Childhood Role Models can be complicated

I am 6 years old, standing at the screen door, leaning forward to let the screen press against my forehead, looking out.
I'm a big girl now, already finished kindergarten.

And I'm thinking hard, wondering...

My shyness made it difficult enough to make any friends. But to be labelled by my classmates as "different" made it almost impossible. How could Mummy and Daddy have such stupid rules? Why was I forced to be so different from the other children?

Back then there were no laws about keeping your dog on a leash. Dogs often went on walks by themselves. Every stray dog was my friend.

Suddenly it occurred to me. That is, it occurred to my 6-year old brain. I had to find or invent my own childhood role models. It was a light bulb moment. Both my Daddy and my Mummy Faye Schulman had rules of behavior which applied to their life in Poland and Russia. Maybe in Poland and in Russia, it was normal to have to put on a snowsuit simply because it was still the month of May. Maybe it was normal to never be allowed to visit friends.

They were using their old-country rules. I could forgive them now. I realized they just couldn't make the shift. That is, my 6-year old brain realized it. I realized they weren't being stubborn. They simply didn't understand. They could not understand.

This was a revolutionary discovery for a child with so few years of total background experience.

For many of us, our childhood role models are teachers or caregivers or parents. My babysitters sure didn't qualify, and my teachers didn't impress me either. And now I was ruling out my parents. Who was left?
Maybe the other kids? I didn't understand that we lived in a rough downtown Toronto neighborhood. I didn't understand that the other kids were not the best behaved.

Childhood role models?
I already knew everything

But of course, I understood everything, didn't I?

At the time, it felt like a life-changing epiphany: I didn't have to believe anything they told me ever again.

And I didn't. I threw out the good lessons along with the bad ones..

Why not? I would ask myself at every unconventional idea, at every rebellious idea. Why not stay out dancing half the night? Hey - why not stay out dancing all the night? Why not hitchhike around the planet? Why not - you get the idea.

It left me in a no-win position - I still wanted and needed my parents' approval, but I wouldn't conform in order to get it.

But back to age 6, when we know everything. Here's my first act of rebellion. It was awesome. Even now in my 70's, I smile remembering how exhilarating it felt.

Tricycle around the block

As usual my mother cautioned me to stay in sight. I waved at her from my tricycle, and waited impatiently until she went back inside. Today would be my first adventure. My little legs continued cycling ever faster all the way around the corner.
Happy in my disobedience, like a puppy who's been allowed off-leash.
But a little apprehensive too. I was now in never-explored territory. Every house was different. Every lawn was different.

I thought about my mom, Faye Schulman, and I wondered if every tree was different when she lived in the forest with the Russian Partisans.

So, in a way, my parents were still my childhood role models, at least partly. Other childhood role models were Superwoman and a female version of Batman.

Smiling by the peonies. I have a secret.

My parents had always instilled in me to be careful and sensible. At least they tried. But careful and sensible doesn't have the same meaning for a 6-year old as it does for a parent.

Some driveways had parked cars. So I began to slow down, just a little, at every driveway. But I needed to get back fast, before my mother would check on me again. Finally, triumphant, having turned 3 corners, I was back in familiar territory on the home stretch.

So much for my childhood role models. I had just won the Gold Medal in tricycle riding. I could travel anywhere. I never told anyone my wonderful secret. I even kept the smug feeling off my face every time my mom, Faye Schulman, urged me to be careful.