When I was around 6 years old my parents left for the weekend to visit some friends. At first they hesitated leaving my 16 year old brother and 17 year old sister in charge of me, but ultimately left feeling fairly confident as my siblings assured them that I’d be in bed by 8 and that they would make sure the house was as neat as a pin upon their return. Little did Mom and Dad know that those promises were code for Ellen will be in bed by 8 because we don’t want her in the way when our friends come over and, the house will be neat as a pin because we’ll have some major cleaning to do so you never find out about our groovy party (yes, groovy. Hey, it was the seventies!)
My sister holding me during the ‘good old days’, aka: before I could talk!
I don’t remember a lot about that Friday night but I do remember coming into the living room where my sister was doing ‘The Bump’ (a super cool dance step back in 1976) and asking me to go back into my room to make another ‘really pretty, detailed picture of the dog.’ The thing was, I’d already brought her a picture of every member of the family – and the house, the car, the yard, and my favorite food. Was she trying to get rid of me or something?
After another ten minutes or so I came back with another drawing of our dog Cocoa (an incredible likeness, I might add) to a whole house full of teenagers singing along to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Finally my sister, who loved me but was clearly getting frustrated with me constantly badgering her, pulled me off to the side and stepped up her game. “Ellen, you know that question you’re always asking Mom and Dad about? The one they always tell you you’re too young to know the answer to and then make you go outside to play? Well, I’ll tell you if you promise to leave us alone for the rest of the evening. Deal?”
Sis was playing hardball now. I glanced over at my brother who was staring at her with newfound awe and admiration for coming up with such a brilliant idea. Clearly this was information that I had to have – needed to have because everyone else already knew the secret to where babies came from – everyone but me, that is, and I hated being left out of things. “Okay!” I said as I eagerly followed my sister back to my room.
Sitting at my desk I listened as she explained how babies were made. My eyes grew wider and the look on my face went from excitement to confusion; then, ultimately – horror. I sat silent as my sister wrapped up her lesson on the male and female anatomy and then said, “Now, remember – you promised you’d leave us alone, remember? Oh, and don’t tell Mom and Dad that I told you.” With that, she opened the door and wandered back to the sound of the Bee Gees blaring in the other room.
I kept my promise…sort of. I did leave them alone for the rest of the night. I was too embarrassed to go back into the living room where my brother and sisters friends were, instead choosing a coloring book to get my mind off of such yucky information.
Mom and Dad arrived home to a clean and quiet house on Sunday night, clearly impressed by my brother and sister’s caretaking skills. That is until my six year old body couldn’t hold onto my secret any longer (I think I lasted a couple of hours though, so YAY for me, right?) and I recited nearly every detail of my newfound knowledge with my mother who looked at me in shock, then at my sister in anger.
My sister got into trouble for that one, though I don’t remember whether she was grounded or had the phone taken away. She got over it pretty quickly though, because I never did tell my parents about the party.
I’m proud to say that I wasn’t emotionally stunted by having had ‘the talk’ at such a young age, nor did that event lead me into a life of chronic promise-breaking; in fact, I’m pretty stellar at keeping promises when it comes to other people. It seems the only person I have trouble keeping my promise to is me, which is why I’ve never been a big fan of New Year Resolutions. I rarely set specific plans into motion for the simple fact that I don’t want to feel like a failure if I can’t follow through. Beginning January First, however, I am making one promise that I fully intend to keep for the entire year.
I’ve written about my gratitude journal and how positive it’s been in helping me notice the good even when things such as surgery and recovery have taken up a big part of my life over the past several months. I wanted to take this idea one step further and create more of a visual reminder of the many things I’m grateful for, so I’ve decided to write out every good thing that happens during 2013 and jot down each experience on paper. I’ll fold it in half and drop it into a container (which I’ll likely keep by my bedside so I don’t forget to do it) and at the end of the year, read through all of the positive things that happened during 2013. What a powerful way to end the year on a good note while bringing perspective to my life.
Like this idea? I hope so, because we will be incorporating this act of mindfulness into our Hate Loss Challenge next month. Start searching for your gratitude containers because there’s only a couple of weeks left before we ring in the New Year!