Roller Skates and Animal Crackers
November 29th, 2015
When I was a child, I used to roller skate in the halls of my dad’s office. He was a professor at a university and his building was usually empty on weekends, making it possible for me to sail up and down the linoleum hallways without much danger of flattening an unsuspecting graduate student.
There was something magical about the experience. It felt simultaneously illicit (surely someone somewhere would frown at the notion of such a rambunctious activity being conducted in the hallowed halls) and yet utterly acceptable (this was my dad’s turf, after all, and I had his blessing).
I have no idea how often I actually went whizzing down those halls, but it’s one of those vivid memories that shape your own understanding of your childhood. I loved those afternoons because they were a chance for me to feel at home in my dad’s grown-up world.
Much of the time, we adults inhabit our kids’ worlds rather than the other way around. We come to their soccer games, take them on trips to the zoo, and host picnics on the living room floor. But we also have mysterious grown-up lives taking place at mysterious grown-up places often referred to only as “work.”
There’s something powerful about bridging that divide for our kids. I can remember accompanying my mom to her office on Take Your Daughter to Work Day as a child. She was an accountant so her day to day activities probably weren’t riveting for an eleven-year-old, but what I remember is the sense of exhilaration at being with her at a time and place that I usually wasn’t.
My children already feel a strong sense of ownership of my office (aka the Community Arts Center). I can see it in the way they confidently head for the kitchen immediately upon arrival because they know where the animal crackers live. Or in their casual certainty that I will take them there on a dreary Sunday afternoon, when the building is closed to the public.
Sometimes, my kids can even participate in my work events. All three of my wild wee ones attended a holiday tree-lighting reception last week, chugging hot chocolate and gleefully demanding outrageous numbers of cookies. They were there for the fun, but I was there to work and I think it’s good for my kids to know they’re not the only important things in my life. Don’t get me wrong, my children are treasured and adored, but at the reception they weren’t my main focus. I had people to greet, cookies to restock, announcements to make, and a complicated series of remote controls to manipulate in order to effortlessly illuminate a roomful of Christmas trees at the appointed moment.
And wait, what’s that? You mean other people, grown-ups even, actually listen to what mom says? She is seen as a source of authority? Respected and admired, even? Good heavens, can it be? Yes, children. It’s all true. Do take note, my loves.
I know that it’s not always appropriate, or safe, for little people to be stomping around “on the job” with mom and dad, but if you can include your kids in your grown-up life – even if it’s just for a few sessions of after-hours roller skating – do it. Those are the kinds of memories that last.
This post originally appeared in the November 30th edition of our SmallTownUSA newspaper.