The Inner Child
As teachers of young children, we are drawn to their innocence and freshness, their vibrant, open curiosity and their endless activity.
We both remember this in our own childhoods but we also remember the lack of it because, unless we were exceedingly fortunate, we were not given all that we needed for our development, so our adult lives have been partly spent, while living out of what were satisfied childhood forces, finding ways to nurture those aspects which were left out or left behind through the destiny of our upbringing.
With those we appreciate around us as colleagues, friends or partners, we give and receive, enjoying again that childhood openness, while learning to bring light into the more shadowed side.
In many ways life offers us to be parents to ourselves, life gives us new opportunities for second childhoods. As teachers, we are given rich opportunities to re-enter childhood forces and experience them again, but this time from the ‘other side’, as an adult. We become clearer in ourselves about what a young child needs and we find ways to give to the children in our care what we consider will be of most benefit to their developing – in a fuller way, perhaps, than we had.
While we may not have enjoyed a happy school time ourselves, we can feel that at least we can give it to the children around us and enjoy it from the other side, from out of our adulthood. Yet, there are occasions when our interaction with children touches us more deeply than we feel comfortable with, and pulls us into a dilemma. How can I stay an adult and at the same time enter deeply into what the children I am teaching, need? Why do I sometimes become anxious and uncertain, finding it hard to step back, trust and let the children engage with their own experiences? Why do I find that, in teaching children, I can get cross and angry, or frustrated and exhausted by them.
This also happens when we are with adults, though not always so clearly. The general tensions and stresses that can build up, as well as particular ‘trigger’ events, when we feel irritated or confused or speak more sharply than we intended, can be disguised ways in which the inner child in us is reacting.
Such experiences can be understood by entering into them with gesture, the language of the soul. Once we can see these gestures and work with them we can transform the feelings at their source, using that same language of gesture. Talking doesn’t touch this level of feeling, but gesture does and we can safely heal our own biographical gestures by re-entering them in present time, re-entering the childhood within ourselves, wordlessly.
It is never too late to have a happy childhood !
Both the adults we meet and the children we care for, resonate in us, in the way that one musical instrument does with another. When the strings that could sound are slack or broken we can re-tune, or even re-string, them and thus become more sensitive and open. When the childrens’ difficulties resonate with our own ‘difficult’ strings, we are unable to respond so effectively until we have repaired and re-tuned our own strings. Even the awareness of this happening itself, revealed through gesture, can bring whole new insights.