What Is The Childhood Age?
"Well. love, I am glad you asked," said the Wise Woman with that glint yet again behind her eyes.
"In Life Age One, your life begins. The world is a magical place to be explored, tasted, smelled and touched. Sounds and shapes capture our attention and we learn the touch, smell, sound, sight and taste of our closest companions and caregivers.
Each day is full of new surprises and each night is full of deep slumbers. As toddlers we start physically exploring our world and our eyes, ears, hands, toes and tongues are busy figuring the world around us. Nothing escapes our focus if it grabs our attention.
We also explore the dynamics of our family, testing the boundaries and learning the rules. We seek to figure out the roles others play, and the ones assigned to us and how well they suit us.
We tend to think of childhood as all fun and games, but serious business is afoot ... literally. Each day brings us new experiences , new tests and new trials. We struggle to figure out who we are and who we are not .... and learn the values of our family. There are the ins and outs of school to figure out, the basic rules of friendship to learn and plenty of opportunities to find out all the things our culture does not want us to do. With no written rules, changing family dynamics, new playmates and teachers coming and going in our lives ... things are very different from the simple small villages mankind started out in.
Few of us master all the critical tasks ... figuring out what we are great at (or could be) ... learning how to survive and thrive in the family we grow up in ... and turning whatever we have into the basics of a happy childhood.
And if that was not enough, there are plenty of challenges ... learning the unwritten (and often unspoken) rules and values of our family and culture ... making mistakes and learning from them instead of seeing them as evidence we are failures or somehow bad or lacking because we are do not yet know what is foolish or taboo ... and usually find out not by being told but by doing the wrong thing at the wrong time."
I nodded my head, thinking back over the times I had been scolded for no fault other than doing what my parents or older siblings had done.
"So, what is the trick to having a happy childhood?", I asked.
"Well, a good family is a great start, but with the number of dysfunctional families out there ... most of us have to make do with what we have. We can not do much but try to survive at first ... but what makes the difference is to use whatever good you have and learn the lessons of what you lack."
She saw my puzzled look and nodded. "When you are three or six or nine, you have little power. .. except the power to annoy, disobey or be obedient ... and like all of us you probably tested the limits and the patience of your parents and caregivers."
I nodded remember when my Dad had actually turned as red as a beet or the sun setting after the smoke filled skies had turned it red. I smiled, thinking of how I had actually thought steam was going to come pouring out of his ears any minute.
"So that meant that life as a child was ... to put it in words ... filled with unhappy times being scolded and punished for the very thing children do naturally -- use whatever power they have to bring about the situations they want. When smiles and hugs don't work ... pouts and foot stamping and bad behavior are tried. And whatever works best or most consistently ... kids keep on using."
I nodded, knowing that I, like my siblings, had figured out where all my parent's hot buttons were and pushed them when needed or I was desperate to get what I wanted.
"So, the rick to having a happy childhood is to look back over it, and make the best of it. By that I mean, see all the good that came out of it ... the lessons your learned or life tried to teach you. Make the best of it by seeing between the lines of anger and disapproval to the things you learned and experienced. And then use that to your advantage in your life in making everyone's life better." She paused as I tried to make sense of what she was sharing with me.
"You mean ... see the good in everything that happened?" I was not sure that was a good idea ... let alone what she meant. She could see I was not sold on the idea.
"Well, a better way to put it is to turn all the bad stuff on its head and use it ... somehow .. to make your life work better. Consider it a training course in the school of life, where you got basic training in the exact subjects and things you needed to experience, understand and master. There is no way to go back and change your childhood ... but you can wring it like a wet rag and get out of it all you can ... and then you will see it in a different light."
I nodded, willing to at least try it. "But what about al the really bad stuff that happens to people ... kids ... all the time?"
"Yeah," she answered, the light dimming in her eyes. "There is no simple way to explain it away. But if it troubles you, it means your heart is awake. And if it call you to a life that works to ease the pain and suffering of others and take out the root cause ... then is that such a bad thing? Is an environment filled with disease, destruction and death the right medium for growing compassion? If there was no other way ... and the universe needed it ... required it to exist ... would the means be justified by the compassion and love it sparked, nurtured and eventually used to triumph over evil? If evil were a disease, how much exposure to it would you need in order to grow the antibodies of humanity and compassion to fight it? To even recognize and resist it?"
I nodded yet again. I think I was getting it ... or at something. "They say that all evil has to do to triumph is for good men to do nothing," I replied.
"Exactly," she answered. Silence fell between us and then it stretched across the room, tucking itself into all the nooks and crannies. It slipped behind the things placed on the mantelpiece and filled the empty pot on the fireplace hook.
I breathed in deeply and closed my eyes ... for how long I don't know. When I opened them again, she was busy at the stove.
"So, do you want to hear next about the age of adolescence ... filled with teenage angst and the first stirrings of your heart?"
Somehow, I couldn't resist the invitation. "Yes," the word leapt out of my mouth and tumbled onto the floor.