I recently read D.L. Finn’s post on the Story Empire blog. It was about retaining the child in you and putting the fun back into writing. I admire people who can keep the enthusiasm and joy of their youth. I’m not sure I ever had it to begin with, though. According to my mom, I was born a skeptic and a somber sides. And she didn’t say that just to bug me. I believe each child comes out of the womb with their own personality intact, and all parents and adults can do is work with what they get. Mom swears I was born “an old soul.”

Now, I’m not saying I don’t enjoy life. I do. I take pleasure in all kinds of things–my flower beds, cooking, kids and friends. I’m a happy person, but not a carefree one. Fun is for special occasions. And I’m fine with that. My husband says I think too much. And maybe I do.

My kids loved to visit one of the neighborhood moms, because she was FUN. She was sort of a kid herself, always up for a good time. Lots of laughter. Playful. The same kids loved to hang out at our house, because I was always there for them. We each have our own strengths. But D.L. Finn’s post, which obviously stuck with me, made me think about childhood.

I had a mom and dad who loved me. I had two sisters who were my best friends. Our lives were secure. Good. The nine kids who grew up across the street from us were mostly neglected and left to their own devices. The boy who lived next door to them had a mom who chased him into the front yard when she was angry, knocked him down, and kicked him until my mom would go out and yell, “Stop! Now. Or I’m making a call.” And all of those kids grew up fine.

I thought about them when I was reading another Louis Kincaid mystery by P.J. Parrish, THE DAMAGE DONE. Nothing in Louis’s childhood was happy. His life didn’t get better until he was twelve. The focus of the book is on childhood abuse and things from the past that get so deeply buried, they have to be dug up to be released. Only then can a person be freed from them to move on. When I realized the book’s theme, I was worried. Like me, Louis isn’t a carefree type of guy, and unlike me, he usually ends each book disappointed by something in his life. It was a nice surprise when Louis actually works through some of the baggage he’s been carrying for a long time. Each person on his new cold case team has emotional baggage, and my hope is that each book in the future deals with how each of his colleagues frees himself from his past. It might be too much to hope for, but it would be nice.

I taught elementary school for six years before I had my girls and before the rules changed so that I couldn’t go back to teaching. (I got my Master’s Degree and priced myself out of the job market. Maybe a good thing or I would have never started writing. Who knows? Maybe it was destiny, but I wasn’t too happy about it at the time).

Anyway, I taught fist grade twice, second grade twice, and fourth grade twice. And I learned this. Some kids are going to succeed no matter what the odds are. Some kids have all kinds of brains and talent and don’t care. Some kids have wonderful parents and make a mess of their lives. Some have horrible parents and rise above them. But boy, each disadvantage stacked against a kid just makes it that much harder for him. It’s not impossible. It’s just hard. In The Damage Done, Louis and his team have all been damaged by life, but they all have the means to put their pasts behind them. Not true of the villain/killer in the story. He’s damaged beyond repair.

A SPOILER ALERT. STOP NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW. The killer’s brother doesn’t think so when it happens, but he gets lucky when their father rejects him and gives him to someone else to raise. It leaves a terrible scar, but the brother has hope at the end of the book. Maybe. The villain thinks being his dad’s favorite is a blessing. It’s not. And sometimes, life is like that, isn’t it? What looks good isn’t, and what we curse, ends up saving us.

14 thoughts on “Childhood

  1. Great analysis, Judi.I think there are some people destined to repeat their parents’ mistakes and some who go so far in the opposite direction, they make completely opposite (yet equally damaging) errors. But we’re all a product of our upbringing. There are just SO MANY FACTORS that shape what that final result will be. Character studies delving into that are fascinating. Loved this post.

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  2. Great insight into childhood and how it effects us as adults. Coming from a not so great childhood I put a lot of thought into it and life. All events lead us here. Thank you for including my post, Judi!

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    1. I’ve started to believe in astrology, that’s why I wrote the book Fabric of Life. I think we have a predetermined journey, but how we choose to react to life’s ups and downs is all on us.


  3. Wow, Judi, that was some deep musing. I agree that each of us comes out of the womb with a specific personality and your observations from teaching are so accurate. Children in the worst of situations, often are the most driven to succeed. Thank you for mentioning Denise’s Story Empire post! The Louis Kincaid mystery sounds like a good read.

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  4. I didn’t read the spoiler alert but The Damage Done is the only Louis Kincaid book I haven’t read yet. I really need to make time for it.
    I do think that childhood is a special time. For me it comes down to magic and whimsy. I never want to lose the ability to look at things that way.

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