Thursday, October 2, 2014

31 Days of Writing: "But I Knew I Mustn't Let Adults Know I Knew...."


Art Spiegelman drew this comic of a meeting he had with Maurice Sendak (the author of Where the Wild Things Are), in which Sendak said one of my favorite quotes of his. 

I remember my childhood vividly...I knew terrible things...But I knew I mustn't let adults know I knew. It would scare them. 

Although I can't speak for everyone, I would hazard a guess that many feel the same way Sendak did. In my experience, I knew quite a lot about the world by a young age and not all of what I knew was good. I had experienced heartache, extreme grief and had seen and heard things that adults probably didn't realize I was privy to. Had they realized, they may have been very concerned for me. But it's an odd situation, when the child knows enough to know that they have to protect the adults, isn't it? 

As I've gotten older, I don't necessarily believe I've become more complex. Most days I truly feel like I am pretty much the same person I was when I was six years old. I mean, I certainly like most of the same movies, activities & books!  Perhaps I have a better understanding of my emotions now. Maybe I have better coping mechanisms. And then again, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I am much better at hiding from the terrible things in the world (and in myself) than I ever was as a child. In that way, perhaps I was more honest when I was a kid. I was certainly more in touch with my feelings, even if I didn't understand everything that I felt all the time. 

I am thankful that my parents didn't try to keep us in the dark. I'm thankful that when we asked questions, they answered them, even if the answer wasn't always comfortable for them or for us. I always felt a surge of admiration when I met an adult that was honest; someone that didn't sugar-coat things & didn't dumb everything down. A truth-teller. I adored children's & young adult writers (like Sendak) that seemed to get it. They weren't writing for imaginary children that they wanted to exist (sugar & spice & everything nice). They were writing for children that lived in this world and would have to grow up to be adults in the future. They were writing for children who knew their world was broken, but could still find beauty and wonder in it, despite the cracks. 

I hope that I am an adult that 6 year-old Kimberly would have shared her silly games with. An adult that 9 year-old Kimberly would have confided in, even the hard things. 

I hope I never become so grown up, that I forget what it was really like to be a child. 

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