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The Essence of Childhood, Found

How the essence of childhood can bring us all more joy.
How the essence of childhood can bring us all more joy.

I have to admit that my daughter has great language skills. I’m so reluctant to say that because I know how hard some children struggle to grasp and use language. I know that many of you are here because your child finds communicating a challenge and I don’t ever want to seem like I’m bragging or like my family is in any way perfect. I’m also reluctant to say it because as a speech-language pathologist people tend to credit me with my daughter’s language skills. I hate that because it takes away from who my daughter is on her own. Really, language is all her. She seeks it out. She is a communicator always looking for meaning and understanding. That’s just her. And while she has other challenges (and trust me EVERY child does no matter how well behaved they appear at the restaurant or how sweet they are on the playground), language comes easy to her.

I chose to go off topic a little from the norm today and share about my daughter, because in her ability to communicate, her words have often become little windows into the mind of a child. As her mom I get to peek in, see her, and try to understand. Even more, I’ve been learning. Each time I peek inside one of her word windows, the view is like an important lesson perfectly illustrated in front of me. These images bound together form a picture book of life’s lessons in their truest form – pure and innocent, unassuming and honest. I’ve seen how difficult it is to grow up. I know that to be true even for us grown ups. I’ve seen that even if you have the words to talk about it, you are still just two years old and you can’t escape how that feels. And really that’s a lesson to me about how we are all just human beings and none of us can escape the feelings that life evokes. And although I’m sure it will be replaced in the near future, this week I saw one of my favorite lessons thus far.

While going for a family walk one evening, we saw a cat with a little nub for a tail. My daughter pointed it out and said, “That cat is silly. How can she tickle us with no tail?” I realized my daughter was thinking about how our cat seems to tease us with her tail, gently wrapping and waving it, giving us a little tickle while she gets her ears scratched. But as I processed it more, my daughter’s simple question stunned me.

In her question, my daughter illustrated how she BELIEVES that cats exist to tickle us. I could brush it off and think that she understands that cats have a greater purpose, but I think the great thing about these word windows is the clarity of truth in them. So I took it at face value and I thought about how magical this world must seem when things exist FOR YOU. Then in that moment I found the essence of childhood. I think. The elusive spark that makes children giggle unexpectedly, smile with their eyes and feel pure joy at any moment is the belief that this world is like your own personalized Candyland with infinite gifts and concierge.

Kind of like this…

Cats are beautiful and fluffy creatures existing to tickle me. That’s so sweet! Thanks for the tickle, kitty! Mom’s arms were created to hug me and her hands to hold mine (and receive my trash). I love my mom. Dad’s shoulders are a chair and his body is my transportation. My dad is amazing. My dog is here to be my friend. He loves me. My toys are mine and they’re awesome. My house is my castle. My yard is the world outside. My teacher’s live at my school waiting for me to come and play. Everything is here because of me and for me. The world was created when I was. This is my world and it’s amazing.But some days things are all wrong. How could the cat not want to tickle me right now or Mom not take my trash? Why can’t I have candy because I want it and why is it raining when I don’t want it to? I shouldn’t have to wait when I’m hungry and I don’t want to sit here now. I can’t find my shoes so someone must have taken them! I’ll never fall asleep. I don’t have to share my toys, they’re mine. It’s like everything and everyone have betrayed me. Candyland has been hit by a tornado, I’ve been stripped of all of my treasures and no one understands my troubles.

Not only is the magic of childhood created from this ego-centric nature, the epic, overwhelming aspects are born from it as well. When everything is all about you, that’s awesome and horrible at the same time. Everything is for you or against you.

And then I noted, as adults we are not immune to this all about me thinking. It’s just that we tend to use it mostly when things are going wrong.

Why is that car in my way? Why is the cat bothering me right now? Why won’t my kids be quiet when I’m trying to think? Why did the refrigerator have to break today? 

This word window lesson allowed me to understand my daughter more. She may be verbal, but she’s just two and smack dab in the middle of all about me thinking. The world feels exciting and overwhelming to her. She needs my support and understanding everyday to feel safe and not beaten up when the world doesn’t cooperate.

This word window lesson allowed me to understand me more too. I can use my awareness of all about me thinking to brighten my own life – to stop it when it’s making things hard for me and to use it when it can bring me more joy. All about me thinking can bring some of the magical spark of childhood back into my life each day.

I believe this is Candyland, my house is a castle, and cats have tails just for tickling me.Email this article »

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