+THE SANCTUARY OF CHILDHOOD (Dark Side book 2, chapter 23)

The Dark Side of Mildred’s Mountain series – Angel book 2 beginning with the POP!  Goes Alaska letters – chapter 23

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23.  The sanctuary of childhood

April 4, 2013.  I had planned for today to be one without writing.  My plan has been delayed.  I posted my previous chapter 22, Buried treasure, last evening on my Stop the Storm blog and found in a reader’s comment to it this morning:

So why did you hide the marbles?  What was your story?

I wrote in my reply:

When I was a child I thought and acted as a child.  The answers to your questions are in this story.  I had no ulterior motives.  I was playing.  It is the sanctity of childhood play that play is play.  As the story states I had the sanctity of my play violated so that I never got to finish my game.  I have no idea how my game would have ended had my little space of sanctuary not been violated.

Evidently I have more to say or I wouldn’t be here with another chapter heading in place at the top of this page.  I look to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary (the source also used for what follows) to find out more about the word that is perhaps the most important one I can include in my writings about what I believe the “place” is that infants and children occupy in the world.  Sanctuarya consecrated place; a place of refuge and protection.  First known use:  14th century.  Origins of the word are from Latin sanctus.

The connecting word in my thoughts as I expressed them in my previous chapter is Sanctityholiness of life and character; the quality or state of being holy or sacred.  First known use was again the 14th century.  Origins of the word trace to Latin from sanctus – sacred.  I search further into related origins of the word sacred to find that it connects to the Indo-European Hittite word šaklāi – rite.

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My use of these words is not tied in any way to a consideration of religion.  I use them to describe what I consider to be an essential quality that is indivisible in my thoughts.  I believe there is a lengthy period of human development that begins at conception forward during which “children,” to use a blanket word, are dependent upon adults to whom their care is entrusted to give them all that they need to maximize their physiological growth and development in every way possible.

In my thinking childhood is a physiological condition of dependency.  It is a natural unique life stage during which circumstances in a child’s life directly impact the physiological development of the body, brain, self, and mind of the childhood inhabitant in profoundly important ways that cannot be undone after this lengthy period has passed.  Children are not adults.  While cultures and societies vary in their presumptions about when childhood ends (and even begins) I find no reason to jump into this fray of arguments.  I personally consider the most accurate marker for the onset of maturity to be age 15.  (We cannot intelligently address child abuse without defining what we mean by “child.”)

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Without losing my words and thoughts in an arena of verbal competition within which it seems Americans certainly tend to lose all sight of reason, I simply state my personal perspective:  Childhood, which I define as including human life as it progresses from conception to age 15, is itself a “rite of passage.”  I will not bother to describe here how I believe all of life is sacred.  I will continue to assert that during childhood it is the obligation of adults to provide for the offspring of our species in adequate ways to maximize the health and well-being of children.  We clearly know as a species what this means.

In my terms childhood is a period of sanctuary within which the sanctity of the young person going through it needs to be inviolably recognized, respected and protected.  While many developmental experts use the term “good enough” to describe what is acceptable in adult-child interactions, I consider “maximally beneficial” to be the necessary standard.  “Good enough” is substandard to “maximally beneficial.” 

I am not advocating the “spoiling” of children, nor do I believe that the term “pampering” fits with “maximally beneficial.”  Appropriate structure, rules, manners, ethics, morals, virtues, and high expectations on all levels are aspects of health and well-being.  Appropriately guiding children through the first fifteen-year era of their lifespan does not involve violating the sanctity of the child nor does it involve the rupturing of the sanctuary of childhood, itself.

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Every reader of my words was once a child who lived through a childhood.  My writing will inevitably awaken long-held assumptions about both children and childhood.  At the same time beliefs about what it means to be an adult in relationship with children will also be brought into focus.  No child grows to adulthood without adults present in their life.

Children only gradually obtain the physiological capacity to question adults.  Healthy adults are not threatened by children’s questions.  I write as an adult who for the first 18 years of my life could not have formed a question in my thoughts about the adults who surrounded me if my life had depended on it.  I question now why I could not question then the so blatantly questionable harmful actions against me by the adults in my life overtly and covertly – both by commission and by omission.

The only adult in my childhood who probably did begin to question what was happening to me was my grandmother.  Once I was removed from the range of her perceptions those questions ceased.  They needed to be asked.

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When I reached my mid-30s I decided it was time for me to tie on a pair of roller skates and head out under the colored lights flashing from the spinning mirrored ball hanging from the ceiling onto the hardwood floor of our small town’s rink.  Slowly at first I half stumbled my way around in the widest circle possible as I clung to the hope that in the absence of any detectable talent I would still eventually be able to move out into the inner flow where everyone else seemed to be having so much fun.  I stuck with it and after a few days’ sessions I did find myself rolling around with a smile of confidence.  Eventually I even reached a point where the music mattered more to me than my feet did.

All went smoothly until the instant I ran over what felt like a hole in the floor.  Down I went hard on my tailbone.  By the time I had painfully stood up and limped off the floor I had figured out that of course there had been no hole in the floor.  I had run over my own dragging shoelace.

It took weeks before the pain left my back end.  But I never returned to the rink.  I never again stuck my feet into another pair of roller skates.

My point is that this is a shoelace tripping moment in this book for some readers.  To continue reading smoothly it might be necessary to take the time to think about your answer to two connected but distinctly separate questions:  (1) What do you know about your childhood?  (2)  What do you know about being inside your child self living through the experiences of your childhood?

The first question can be answered from afar.  The second question can only be answered up-close.  The objective stance lets us report from our adulthood perspective about our childhood from a distance outside of the sanctuary of childhood.  The subjective stance lets us know the living poem belonging to the child self that lived within the sanctuary of childhood.

People who suffered from neglect and abusive trauma while they were children need to of course be extremely careful not to transgress their own limits of safety in regard to these two questions I pose.  This also means they need to be equally careful of reading my story.  It may be that these readers exit the rink, remove their skates and do not return unless they can do so with necessary protection in place.  (Communicate with a therapist, a trusted friend, etc.)

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I was alerted to my need to write this chapter by those questions one reader had to my last chapter:  “So why did you hide the marbles?  What was your story?”  There are indigenous cultures around our globe within which it is considered disrespectful, intrusive and rude to ask people questions.  As one of my university professors put it to his counseling class, “Look at the shape of a question mark.  It is shaped like a hook.  When you toss one out at another person you are fishing for something.  You are trying to hook someone else into giving you something you want.  Think carefully before you proceed with the aggressiveness of questions.”

A question belongs to the person who asks it.  I am asking my own questions as I write.  I search for and upon occasion even find the answers I seek.  I cannot answer anyone else’s questions although I might come up with some related suggestions.  There are inner concerns within readers that might prevent them from looking within their own experience of being a child, of having lived through the stage of their childhood, of being an adult in a world full of children to locate their own answers. 

My guess is that readers who can find a way to comfortably answer the two questions I presented above will be able to comprehend what I say in a different way than will readers who cannot yet descriptively answer them.  Truly reading a story is not a static process.  It is a living one.

 In the nonliterate, oral tradition the audience is a part of the storytelling and therefore a living part of the story itself.  In the literate tradition this process changes.  Reading is a solitary venture, and this story can be a hard one to be alone with because it can set up resonating factors that deeply affect the person reading it. 

Some readers will begin to hear another story being told at the same time they are reading mine.  That story might need to be listened to first for it may well be a poem being told from within the sanctuary of one’s own childhood about the beauty of being a child.  Stranger things can happen!

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