Today I found myself pondering the idea that Childhood is a Mystery that we teach each other to forget. “You’ll grow out of it” we say, as though that’s always a virtue. And then, as adults, we find ourselves needing to rediscover our Inner Child, to go repair old wounds, and find old joys. There are child gods we can look to for help finding our old selves again.
For some reason the child gods in my practice tend to come in pairs: the Orixa Ibeji, the Vanir Hnoss and Gersemi. I know working with them tends to poke at any issues a person has around their own childhood that they haven’t dealt with, as well as any attitudes towards children they may have. And sure, I have my share: it was the female of the Ibeji, in an adolescent form, who confronted me about my lingering attitudes towards Her Brother, i.e. adolescent males, and how it could affect any sons I might raise.
Overall I welcome the child gods with open arms. Child gods do tend to like me, especially when They manifest on another medium. This makes sense, I suppose. Human children tend to like me. Adults often find their inner-child likes me, for that matter. (Animals like me too, and yes, I sing – in case you were wondering if I’m a Disney Princess.)
Yet I have almost never carried any of Them myself at trance devotionals. They don’t pull on me to do so. Instead, They invite me to play with Them as I am. Perhaps this is because I generally understand children. I have a long and detailed sense memory, and remember my own childhood very well. You could say I “never grew out of” things like playing on the swings, watching animation and Muppets, playing with dolls and building blocks, face painting, etc.
That’s actually not true.
“Grow out of” implies that those are small things that an adult can’t fit into. It’s like we see adult forms of “play” – competitive sports, strategy games, performing arts, sexuality – as larger and more meaningful than “childish” forms of play. I don’t agree with this. Toys and games and stories for children carry the very roots of culture. They are, especially historically, some of the MOST meaningful materials any culture ever produces. And yet they’re so casually discarded, as childhood is such a short part of the human lifespan, even though it’s by definition the formative part.
I didn’t grow out of my interest in children’s culture, nor my joy of play. Rather than setting them aside for my inner-child, I carried them along with me into adulthood. Yes, my child memory self does still love them, though in some ways a bit differently than I do as an adult. But I also love all those things as my adult self. So it’s easy to play with children and relate to children without having to become a child myself.
This seems to be a bit unusual in the settings I’ve seen – someone to play with the children, the child gods, the regressed adults, more the way children play themselves, but not a child. I’m still able to be a designated responsible adult while I play a child’s game.
But no, I’m not regressing, I’m not letting my inner child out (trust me, that looks very different) I’m just an adult who happens to love many things our culture erroneously believes only children can love. Perhaps more important, I am adult who respects children as people in their own right, not proto-people, not mini-adults, but their own kind of person with the perspectives, abilities and limitations specific to where they are in their own life.
Perhaps because I so strongly remember being a child as a Mystery so many adults forget.