Recapturing that Inner Child

I have been thinking about when I was a child and how things were. In particular I have been thinking about whether it is possible to recapture that childlike curiosity and imagination that we once had, well, that most of us had anyway.

What can we do as adults to try to recover this? Every day we are, as adults, faced with responsibilities that just seem to grind us down, at least I often feel that way. Obviously when we were children we didn’t have those kinds of responsibilities. These were never a problem as a child. Most of us were not worried about where the next meal was coming from, more how soon we could leave the table and get on our bikes to meet our friends at the secret camp. There were no mortgages, no bills, no responsibilities other than to do our homework and to be home on time. I know that not every child’s life is like this, but this is how I seem to remember mine, although I admit there was a lot of reading too. The sky was bluer, the grass greener, the sun brighter and it was always hot in the summer and snowed in the winter. We had our hidden camps in the woods where our secret clubs met in summer to plan epic journeys to forbidden places, we made snowmen in winter and played on the icy ponds.

So a couple of weeks ago I went back to the village in which I grew up, it is only about ten miles away, and visited the pond and horse chestnut field we used to play around. It was still there, but different. There used to be a little waterfall (more just an overflow for the pond really, only about four feet high that drained into a tunnel that went under the farmers drove and into the conker field next door). We had hours of fun playing there, but only the bravest of us ventured into the dark of the tunnel and made it through to the light at the other end. Now the pond has a public service noticeboard detailing interesting features about the now stagnant, mouldy old  pond. The waterfall is covered in wire mesh. Was it ever really how I remember it?

I guess you are thinking, like me, was there ever actually a point to this post? I fear I am just rambling now! Oh yes, recapturing the inner child. I am sure it is in there, I just have to find the best way to release it. Hang on recapture, release. Do I know what I want? I think I want to be able to experience life again through the eyes of a child. Perhaps what I am trying to say, most ineloquently, is that I want to feel wonder and surprise at the smallest of things again, not for things to be tainted by the cynicism of age and experience.

Kind of lost the thread there a bit, but I hope you know what I mean. Any ideas?

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36 thoughts on “Recapturing that Inner Child

  1. First you need a cupcake toting squirrel. Then you must fall in love.

    Okay enough about that. I do so understand what you mean. I’m only a billion miles from my childhood haunts, but often remember them fondly. I wish to visit them again someday. Find your muse and write your childhood memories.

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  2. I think the older you get, the rosier you tend to view your childhood, which is probably where the problem begins in trying to recapture it. I do my best to remember that while my childhood was great, it was also very frustrating too, just being a child who has no say in anything, no independence, little freedom–none of that is fun. My first psych ward stay made me feel like I was back in Kindergarten, and I kept wondering why anyone would want to go back to Kindergarten. It’s so restrictive, not being able to use the bathroom whenever you need to, having to line up everywhere you go, eating food you don’t want to eat, having to rely on others to take care of your basic needs. It’s terrifying, really, for me not to have my independence. Perhaps prizing my independence is what allows me to see the world as something still new and wide and open.

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    • Some interesting points. You forget about the independence to do what you want, within reason, as an adult. As a child, we didn’t have the responsibilities, but also not the freedom. Thanks for commenting, that was very interesting.

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  3. I’m back to living around my old haunts and it really doesn’t have that big an effect on me. I hate to say that I’m remembering the downside to everything as well as the upside, but that’s just me.

    You mention recapturing or holding onto your creativity and imagination. This is the hardest part of adulthood because reality really does like to beat this out of people. Only way I can think of to counter this is to use your imagination whenever you get a chance. It’s like a muscle that needs to be worked out or it goes into atrophy.

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    • I think that you have hit the nail on the head Charles. The imagination muscle, I like it. I think that is so true though, it needs to be exercised, and that’s really where I was coming from, I need to find ways to exercise it. I have been trying 🙂

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  4. The more time you spend with children the more you appreciate this. You see their curiosity, their passions (investigating an empty box for hours), intuitive grammar (I doed that last time), what it feels like to be care free, etc. You see what we take for granted.

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  5. Step 1. Read Calvin & Hobbes
    Step 2. Find large cardboard box.
    Step 3. Make cardboard box a transmorigifier, or time machine, or space ship.
    Step 4. Have an adventure!!!

    Hmm, I’m going to have to try that myself, sounds fun.

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  6. Build a fort in your living room and watch your favourite show while eating your favourite snack food.
    Lie on your back in the middle of a field and watch the clouds go by.
    Buy finger paints for you to use however you want.
    Childlike fascination and freedom is a single selfish moment away. Let the rest of the world float away for a few minutes or hours and just indulge in whatever you want. If you can find someone who wants to and can do it at the same time, great; but don’t be surprised if you have to do it alone.
    Either way, make sure you do it….because there lies happiness.
    Would love to hear how you do and happy to share my exploits with you, or should we meet, to exploit with you!
    Randy

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    • Cool plan Randy, thanks for the ideas – I do remember building dens in the living room with bed sheets and chairs, and playing zorro, running around the house with a sheet tied at the neck like a cape – perhaps I should try that today!

      I think you are right. It is that moment away from the humdrum and the pressures of adult life. I will go look for that field when summer finally arrives 🙂

      I always enjoy your comments and talking to you, you have a great way of approaching life.

