Growing Up Jeub · Justice and Advocacy · Psychology and mental illness

Children are people…and people are children

This is a re-upload from the lost archives.

 “That was childish.” My friend said.

“Not very smart, perhaps,” I replied. “But childish? To call something childish – implying inexperience, stupidity, or lack of self-control – is an insult to children. It wasn’t all that uncommon, a mere century ago, to say ‘womanish’ in the same derogatory way that we use ‘childish’ now.”

A couple of years ago, I wasn’t quite so radical about respecting children. That’s because I bought the lies. I believed that spanking was the most effective form of fabricated consequences. I thought of my siblings in terms of their progress in obedience and submission. I preached about my parents’ training techniques, inspired by Michael and Debi Pearl, enthusiastically.

I love the theme in blog posts like Libby Anne’s “Yes, I’m a Mom. I have also been a child.” And Samantha Field’s “the radical notion that children are people.” Because they’ve already said much of what I’d like to say on the subject, I want to introduce another concept: people are children.

There are many positive and neutral phrases for children in our vernacular, too. We say “inner child” when we’re talking about wonder or creativity. We say we’ll “never grow up” or “I am such a child” when we do something risky or ambitious or fun. It’s not a bad thing, and the people who seem ageless or forever young are to be admired.

I just wish we could see the children in each other. I want to look past age. I want to cut through the barrier of pretense, the one that acts like we’re not all a little scared, a little naïve and curious, a little lost, a little eager to ask “why” about everything.

There are a lot of things that kids do, and that I can do with kids, that shouldn’t go away with the isolating barrier of age.

I get on my knees and look into the eyes of a 7-year-old girl.

She’s shaking.

“You don’t have to do this,” I say.

She bites her lip and makes a little determined frown. “I want to try.”

I tell her I’ll be beside her the whole time, and we run alongside the trotting horse.

She jumps, I spot. She’s on the horse.

“Salute!” I say.

She’s still frightened, but she breathes and balances.

The horse slows down.

“You did it! You made it!” I bring her back to the moment.

She takes my hand and smiles at herself.

I’ve been in this moment many times with children.

I wish that when I’m working with a 50-year-old with PTSD, he had the freedom to be so open, so needy, so trusting. I do not see his age. I see a frightened child who’s endured too much violence, and I want to be his friend and support.

Many barriers keep that from happening, though.

Age and sex and status and wealth put him above me, and we cannot be children. It’s taboo to see him as a child without insulting his life experience.

People are children. We’ve denied our own right to be ourselves by making children unimportant and unwise. That is to say, we do to ourselves what we do to others.

Let’s admit that children are people. We might, in the process, realize that people are children. It might help us rediscover our abandon, our presence, our freedom, and our dreams.