by Monica A. Ross, LPC
A friend of mine had a child recently. And it has me thinking about children. Children, we all know, have an innate tendency to look at the world with curiosity and wonder. They tend naturally to have a sense of fearlessness.
Sometimes for some of my clients they as children experienced trauma of some sort and the trauma ripped away at their innate childlike tendencies. And so sometimes people come into therapy because they either lost touch with or never got to experience that childlike state of wonderment and abandon that can add a kind of lightness and ease to even the most unamused of adults when they tap into it.
What brings about this capacity in children to bounce back? Well, they don’t have the adult-like fears of worrying about obtaining money for the purpose of shelter, transportation, and food. A caregiver is typically taking care of their survival needs, in other words.
They also don’t worry about their career, saving for retirement, buying the latest clothes, choosing the best city to live in, attracting the right mate, or the like because all of these things aren’t important yet and haven’t come online.
They can relax and spend all of their time on just learning and growing physically, mentally, and emotionally while at the same time being provided with a sense of security to foster these things.
And because of all of that perhaps they have a better ability to live in the present moment.
What are some other things that contribute to that childlike tendency to be reckless and uninhibited? Maybe it’s because of the lack of experience they have with hurt and loss. They haven’t learned their limitations.
They have some of their basic needs being taken care of as mentioned above, and so they have other things more immaterial to focus on. And it’s the immaterial and sometimes seemingly insignificant stuff of life that really is the most important, right? It’s the stuff that we somehow lose touch with as adults.
Children also don’t have as much of a sense of propriety—of what is or isn’t appropriate. They lack shame at times and along with that, judgment. They express their feelings in the moment—their likes and dislikes.
If they feel like dropping down to the ground and throwing a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store, they will. Children like to play, build, make, create. They can be silly. They know how to get messy.
These are just some of the things that an image of a child or being childlike conjures up. And I can say all of this without having had children myself.
There are some, arguably, who would claim they never experienced or felt that level of uninhibitedness as children and that even as children they had to worry about adult-like things. Sometimes then the work of therapy is to reintroduce this capacity to be childlike.
Like anything it’s something that can be developed or worked on or through later in life even if as a child a person may have gotten robbed of the ability to be a child. Dan Siegel uses the acronym C.O.A.L.
It stands for curiosity, openness, acceptance, and love. It is a way of mindfully approaching the present moment. And for me, this is kind of how I see children approaching the present.
Here are a few more quotes about children:
“And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’”
—Matthew 18:3 New International Version
“When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’”
—Mark 10:14 New International Version
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
“In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.”
“Life is a flame that is always burning itself out, but it catches fire again every time a child is born.”
—George Bernard Shaw
“As a mother would protect her only child with her life … cultivate a boundless love towards all beings.”