The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

January 25, 2008

disABILITY: Find child-like magic lost as adults

The price of having a child is high, but the rewards surpass any monetary value put on your little bundle of joy and energy.

That was the essential point of one of those e-mail forwards I got from my mother recently. It made me wonder what it was about children that makes adults believe they get "glimpses of God" when they see their children.

I know, I know, I'm probably biased, cold and unfeeling because I haven't experienced that yet, but even so, why not ponder such a question?

I mean, weren't we all children at one point? Since we were, don't we have that magic within ourselves, too? If we don't, where does it go and why does it leave us?

It's certainly not a terrible thing to have a little child to bring more joy and magic into the picture, but if our lives are devoid of that before a child enters onto the scene, there's something really amiss.

Children should add something to life, not be the missing element of joy that is suddenly put back into place once they arrive into our lives.

I hope we all know that the reality of the situation is that they are just as much a challenge as they are a joy to have. At least I know I, personally, was that way as a little kid.

My innocence and mischievousness sparked a lot of fun at times and yet it was also capable of causing a lot of trouble and heartache at other times.

My parents not only got to see little glimpses of God every day, they got to see little glimpses of a little demon every day, too.

They just got lucky like that.

I guess it just really struck me as odd that that e-mail was talking about the rewards of having children, as if it were something we don't have inside of ourselves anymore. Or at least we don't allow ourselves to feel or express it much as adults.

We can't just be careless and naive, but we can't just go around giving up our connection to the simple, magical, joy-filled things in life either.

I was certainly a dynamic child with an overabundance of creativity and energy at my disposal.

I remember being that way up until I was heavily involved with sports. That's about the time I recall a lot of my happiness, creativity and sense of adventure getting lost. I not only was trained to be the best swimmer I could be, but I was also trained to be extraordinarily regimented.

I was bound to a tight schedule that got more and more rigidly oriented around fewer and fewer things over time, until sleeping, eating, swimming and weight-lifting were all I did.

My main goal of making it to Sydney in 2000 became the only thing in my life. It seems so paradoxical to me how I spent so much time in the water and yet I lost every ounce of fluidity I had in my life up until that point. I suppose maybe my fluidity leaked out into the depths of the Olympic Training Center's swimming pool.

Unfortunately, I crushed my sense of life outside of my sport and spent the next few years having an honest-to-goodness identity crisis.

But, fortunately enough, I've been rediscovering my own dynamic sense of self in the last handful of years. And in that regard, I think the rewards I've experienced could easily rate right up there with this idea of living vicariously through a child. The only difference is, I am experiencing those things for myself. I don't need anyone else to be my excuse to experience any of it.

But that's not to say I wouldn't mind having a child someday to augment that sense of wonderment.

I just get the sense that the rigidity we live in, alongside some of the fear and paranoia that is so abundant in our culture, is exactly what drains the magic of childhood away as we grow up. Basically, we get told to assimilate, and masquerade around in the sickness called normalcy.

Normal means fitting expectations. Expectations are defined through structure and responsibility. Structure and responsibility are necessary to function in the typical world. And functioning in the typical world is good and it's "normal." And the cycle goes around and around.

So, fulfilling expectations and fitting the mold, in a sense, are essential and yet they are not meant to be our core definition. Most of us take it so seriously and to the extreme, though, and we allow ourselves to become defined by what we do rather than who we are.

The sense of clarity that any average adult has about life is pursued through academics and considered only from an intellectual standpoint. No wonder children seem so magical to us. They are capable of a far deeper clarity, something that is far above and beyond simple neuronal activity. That's the part we've lost.

I'll admit, it still does take a lot of focus for me to move back to a place where I can touch that kind of child-like, rich clarity, but it seems to be calling to me in so many ways as of late, so I've been letting myself shift around enough within myself to experience that child within.

And, every time I experience it, the more creativity, adventurousness and joy I nudge loose from where it's been lodged and caught up for such a long time now.

Kate Pavlacka, a graduate of the State University College at Oneonta, has been totally blind for 11 years.