November 19, 2003

Ugly Duckling

I recently ran across another blogger's bio, which had a link to a picture of the blogger as a child. There was a typically self-deprecating remark attached to the picture about it being the 70's and that the picture is "embarrassing". It made me a little bit sad.

I don't know if I was always this way, or whether it happened after I became a parent. But in many of the pictures of children I see curiosity, hope and beauty. I think of my own kids and their dreams, and I see that in the photographs of other kids. I saw, in this child's eyes, a brightness. A fire.

I suppose I feel awkward about my own childhood photographs. I look at my own picture and see my mistakes. I see what could be improved. I wonder why I wasn't self conscious yet about A, B, and C. I look at the child through critical adult eyes. I've clearly lost something. Is it something I can get back? Is it something I want back?

As a parent, I think of how I sometimes feel (wrongly) that my children are an extension of me. When they make a mistake, sometimes I feel my self-criticism extending to them. As if they have my experience... as if they have my self-consciousness.

Maybe I should be helping them hold onto what I have lost, if there was good in it. I should let them sort out what will serve them best as they learn what they have to learn.

Here's your reward for reading the post to this point. If you miss being a child, please read on. Relax for a moment. Do you remember your childhood? Do you remember the good parts -- the good parts of "you" at a young age? Do you remember the feeling of potential that you may have had, and perhaps that you sensed the adults in your life had for you? I want to tell you that nothing has changed. That potential is still there. Every moment is filled with it. Sappy platitude? No, reality. Some of your boundaries are real, others are just ones you've built up around yourself. Look at the picture of that child (in a photograph or in your mind's eye). Your childhood body merely symbolizes that potential -- it's with you for the rest of your life. You can surprise yourself and others right up until your last breath.

Now, go do something crazy.

Posted by James at November 19, 2003 5:56 PM
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"I'm so glad to grow older, to move away from those awful times." the Smiths. Truer words have rarely been sung.

So, no, I don't miss that.


Posted by: Rui Campos at November 19, 2003 10:44 PM

s'funny, the only thing i can't stand about photos of me as a kid are the clothes. for some reason, between the ages of 5 and 15, the style sense went right out the window. (baby clothes are nearly always cute. as are babies.)

good point about remembering potential. when i started sailing last year, i had a moment of 'oh!! so *this* is what it feels like to be learning from square one! i'd nearly forgotten!' we do layer so much on top of that, and experience is good... but it should never get in the way of 'aha!' or 'oh!'.

Posted by: beth at November 20, 2003 12:12 PM

I don't hate seeing pictures of myself when I was little. I was soooo cute! The only thing that bugs me is seeing the big smile on my young face, but remembering how unhappy I probably was when that picture was taken. If anything, I feel more potential now than I did then.

Posted by: julie at November 20, 2003 12:30 PM

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