Wednesday, August 15, 2001

The Death of My Childhood

My brother says I had a kind of “certainty” when I was a kid. What he means, I think, is that I created things without self-conscious doubt. I used my imagination without inhibition. I made hundreds of crayon drawings, I made tapes of my own silly radio shows, I wrote adorably funny letters, I played piano, I made little pieces of pottery, I went looking for frogs, I laughed at my Dad’s Spike Jones records, I danced around the house.

The end of this “certainty” was the death of my childhood. There is a piece of the brain that tells us we are not “supposed” to do certain things, and this piece of the brain is encouraged by our parents, teachers, and peers as we grow up.  There’s a way we are “supposed” to draw, “supposed” to speak; things we are “supposed” to be interested in. Peers at school told me I was supposed to like competitive sports, and not supposed to like things that girls like.

The death of childhood is like the expulsion from Eden. It’s the realization that someone is judging you. It is the development of conscious. The things you do matter to those out in the world: parents, friends, society, God. The nightmares of childhood creep up: Why don’t other kids like me ? Why does my brother call me a sissy ? Why do my parents consider me a problem ? My answer to these and similar questions was: I must be messed up in some way. 

I still have a kind of nagging notion that "supposed" to be laboring out there somehow every day. There are those who would say I am "wasting my education" if I am not working a professional job. There is a paternal voice from within that says not working hard is a very bad thing. Perhaps this is the "nightmare" part of childhood lingering in my brain. Society says we are not "grown up" if we are not working as a responsible person should. If I respond to this pressure am I really "grown up", or am I really still a child because I am listening to this rigid voice ? What is really growing up ? It is not necessarily leaving behind childhood frivolities and going to work. It is leaving behind the paternal stern voice and listening to what comes from my true self.

The second death of childhood comes when we mature enough to realize that we should not be burdened by negative judgements. When we realize that God loves us as we are. When we realize that it is OK to be sensitive. The new-age phrase “finding the inner child” I think really means growing up and rejecting the guilt and negative self-judgement still left over from the nightmares of childhood. If there had never been these nightmares and monsters then perhaps we would still be in that state of grace where we could freely create without worrying about the expectations of parents, teachers, etc. The true adult understands his responsibilities without taking on undue or imagined responsibilities. This is a shift from acting upon fear, to acting upon love. It's finding the inner adult.

The first death of childhood occurs when we stop playing and start working. When school and books stop being fun and begin to feel like a burden. When we stop creating because we know there are better creators in the world, so why bother. When we give up those “little boy” activities and start longing for a sexual partner, and realize how lonely we are.

The second death of childhood occurs when we realize we do not need to be bound by what the paternal inner voices are saying. When we realize that fanciful dreams are OK, but also understand our true responsibilities to ourselves and others. When we feel free to love and know we deserve to be loved.
What’s really childish is to let the crap we have been conditioned with, bind us.

It's ok for me to dance around the house. It's ok for me to make crayon drawings. It's ok for me to make a web site.