Come Be A Child Again! This was the headline my advertising agency partner, Rich, wrote for an account we had — a client who put on county fairs. It was written years ago, yet I woke up this morning with this mantra reverberating in my mind.
I wanted to reflect on the childlike mindset we all come into this world with. Our childhoods may be a state of mind we remember only briefly, something akin to awaking from a dream in the reverie state. The details of will be gone in a flash, if you don’t consciously catch them.
I lay there trying to imagine all of the things that used to go through my mind at various ages. But most importantly, I tried to remember what I thought about when I was truly free to imagine and simply let my mind wander and explore without an agenda.
As a boy I was free to run, climb, throw. I could explore nature, play with animals and bugs, catch fish. I could build forts with my buddies. We could tear things apart and try to put them back together again. We could stay up all night sometimes or watch as many movies as we wanted to. We could find out what it was like to have too much, that an entire sleeve of Orio cookies that could make you sick. I could watch a butterfly emerge from a cocoon and wonder how that worked. I could, in this state of mind, try practically any thing.
At some point our childlike minds begin to encounter and interface with the mindsets of a responsible adults. Eventually it is here, at this juncture, that we are herded away into the dictates of our world and we stop living in that our childhood portal.
Once we start down the path of adult learning and responsibilities, our minds become absorbed with just how to do this. We are eager to learn the new rules, because not abiding by them can be painful. We want to belong and have fun, even through we may not yet know where the limits of our freedom end, and adult behavior begins.
We learn manners, how to dress, what to say; in short we learn to do what our parents, teachers, and other grown ups tell us we must do. We begin to observe and make distinctions, becoming aware that some of us have “more” or “less” than others. We observe kindness, strictness, and meanness.
The vast majority of us (except for those wired for psychopathic and sociopathic tendencies) come hardwired to a degree with an understanding of fairness and a sense of morality. We explore these concepts with our peers by trial and error and are told daily by parents, teachers, and other kids what the rules are. If we not only want to survive, but live well, we will abide by them.
We experiment on our own. We learn how to be clever, what happens when we break rules, what happens when we lie, cheat, and steal? We learn what happens when we behave, study, and do what our parents tell us is best. There are religious dictates teaching us the consequences of our behavior, as well as social and legal laws. We observe that some kids seem to be able to do certain things better and how they are rewarded.
We are, at the same time, undergoing changes to our physical body. Nature is releasing hormones which compel us to certain behaviors with the opposite, or same sex. And there are rules upon rules from our culture about how we are to respond to these new urges.
At the end of these long years of incubation, we are molded by our family and our environment enough to be turned loose to sink or swim. We then struggle to perform to the dictates of that path within this culture we have been raised in. We also observe the threats to our culture and must be on guard so as to preserve and carry on this way of life. We must find our career pathway in life, and offer something of value for which others will pay us.
After all of this, the kid that was once us, our inner child, could be all but dead, crying out for life support!
Today, many decades later, I have survived my cultural ordeal. By that I mean I have reached a plateau, some would call retirement and others would call a reorientation. I am still in the culture, but how much do I want be bound by the drama? What is my obligation to society? Yes, I live and breathe inside the dictates of trying to be a useful citizen, paying taxes, and helping my fellow man where I can. But there comes a time when perhaps the true obligation to oneself, and in so doing perhaps to our fellow man, is to return to that childhood portal, to that time in life when we were like kids living at one with ourselves and the world.
Looking back at my childhood and youth there were definitely limits and everything was not always roses. Children cry a lot when they don’t get their way.
They feel constraints. I was small, but getting bigger. I usually didn’t have much money, if any, so my freedom was channeled towards the world that was freely available. My time was scheduled according to others; there were usually only hours, but sometimes on vacations as much as days or weeks, before I had to get back to the business of “growing up”.
It is important also to acknowledge that for some, their childhoods may have been filled with trauma and abuse. Therapy, forgiveness, reorientation, and developing a sense of feeling safe in this world must be recovered, so that this original innocence may shine forth.
Today, I realize that there are truly no limits. I am now free to be both child and adult, master of my destiny, my time and my mind. I am free to choose to return to that state of innocence at any time.
Some of us are able to visit this state of mind sporadically in our adult life, and perhaps those who have made the greatest contributions to society were lucky enough to spend a lot of time here. For most, it will likely take a conscious and dedicated effort to return to our childhood portal and carve out time to be truly curious once again.
How is it we can create in ourselves a life free of the cultural dictates to experience life as unbounded freedom once more?
With the constraints of childhood no longer there to hamper us, or other adults telling us what is good for us, there is nothing to stop us from giving our inner child more time at the helm. Perhaps at this age, it is simply liberating to ask the question: “How can my curious inner child get more time to captain the ship?”
There is so much around us that is doom and gloom, but there is also the wonder of it all and the wonder that is emerging. That’s what I want to focus on. Yes, I do want to come and be a kid again.
– Sanderson Sims, September 2019
And he said, “Truly I say to you, unless you become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”