Today’s Reflection: The privilege of a happy childhood.

A very wise friend recently referenced an element of privilege I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about: The privilege of a happy childhood. She had evidently been lovingly corrected as to the existence of that in her OWN life by a friend who did not have a happy childhood. Just pointing out how that can give you good foundation to build on in life whereas the inverse creates a spiral of negativity that can spin out of control throughout a person’s life.

And man. Yeah. I can totally see that. Because – mental health issues aside – I had a happy childhood.

My Dad gave me a stable home that felt safe. My parents divorced but I don’t remember any real drama around that – maybe because I was so young. I don’t have memories of big fights or anything, so it just became my life in a very normal way. I lived with my Dad, saw my Mom every other weekend. No big deal. He gave me adventures in the woods and across the country. He supported my endeavors to play sports and to excel in school. He sent me to a school that nurtured my academic achievements and gave me religious support which – although I denounced it eventually – helped me through a lot of my mental health angst. I had plenty of friends who had birthday parties and sleepovers. I have a childhood full of memories of laughing so hard I wet my pants or snorted milk out my nose.

I don’t think my brain is capable of REALLY understanding the impact of a happy childhood and the positive ripples that created in my life. But I do – now – often think about the inverse. How a childhood filled with trauma or stress or worry can create negative ripples throughout someone’s life. It creates a lack of self-confidence and anxiety surrounding health and safety. There are studies that discuss scars of trauma both physically and emotionally and how it can create generational trauma because if you never heal from childhood trauma, you can unintentionally take it out on the next generation which perpetuates the effects.

This is one of those topics that I think really requires the utmost of empathy which – if you’re like me and you had a happy childhood – you might not be able to realize. Maybe I’ve been blessed to hear stories of childhood trauma and maybe my heart was open to really understanding those stories and that’s why I can see it, but it has made me more and more reflective on the privilege that simply a happy childhood was able to give me. And since it’s something I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately, I just thought I’d share it with you.

And if you did not have a happy childhood, my hope is that you are kind to yourself and find ways to heal those scars because they are real and made the hill you had to climb into adulthood much harder than my own. Love and light to you and to others like you.

5 Comments

  • Mommyattorney

    This is what is killing me about family separation under Trump’s zero tolerance policy (there are still 711 separated kids). Adverse Childhood Events are clearly shown to cause major negative impacts all throughout a person’s life, and yet. And yet we just caused a bunch of them for absolutely no good reason at all.

  • Olivia

    This is a great post. I had a tricky ish childhood – my parents were in a very toxic marriage that I know now was abusive the whole way through. Things in recent years have made me think differently about some happier times – seen through more adult eyes and with new understanding, my childhood became less happy than I had maybe thought it was. Had a friend tell me recently “at least you had a happy childhood”. It was hard to explain that your view of your own childhood might change as you find things out and gain understanding about new things. Feel like I could write a book about it sometimes, but Tara Westover managed it much better than I ever will with Educated (although hers is far more extreme I think than my experience) – have you read it?

    • Olivia

      Great post, Kim and insightful comment, Olivia. I think for a lot of people, childhood was some combination of good and bad. It can be hard to make sense of mixed emotions about parents if emotional abuse came from otherwise loving, supportive people. It’s hard not to categorize people and events as being all good or all bad.

  • SBA

    Although I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy many privileges in life, this is one area in which I did not. Your post is poignant, and maybe more so since I knew you during that time in my life. The toxicity during that period was extreme, and the scars linger. It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve dealt with it appropriately, and I certainly envy the kind of relationships you seemed to have with your parents.

  • Lynne

    Wow. I just teared up while trying to eat at work. I suppose I hadn’t given this specific topic much thought either, but man, I am regularly aware of the lasting negative impact of my parent’s dysfunctional marriage. Most of it is emotional rather than physical for me and I still struggle psychologically. My parents finally got divorced when I was an adult. It was something I used to wish and hope for as a kid, however, their divorce came with its own ongoing challenges to cope with. But, I can easily see that there are many who had a much worse start in life. Anyway, thanks for making me think! (and sorry for commenting on an old post)