It used to make me a little uneasy, the admonishment to "get in touch with your inner child". Like a lot of other people, I poo-poohed what we liked to belittle with the term psychobabble. You know, because, clearly, we were too sophisticated and well adjusted to need any kind of therapy. Funny how trends go. Or maybe we really do simply grow more open minded with age. At any rate, this morning while checking Facebook (where else can I see my friends from 62 years of life lived in different places?) I had one of the those little epiphanies. And yes, we have joked about those, too. But this was a sweet one, and I had to write it down so I could remember it happened.
Part of the reason I never like the inner child saying was because I thought it meant to go back in time and try to heal the hurts your young self suffered. Or to peel back the years of protective armor and see who is really under there, all vulnerable and raw. No doubt that is part of the agenda, for some. But this morning I was reminded that children can sometimes have a purity of thought, a keener understanding of things that has not yet been muddied by self preservation. It's that inner child I want to summon.
Remember when all of life was ahead of you, and you didn't worry about anything? I mean, go all the way back to the time when you thought your parents could shield you from anything scary. When just putting on pajamas warm out of the dryer was a moment of nirvana. Eating your grandma's cooking nourished your heart because you felt her love way deep down in your bones. When running was easy, skipping was preferred, and riding a bike was very much like having wings. Remember when you imagined your life as an adult, and you were just barely short of a superhero? Before you messed up enough to doubt yourself. Before tragedies made you doubt that anyone anywhere was really in charge.
Children see things that adults can't see sometimes. That there really is such a thing as magic. That no biologist can categorize away the magic of a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. That falling leaves whisper as they circle to the ground. That sticks floating in a stream will someday reach the ocean, and it will matter to someone or something somewhere. That the safety they feel in their family's circle of love is real and lasting. They have not yet had the wonder educated out of them.
One author told a workshop of children's writers that some of us have a child inside who remembers clearly what it felt like to be a certain age. Not that we are stuck there, needing to solve some puzzle to move on and grow up, like some poor stranded ghost who has to prove who murdered them. But that some have been gifted with the sight of a child for whatever reason. Maybe just to create stories kids can relate to. The picture books I love the most are the ones that the author got from the child-mind, leaving behind the temptation to let the adult peek through and wink at the reader. There are a lot of those, too. And some are so clever I have to like them. But the pure ones, the ones that take me back to the simple time when I really did believe in magic, those books stay with me.
Imagine if every adult walking the earth saw the intricate beauty of creation and put the preservation of that magic above monetary gain. What if it was simply more important to honor the earth and the sea and the sky that it was to make money off them? Was there ever a child who had a lemonade stand and refused to serve the friend who came along without a nickle? Was there ever a child who saw a dog suffering and didn't cry tears of shared pain?
Imagine if every human had the instinct to be honest that small children have. Not cruel, not mocking and shaming, but honest. Because if we are truly honest, we have to admit that we not better than someone else. That just because we were born in a loving home to parents with the means to make a good life, doesn't mean we deserve more than some who were not. Kids know that luck should come from a four leaf clover, not the color of your skin or the color of your political party.
Children aren't natural bullies. They have to learn that. Small children, left to their own natural inclinations, are loving.
It's not rocket science. It's not even a new thought (yes, Shakespeare was right). But it is worth hoping for. That we can get in touch with that inner child. The one who loves life and believes in the good, sees the unanswered questions as fabulous mysteries, and hopes for the future. That inner child.