha’s teaching of the Four Noble Truths, I found the peace I was looking for. While one can argue for a divine existence and reasons for everything, I found myself more upset because it wasn’t fair. Life, however, is never fair. It is through the basis of understanding the Four Noble Truths that I have come to accept and see that childhood never really ends. We always have a piece of our youth with each of us. It is what makes us, well, us. We find the memories and the feelings and pass them on to our children. Tree forts, coloring books, hide and seek, nerf wars.. Yes, I still love them. I have even taught my son how to pitch better than his father! Why? Because it was part of childhood.
What about you? Do you feel that childhood ends, or that we still have a piece of us with us at all times? I know being an adult and acting like one are two different things. But given a chance, I will take a day in a tree fort over a day in the office!