It’s never too late for your inner child to come out and play

A child uses her imagination and sees possibility. An adult uses his imagination and sees things that can go wrong.

beautiful eyesBy patti dawn swansson

Many of us spend a great number of years seeking true self and some believe they never will arrive there, not realizing that they already have been there.

True self is the child within.

True self is you at frolic in the playground, climbing a set of monkey bars or skimming down a slide. It is you listening to a bedtime fairy tale and believing all things to be possible. It is you skipping rope or playing hop scotch. It is you building sand castles and imagining yourself as a princess living in a castle of your own one day.

Alas, once we arrive at a certain age we lock away our child because society tells us to “grow up and stop acting like a child” or “act your age.” We then have an inner child buried beneath an exterior burdened by notions, concepts, beliefs, restraints, opinion, likes, dislikes, anger, hatred, sorrow, racism, bigotry, bias and desires. Why is that? Why should we not allow our inner child to come out and play regardless what our birth certificate tells us? Why must we run from the rain rather than dance in the rain? Why did we delight at racing through puddles and getting our feet wet at age 6, yet we are prune-faced when it happens at age 60?

Truthfully, there is no mystery why this has happened to us.

When we were freed from mother’s womb, we brought with us no baggage. There were no requirements. No agenda to fulfil. All we had to do was be. We viewed life through the lens of big, round-eyed curiosity and we hid from nothing, for there was nothing from which to hide.

It was only once our custodians began to shape us that the child became imprisoned. Thoughts, ideas and desires were formed and developed, based on the words and actions of those custodians. We assumed a personality. We gathered friends and enemies. Both the seeds of good and evil took root, sprouted and grew. Innocence and big, round-eyed curiosity gave way to concepts, notions and beliefs. We changed ourselves at the whims of others or to conform to society’s dictates.

As the Bee Gees put it, now we are tall and Christmas trees are small.

It need not be that way, however. Our Christmas trees can be tall again. All we need do is free the child within.

My child within surged to the surface not so long ago while I was channel surfing on a Sunday evening. Nothing appealed to me and I was about to surrender in my search for favorable fare when I noted the Walt Disney classic Cinderella was about to air. I made some hot chocolate, wrapped myself in a shawl, curled up in my favorite chair and for two hours watched a children’s movie that I hadn’t seen in more than half a century. It whisked me away to places long ago abandoned and thought to have been forgotten. I cannot recall when I last watched anything on TV that took me so far away. It was a delight. I loved the animals in Cinderella, especially those cute, adorable rodents, clever little Jaq and chubby ol’ Gus Gus. It was a wonderful, uplifting experience to be five or six years old again. It was a pleasant reminder how beautiful, joyful and innocent children can be.

I love observing children because we can learn so much from them. They see not the storm, but the rainbow. They run not from the rain, but sing and dance in it. A child uses her imagination and sees possibility. An adult uses his imagination and sees things that can go wrong. Children are the most rapturous and curious of creatures, always in awe, always in wide-eyed wonder. They bring to the world an unmasked honesty that is beautiful in its bluntness. And it can be very funny.

I recall watching The Tonight Show many years past when one of Johnny Carson’s guests was Joey Lawrence, a five-year-old actor.

We see pure joy on the faces of children when they are at play.
We see pure joy on the faces of children when they are at play.

“Have you ever seen this show before?” Johnny asked Joey.

“Well,” Joey replied, “when I was up vomiting…”

Art Linkletter long ago had a TV show called Kids Say the Darndest Things. He would conduct unrehearsed, unvarnished interviews with children and they would provide him with unrehearsed, unvarnished honesty.

“Who’s the boss in your house, your mom or dad?” he asked one boy.

“Both of them,” the lad answered.

“Oh, you’re a diplomat, are ya?”

“No. I’m a Catholic Baptist.”

On another show, he was quizzing kids about the story of Adam and Eve and one wee boy noted that they had disobeyed God by eating forbidden fruit.

“Boy,” Art said to the lad, “I’ll bet God was mad.”

“Ya,” the boy confirmed. “He transferred them to Hell and then Los Angeles.”

I’m not sure if that means Tinseltown is a step above Hell or a step below Hell, but the child’s answer was priceless.

Children, unlike adults, do not tell us what they think we want to hear, but they will often tell us what we need to hear in the honesty of their innocence. Children waste not so much as a nanosecond asking themselves, “What am I going to do if society doesn’t accept me or if society doesn’t like me?” Instinctively, the child already knows there is nothing to do, other than be herself. She instinctively knows there are no limits and that she can reach beyond the sky because nothing is beyond her reach. So she does not hide from life. She is out there for all the world to see, frolicking and exercising her limitless curiosity. She gives it the gusto.

We can return to that child. We truly can.

I think novelist and scholar C.S. Lewis had it right when he said, “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

Or maybe Wally Cleaver put it best when he said to the Beaver on Leave it to Beaver: “You’re never too old to do goofy stuff.”

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