I recently unpacked my Honors English final–a creative writing journal in which I had to include a prescribed list of poems and stories in order to get full credit. Even though, the stories and poems were all written by a younger me, I felt like I was reading the words of a stranger.
There’s the rub as an adult, we become strangers to our younger selves and forget how everything felt as a child (and even as a youth). But the truth is, our joys and sorrows never get smaller, we just get bigger. And then we forget, altogether, just how big everything felt when we were small.
My youngest came home from school feeling pretty low because her teacher had to get after her for chatting too much with her friend. A simple rebuke ruined her day. I had to squelch my feigned concern and remind myself that to her, this was a BIG deal. In adult terms, it was equivalent of having your boss chew you up onside and down the other for something you knew you shouldn’t have done. (Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse is a perfect example of this feeling.)
My middle-schooler and my high-schooler face their own obstacles, every bit as real as mine. My oldest recently lost a friend to cancer. My middle-schooler deals with rejection every day. These aren’t small problems.
Children aren’t mini-adults, they inhabit their own world inside of ‘ours,’ and it’s up to us to ‘tesser’ to theirs if we want to do their world justice. Perhaps that’s why finding this book of my younger-self’s writings felt like an alien travelogue. Needless to say, going through these old pages has been a stellar journey.
One of the poems I found fulfilled the requirement to have a ‘shape’ poem and a poem with “I remember” at the start of each line, but the sad thing was, I had forgotten all about this tree:
But now I can see it, at the edge of our lawn with it’s branches swooping over the irrigation ditch that fed the farms in our neighborhood. I can feel the rub of its bark on my hands and the shade of its leaves on my face.
I climbed its branches every spring and summer to get up high enough to spy on the whopping horde of three (five on a good day) people that trickled down our farm road. I cracked the nuts that fell from it each autumn and jumped in its leaves when they fell soon after.
Under it’s limbs, I pretended I was a witch with powers to control the wind. Oh! that bit of control that imagining gave me at an age when so much was out of my control …
It was more than just a tree to me. It was an important member of the world I had power over (Knuffle Bunny and Sophie’s Squash come to mind), and that all came crashing down (not literally) when we moved.
Moving was so frightening, lost friends, lost familiarity, lost trees.
And now, my adult feet itch to move months before our two or three year posts are up, and I grumble when my kids insist on sleeping with a certain stuffed animal at night. I forget, in the flurry to get kids out the door, food on the table, boo-boos bandaged and bills paid, that the world is so big, and frightening too, at times. And also wondrous, timeless, and open to any and all possibilities, including magic.
Truly, childhood is a whole different planet. So as adults writing for children, we really do have to don our child-vision helmets, put on our costume-drawer flight suits, and hyper-drive to their world before we can sincerely write about it.
Here are some resources that might help us do that:
Positive Parenting (disclaimer, if you do run through the rain in your birthday suit, I am not responsible for what might happen): https://www.positiveparentingconnection.net/20-ways-to-really-see-the-world-through-your-childs-eyes/
And some extras just for fun: