The Naivety of Children

An imagination can open a world far greater than the one you live in. It offers you an escape that often you can only find in your sleep - in your dreams.

When my parents divorced, an imagination was the only possession that could not be ripped from me.

Chapter 1

Limitless

As children, we see things through a different set of eyes than what we do in later years. Our eyes are wide open, observing the world around us with innocence and hope. There is an element of naivety but we are sheltered in our youth and we do not know what kind of ‘true’ world is out there. Children’s eyes perceive things so much more uniquely than adults. A puddle is viewed as an inconvenience to an adult but to a child, it presents infinite possibilities – a bath, pool, a lake or ocean in a make believe land or even a drinking fountain . . . there are no limits to the magic of a child’s imagination.

The magic my eyes experienced as a child was to characterise people to animals that I saw on the television.

I always imagined myself a dolphin or some other aquatic species. There would be countless hours that I would spend in the bath or the pool, even when my skin began to crinkle and the water grew cold, I would swim and swim, splashing the surface as I kicked, creating ripples and waves. The water even showed my reflection, something I was always so curious about. Mirrors were like magic to me, their ability to show you something you cannot see for yourself was beautiful. Mind you, in years to come, I would find myself shouting at the mirror for showing me some things that I did not want to show – my hair not sitting the way I wanted it to, my makeup appearing smudged and imperfect, my shoulders too wide and my legs to gangly – imperfections that I created in my own mind’s eye. Beneath the water, my imperfections did not exist. I swam effortlessly, with no worry of appearance or what my gangly legs looked like when I kicked. There was only me and the water. Now that I am reflecting on it, a dolphin does suit me very well. I was a member of a very close knit pod – my family – who loved and adored each other in every possible way. As I made progress through school, achieving high marks and performing academically well, I compared my intelligence akin to that of a dolphin’s. Yes . . . I could see myself as a dolphin. The water was a sanctuary – nothing bad could touch me here.

When I think of my dad in my early childhood, I remember him well as someone who worked hard at his job and spent every moment he could giving his love to my mum and siblings. He was a strong man, capable of anything and in my own mind’s eye, invincible. There was honestly nothing that I thought could ever damage or deter his spirit. My dad was a man made from iron . . . but herein lays the naivety of children – no man is invincible. My dad, the one man who I looked up to in my life, who so strongly likens to the alpha wolf of a pack, had become crumpled and weak. Things had become tense between my mum and dad, their lives began to split into different directions and although I never saw the arguments – there it is, that sheltering – I knew in my gut, that it was going on behind closed doors. Eventually, one fateful morning, I heard the car engine start and I ran with all my might to the driveway and saw my dad slowly reverse out of our driveway. The alpha wolf had decided to leave. With no hesitation, I ran behind the car and put both of my tiny hands on the back of the car, attempted to push the car back under the awning and make him stay. I begged, pleaded and simply refused until he told me what was happening. Half smiling at me, dad explained that it was time to go, but that he would always be there . . . always, he emphasised that. He gave me one last kiss and told me to go back inside and comfort my brother and sisters. I stayed on the veranda until I could no longer see the car. With a tear stricken face, I marched back inside, slammed the front door behind me and locked myself in the room. How could this all happen? Are we no longer that pod I always imagined myself to be a part of?

When I eventually mustered my courage, I ran through the house, hoping to avoid contact with anyone and I dove straight into the pool. The water was where I, even now when I am older, feel the most calm. It is where I go to think, to solve the solutions to the problems I am posed with. That day it was where I considered the actions of my mum and dad, and pondered whether there was anything I could have done.

But when you are eight years old, there really is nothing you can do.
Instead I thought about mum and what she represents in the animal world. If I asked her this question, she would undoubtedly say dolphin because it is her favourite animal in the world but if I then asked her, ‘What is your second favourite?’ she would then say, ‘Tiger.’ As I am reflecting on it now, a tiger would be one of the most accurate animals I could ever think about to describe her, and her actions.

Female tigers live on their own. When it comes to mating season, they find the nearest available male and fornicate. He leaves immediately after that and she is left to raise the cubs on her own. Once her cubs are grown and are older enough, they separate from their mum. My mum is a female tiger – through and through. She has raised my siblings and me until the day comes until we move away to university, by herself, without the help of a dad. Even though I remember screaming at her, ‘I hate you, I hate you!’ over and over again later that day when dad left, I regret my words because now as the eldest sibling living at home, I see the struggles she has had to undertake in order to raise four children without a second income contributing to the running of the family. She has done all the work on her own for ten years now and all I can think of is those spiteful words I shouted at her through tears the day dad left. I know there will come a day when everything I am will be all because of my mum; even when dad did crop up in the picture a few times each year after it, but she is my rock . . . I cannot imagine my world without her. She is like a tiger – she is not afraid to walk the path of her life alone.

My eyes are my instrument in the world of imagination and everything I see becomes intertwined with what I choose to create. Even without the naivety of childhood, my innocence of what can truly harm you in the world outside the water now gone; my imagination can still conjure up the lumbering figure of my older sister as a lioness. These days I laugh when I draw upon this comparison because of her love of George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ novels, and the HBO television adaption of the books, because the chief lioness of House Lannister – whose emblem is a lion – is Cersei, a vile character. But when I describe my older sister as a lioness, I had no intention for her to be akin to neither the character nor the House Lannister. No . . . I had in my mind’s eye the depiction of the lionesses on the savannah plains, lounging about under acacia trees, sleeping most of the day and active during the night. This analysis of my sister existed ten years ago and it still exists today. At twenty-one, she is still prone to the desires of a sleep in until midday and then a late night. Yet it is not just her sleeping patterns that so fondly remind me of a lioness. It is her fierce capacity to defend those she loves – like the lioness with her cubs – and with that ferocity, a great compassion for what she loves. She is true to her family and it is her sheer loyalty that allows me to appreciate her as a sister and admire her as a person. The morning that dad left, she was the only person to be able to make me feel happy, and to make me see why the things that just transpired had in fact passed . . . with her hand on my shoulder as I wept into my pillow, I had never seen my sister more clearly. Throughout the next ten years, I would see that girl be transformed into something even stronger than the iron I thought my dad had been made of. My sister is the strongest lioness on the savannah.

My imagination was the central importance to my childhood – without it, I fear I would have been left crippled and broken, slumped shoulders with a life full of half smiles . . . like the way my dad was when he left. My imagination is the only magic, the only hope, the only dream, that I posses that no one can take away from me. Imagination has been the key to the solving of conflicts in my life.

‘Children see magic because they look for it.’ – Christopher Moore

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