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      • Cheers Julian,

        It was a long hard slog for me to finally realize that being childish was not a bad thing and is actually healthy.

        If it is available to you and you’re willing, I highly recommend taking classes in improvisation…legitimized playtime.

        I studied at Toronto’s Second City for several years–purely recreational–and found it to be wonderful psychotherapy and a fantastic workout, as well as being great for my writing.

        If I make it to your side of The Pond or you to mine, we can build a fort together and you can play Zorro to my Robin Hood. 😀

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      • I agree that being childish is probably a healthy thing. Not sure about the improvisation classes though.

        If you are ever here look me up. Would Zorro and Robin Hood be friends or enemies? I guess they probably would be friends, so we may need a third to play the villain, a Sheriff of Nottingham character perhaps:-)

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  7. You know, it’s not just the lack of responsibilities that makes childhood so free, it’s that kids see things they’ve never seen before on a regular basis. So much is new, exciting, and awesome. As adults we’ve seen it all, we’re jaded, and new things can even be frightening because they push us out of our comfort zones.

    So, I say if you want to capture wonderment again, try something new. It could be anything: dancing lessons, a new restaurant, a new game, heck, even a different route home from work that takes a bit longer but takes you through a beautiful park.

    And if all else fails- fingerpaints and Playdough.

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    • I totally agree. Jaded is exactly how I often feel as an adult, like the wonder of new things has gone, the mystery is not there any longer. Something new has to be the way to go, some activity where you don’t know everything, or think you do. Even so, I still think that that would be a little different to that original childlike wonder. As adults most of us are able to think logically, extrapolate and interpolate, draw suppositions from limited information and so on, things which as children we probably couldn’t do, certainly not to the same degree. Ooh – Playdough, I used to love the smell of that, although I expect it was harmful and has been changed now.

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  8. For me, I call my inner child my sensitive side. And there’s a reason for that. It kind of went into hiding for awhile since it doesn’t do well with rejection, criticism, etc. Sometimes it would only come out when I was alone. I would use music to draw it out. The music had to do with how I was feeling deep down. The beginning of Phil Collins’ “Take Me Home” was one of the songs I used. Do you sing? It helps. At one point my sensitive side became frozen for awhile. It actually took my coming down with RA for it to brave venturing out. I need it to cope with the disease. It’s a good thing that came from a bad one. Still, I would recommend the music instead. 😉 Oh, and don’t be surprised if some people treat you funny if you succeed. There’s social pressure to be ‘mature’. Still, some people I’ve found will like you for it. I’ve found some of these people on Word Press. Good luck. I will pray for you. God has helped me.

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  9. I completely know what you mean. I just spent 10 days with my parents, as well as a few days at the campsite I went to every summer, but it wasn’t the same. I have two young children and it does help seeing the world through their eyes and seeing how imaginative they are. I think it is hard to be mature and at the same time still be able to think outside the box and have child-like experiences. This winter I walked home from work through the park and the fresh snow was too inviting, so I stopped, threw my bags on the ground and made a snow angel all by myself. Sure, people looked at me strange, but I had the biggest grin on my face for the rest of the walk home. Those moments don’t come often, but if we open ourselves up for them, we can get that child-like wonder back into our lives.

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    • Playing in the snow – fantastic. Your comment has just made me grin too as I can imagine feeling that way too. I love the snow. Those moments are, as you say, few and far between but you just have to be open to them

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  10. I know exactly what you mean Julian. I have revisited places from my youth and am astonished at how unimpressive they are when in my memory they were so grand. I often wonder if it’s because, as children, we easily appreciate the beauty in our surroundings. Then, as we age, we take all of that for granted, we become jaded. We get too busy to notice the things that caused us to stare in wonder as children. The other day my twelve-year-old son was looking out the car window at the wind blowing across a field of tall grass. He said, “Look Mama. Doesn’t it look like waves on the ocean? It looks so cool.” I was thinking about what I was going to make for dinner and would have missed the beauty of that scene if he hadn’t pointed it out.

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  11. Borrow a child. Of course, get permission first! LOL Find a grandchild around 2 to 5 years of age. Offer to babysit and then take them to the zoo or wander in the park. Even your own backyard. Listen to them. See the world through their eyes. You’d be amazed at the perspective!

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  12. Pingback: The Squirrelies! | kiralynblue

  13. First time visitor via Kira! 🙂

    One of my heroes is Sir Ken Robinson, and he always brings up childlike curiosity, creativity, and imagination in his speeches—or specifically, TED Talks. I think as an adult, a parent, and a writer, it helps to have children around, and to play with them as much as you can. When I play with my son I have to adopt a different mentality altogether, as if I put on a pair of goggles that enabled me to see the world through his eyes.

    When I’m writing, I try—consciously or subconsciously—to simulate this mindset. I would just hammer on the keyboard in stream-of-consciousness writing style, trying not to over-think every word.

    Truly, being a parent sort of makes me relive my childhood, embrace silliness, and avoid being serious all the time. And as you say, I “feel wonder and surprise at the smallest of things again, not for things to be tainted by the cynicism of age and experience.”

    Great post. Looking forward to reading more. 🙂

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