I have been thinking about what it means to be a child lately. Being 24 weeks pregnant (yay!), I am drawn to remembering what it was like to be a kid, and to thinking about what, as a parent, might be a good perspective to bring to caring for and nurturing the blessing I have received.
Anyone living with Fibromyalgia is on a journey of learning how important it is to focus on the beauty, fun and joy in life, and live above the pain. If we can do that for ourselves, we have so much to offer as human beings, whether we decide to become parents or not. So what is it that we knew as children that we have forgotten or undervalue as adults?
As children, we naturally embrace and explore the many sides to ourselves. As adults, we see things as being in contradiction or opposition, rather than in supporting roles that overlap and inform each other. Children easily and beautifully embrace what adults might see as duality.
1. masculinity and femininity
2. activity and inactivity
3. introversion and extroversion
4. self-awareness and self-expression
5. growing and plateauing
6. receiving and giving
7. vegetating and doing
8. learning and teaching
9. preparing and creating
As adults, we often try to be one way or the other and feel uneasy as a result. We interpret one inclination as being superior to the other, rather than recognizing both as equally helpful and imperative to living our lives, happily, as opposed to “correctly”.
Young children don’t keep track of what portion of each attribute they possess or which ones are better or worse. It is the outside world that begins to impose those beliefs at a young age. Sadly, a child’s natural inclination toward self-acceptance is broken, and a natural sense of harmony is lost.
It is no wonder then that, as adults, we find it difficult to let ourselves be childlike and happy. But, eventually, we have to learn to live our lives that way again. Otherwise, we’ll be miserable. As I recall and share my own childlike happiness, I hope that you will too!
Masculinity and Femininity
As a young girl I loved everything. Even though I knew there was a difference between what girls and boys were ‘supposed’ to enjoy, I was equally as fascinated by fairies as I was with my red and blue BMX bike. I loved to play with My Little Ponies as much as I enjoyed arm wrestling. I was as likely to climb trees and race go carts as I was to make wedding cakes out of mud and create bouquets out of wild flowers.
Activity and Inactivity
I don’t ever recall thinking it was lazy to take a nap. I relished nap time, sinking into my Strawberry Shortcake bedding, thinking about all I’d done that morning and all I could do when I woke up. Once I rested, I could enjoy my afternoon bike ride, be alert for playing The Game of Life with my brothers, and be less cranky with Mudder during supper. I’d also languish in bed on weekends imagining what I could be when I grew up. My heart and mind wound themselves into wonderful fantasies and hopes.
Introversion and Extroversion
Sometimes, I was a quiet, deep thinking child that longed to express herself and take the stage. For hours, I’d sit quietly at the Atlantic Ocean’s edge, sketching seagulls or I’d lay across my bedroom floor, writing poetry and listening to tapes on my ghetto blaster. I spent hours alone, scouring the water’s edge for starfish or catching grasshoppers in a Mason jar. But I had no trouble yelling out my instructions during a game of “Simon Says”, playing an intense game of Clue with my best friends’ family, or singing the “Holy, Holy” at my first communion, in front of a church filled with people. It all gave me a deep feeling of satisfaction.
Self-Awareness and Self-Expression
As a kid, I was not always living out loud. Sometimes I’d grow quiet, read more, sit alone more and take a step back. This could be viewed to others as withdrawing when it is a great gift to go within to hear our own voice, see our own dreams and manage our own perceptions. We are finding a stillness that we need deep within our soul. Other times, I was singing the praises of something, talking non-stop about my latest obsession or proudly announcing my opinion about things. Neither state of being is better or worse. We may switch back and forth daily, momentarily or in long stretches, depending on what our needs are.
Growing and Plateauing
When I was going through a growth spurt, I knew I needed to eat more, sleep more and be more mindful of and patient with the changes that were happening. Other times, when nothing seemed to be changing about me, I got to ride the wave. And, while I may have been plateauing in one area of life, like how fast I could sprint, in another area I may have been growing. Perhaps I was getting better and better at biting my tongue when I felt like cursing a blue streak.
Receiving and Giving
As a kid, everything in my life was a gift. I was given a home, a place to sleep and food to eat. I was given donations to support my extra-curricular activities. Most of everything I had, I was given. But I was also giving of myself. I was a light in my parents’ lives. I sang in choirs at school and at church that gave hope and entertainment. I cleaned up my room, dusted the furniture in Mudder and Dad’s room, and committed myself to group sports (showing up even when I didn’t want to). I didn’t feel less than for not having an income. It did not make me any less giving or worthwhile. I knew I had much to offer.
Vegetating and Doing
I don’t ever recall feeling useless because I felt like watching TV or lazing around, staring off into space. I remember those times as being vital to feeling better. When I was exhausted, nothing revived me more than listening to some music or watching Sally Jessy Raphael or General Hospital. Veging out was necessary. And often, because of that downtime I was rejuvenated and felt like writing a short story or drawing a sketch or going for a run or calling a friend. It all felt equally important to me.
Learning and Teaching
Learning was a way of life as a child. I was continually responsive to rules, direction and knowledge. As I learned something new, I shared it with others. I didn’t feel silly when I did not know something. That did not mean I had nothing to offer. I was equally aware of my ability to create something new out of what I was already able to do. I was great at sculpting things out of clay and imitating a dog bark. I knew how to tie my shoes and make a friendship bracelet. There was no inclination to know it all.
Preparing and Creating
Sometimes I didn’t have much to say or to give. I would be more likely to listen to or accept the guidance of others. I was somewhat in the mode of searching. I needed to receive some wisdom, a sign or a way of being that could move me along to the next step in life. I was mostly open to any and all opportunities or insights that might spark some inspiration. I did not consider myself to be unproductive, just gassing up for the next leg of my trip. At other times I might feel more creative. I’d learn how to make a French braid, make up a dance to a Madonna song or draw endless depictions of Garfield and Otis.
It is healthy to be childlike and accepting of ourselves. All sides of us are perfectly normal and necessary. And we will all be far happier when we learn to honor the opposites. We don’t need to justify them to anyone else or ourselves.