My father was twice called to leave our family to fight in the Vietnam War, and as his eldest child, I was encouraged to grow up maybe a little faster than I was ready for.
Helping out my mom, I’d prepare breakfast or make sure my baby brother was dressed. The added responsibility didn’t feel too daunting, and my 8-year-old brain somehow connected my additional service with the hoped-for return of my dad, safe and sound. The dads of too many of my classmates didn’t make it back to their families.
My perfect summer day occurred whenever my mom arranged care for my three siblings, treating me to an outing where I could engage in age-appropriate activities with her undivided attention. A drive through an unknown part of town or a walk through the woods or a stop at a roadside food stand – the details didn’t matter.
What did matter was our conversations and the opportunity to be a carefree boy for a couple of hours. I often think about the challenges that children face in our complex world and hope their parents are allowing them to be children.
Dr. Stephan Blanford is the executive director of Children’s Alliance. The alliance is a statewide, nonpartisan child advocacy organization that partners with families, lawmakers, community leaders, service providers and policy experts to develop antiracist policy solutions that improve the lives of Washington kids and build a better shared future for all of us.