Ideal Childhood or Not
We all know at least one child. Maybe it’s your child or a child that lives a few doors down. Maybe it’s a niece or nephew, or they belong to a dear friend. Maybe we have a zoo of ten or more, or we’re barely keeping our head above water with two. Most of us have had a relationship with at least one child in our life, and all of us have been one, whether we had an ideal childhood or not.
As a trauma therapist, I have experienced some heart-wrenching stories about children. Often, these stories come from the adult version of said child.
Recently, I took a boat ride with three young children. Two, three and four years old, we ventured out off the coast of Southern California with hopes of seeing some whales and other sea life. There were mixed reactions from the children. The youngest was pretty oblivious to what was going on, and the other two oscillated from excitement, fear, elation to ill and back again. At one point, one of the children became seasick, and I may have ended up with some vomit on me.
As I thought about this experience, I thought about how enjoyable it was. The kids complained, they ate only a fraction of the expensive lunch I bought them and then part of that meal ended up on my pants and yet it was a beautiful experience. I asked myself why that was?
It’s so much easier for us to understand and forgive others their shortcomings, especially children. We often recognize that they are entrenched in the learning process and we are ready and willing to show mercy to children. Of course, there are some out there who are not so kind, but the majority of us are.
Kind Understanding of Ourselves
My question then would be why can’t we be so kind and understanding of ourselves? Are we not still learning? Are we not still gaining knowledge? Is there a magic age where we’re expected to have it figured out? Our society might say 18, that’s when we’re no longer considered children and yet many of us (over 18) believe someone who is 18 years old still has a lot to learn.
There was a Michael McLean song I listened to several years ago that stated: “we should be more gentle with ourselves.” Are we gentle? With ourselves? With others? The more I get to know people, and they courageously share with me their problems and stories, the more I realize the similarities between empathy and charity. The more I realize that there are usually reasons for the behavior I once scratched my head at.
See Others the Way We See a Child
Shame is not a productive emotion, or if you want to look at it from a religious scope, it is not of God. When we hurt or offend guilt can guide us to try and make amends, but shame does not help us in any way. Our ability to see in both ourselves and others, the beauty we have as human beings and the capability we have to learn and grow continually, can remind us that at any age we should be gentle with ourselves and others.
We should see others the way we see a child.