What if we had done things differently and taken the other path?
I have been thinking an awful lot recently about the choices myself and Dave have made since having our children. What if we had done things differently - would they still have become ill with the chronic illnesses they have and suffer from mental health issues? We moved from the countryside to the city and the girls haven't enjoyed the freedom to roam the same as we did as children, due to our fears for their safety & the busy roads and unfamiliar surroundings. Are we, as a society, far to overprotective of our children now? I remember having the freedom to go out and be with my friends, without a mobile phone, from morning 'til night. My parents and my friends parents weren't worried or anxious about where we were ~ why has that changed?
The pressures of modern day life, expectations of how you should measure up and perform, how you look, dress, behave ~ all seem to be under the spotlight far more than I remember when I was younger. This seems to put huge pressure on our children.
I wish I could whisk my girls back in time to when I was young and growing up in a small Lincolnshire village, surrounded by trees and fields. It was a time before laptops, mobile phones, i-pods, sky TV and x-boxes. You could walk down the main street and everyone would know your name, your parents and relatives. You felt as if you belonged, safe, inside a small friendly community. Instead of socialising alone in our rooms via technology as children tend to do now, we arranged to meet up with our friends the night before. In the morning we'd roll out of bed, throw on our jeans, t-shirt & trainers before climbing onto our bikes for a day of who knew what, we let the day evolve ~ we would only return dishevelled and grass-stained in time for tea, happy and exhausted.
We swam in the local outdoor pool during the summer, built dens in the woods, rode our bikes on the "ups and downs", scrumped whatever we could from farmers fields (I remember once trying to make potato salad from uncooked potatoes!), paddled in streams, climbed trees and just generally had a fabulous time. Modern day children don't do these things any more do they? My girls once inspired by tales of our childhood went to our local park to climb trees only to be told to come down by a policeman walking by because it posed a "Health and Safety" risk, the same with building dens on the fields behind us. It seems the old playground games such as British Bulldog have also been banned ~ children are no longer allowed to play rough and tumble in case they hurt themselves. Isn't that part of life? You hurt yourself and learn to then pick yourself back up and carry on. The community feel seems to have dissipated too, villages are expanding, new people move in, old people move out and it's not so easy to know everyone in your local area any more. Don't get me wrong, change can be good, new technology life saving and makes life so much easier ~ but a large part of me still hankers back for the old quiet friendly village of my youth, with it's old fashioned shops and small community feel.
The woods I played in as a young girl.
I do wonder if my girls are all suffering from their mental health problems because of the way society is now. Are we all too disengaged from our surroundings and other people around us ~ we find it so much easier to connect via the virtual world.
All of my girls suffer from anxiety and two from depression, then there is their chronic illnesses to contend with on top of that. Would their lives have been any different had they been able to live their childhood the way both myself and Dave did? Has the city living and technology played a part in their mental and physical health issues ~ would they be stronger and healthier had they lived a technology free childhood in the countryside? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I will always wonder.
Is it a natural parental trait for you to blame yourself, "what if?" I had done this or that differently? I will always wonder.
All we can do now is try to teach our children to get outside as and when they can, to reconnect with nature, their surroundings, listen to the birds, smell the different scents that come with each season and to enjoy it quite simply for what it is. To believe that they can look, dress and behave how they want to without thoroughly analysing whether or not it would be acceptable with their peers, and whether they would be teased or ridiculed for just wanting to express themselves in their own unique way. I try to teach them that life is for living your own unique way, to do what you can when you can, how you want to and not to be hindered by wondering how it will come across to others.
Our choices have been dictated by my girls mental and physical health, their road isn't the same as their friends, they are having to negotiate an unknown path - but although it may be scary and dark in places, together I am sure we will be able to overcome these patches and bring them forward to a place where they can flourish and grow, find their own paths in life and not fear the opinions or ridicule of others.
So, back to my original question, what if?
Who knows, perhaps our lives are this way for a reason we don't yet know, perhaps it is to direct us towards a path we would otherwise not have followed. I would like to believe that this is true and will try not to allow myself during my dark days to blame myself for choices I made on the girls behalf during their formative years. Perhaps fate ensures you find the path it has laid out for you and whatever choices you make it will end up where it wants you to go.