CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I doubt any parent likes to think about the ways they might have failed their child. Lately, though, I've thought about it a lot.
It started because of a few old pictures my parents scanned and e-mailed to me, including a shot of my brother and me in our treehouse. Kurt and I look as though we were both still in grade school when the picture was taken, and the treehouse was new enough that its corrugated fiberglass roof was still intact. (It later had a kid-size hole for a while before disappearing completely.)
That treehouse was such a major part of my childhood that even before my daughter was born, I was scouting the trees in our yard for just the right one.
For a few years, she was lucky enough to have use of a treehouse our neighbor had built, until it burned down. Not long after, we started talking about moving closer to work, so building a replacement treehouse didn't make sense. Then after we moved - to a place with plenty of sizable trees - our new home needed attention in higher-priority ways, so building a treehouse slid further down the list.
Until Celeste was too big to want one at all.
When I asked her about it not long ago, she said it was fine - that treehouses attract spiders and hornets (apparently the only two life forms she doesn't view as having potential as pets).
So if she doesn't mind not having grown up with a treehouse, why do I still feel like I've cheated my kid?
Maybe because it's not just the treehouse where I've fallen short. When I was growing up, our family took long camping trips where we'd stay in a tent, build dams in the creek, and cook hotdogs on the end of a stick. I've failed to provide Celeste with enough memories like that. (There have been a few trips, but not as many as I'd like.)
There were the music lessons I was going to get her from the time she was small (since, barring a genetic mutation, she wouldn't inherit any musical talent from either parent).
Because of my job, I was never able to be a homeroom mother, never "had" to volunteer in the school library or cafeteria, never did Read Aloud for her class. I haven't given her as solid of a religious structure as I believe my girl needs, but I'm working on that. Thankfully, she's only 11, so there's still time.