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The Meaning of Childhood

The ingredients for a memorably cherished childhood consist of love, freedom, imagination, and a beautiful simplicity.

When we look back on our own childhoods, although we recall the seemingly long-awaited toys we clamoured for for Christmases and birthdays, it is the simplest moments that we now hold the closest to our hearts.

Needlessly lavish days out and expensive gadgets fade into a timely insignificance as the years go by, leaving the foundations that seemed almost a mundane normality to shine through in our reminiscences.

We remember sitting by the oven door, eagerly anticipating the results of the cakes we spent all morning baking with Grandma. We remember our family holidays, and the empowering feeling of leaping into the pool without armbands for the first time. We remember sprawling on the sofa with Dad watching Match of the Day with a bag of crisps to share. We remember creating dens in the living room, draping an old duvet cover over the back of the sofa and nestling in with our teddy-bear armies. We remember how a cuddle from Mum could save the world. We remember the magic of Christmas Eve, and the dizzying feeling upon seeing a chunk missing from the carrot we left out the night before for Rudolph…

Rolling down hills, collecting shells at the beach, jumping in puddles, blackberry picking, games of Pooh Sticks, making goalposts out of our discarded jumpers, and ‘galloping’ along on our own two legs as we trained our trusty imaginary steed for the Grand National…

Let’s take a second to remember how all of these activities made us feel. Elated. Alive. Inspired. Carefree.

We might have started begging for the latest Christmas ‘must haves’ as early as August, and we’ve probably all used the line, ‘But EVERYONE else has one!’ at least once in our lives, but looking back… Those objects are just that: objects. These once-imperative gifts have been replaced by the warm nostalgia that centres more so around the people who made all of these items possible, and ensured the days surrounding every Christmas and every birthday were equally as special as the events themselves.

It may sound like a cliché, but loving nurturing, imagination, and the great outdoors are such integral elements when it comes to the shaping of childhood, and are precious treasures that we carry long into adulthood.

The imagination is a skill we develop throughout our childhoods, and is one of the most powerful tools we can hope to possess, as both a child and an adult. Imagination can transport us to a world away from the one we are in at any given time.

It didn’t matter that we didn’t have bags of money growing up – my parents and grandparents would always encourage me to use my imagination, via the aid of the free pleasures of the beautiful countryside that we are fortunate enough to be surrounded by quite panoramically.

My Grandparents would regularly take me to various National Trust properties when I was little. Grandad and I would often fix ‘pixie traps’ in the woods. We tiptoed through the forest, scouring the shells of fallen conkers for pesky pixies, conjuring up tales so elaborate that we almost managed to convince ourselves.

What I wouldn’t give to spend the afternoon with Grandma and Grandad in Lyme Park again, lost in a blissful world of imagination and an inner contentment that I can’t quite describe.

Even our childhood adventures that ended in disaster are ones we look back on and laugh about now. Falling out of trees, staining our white t shirts with blackberry residue, and getting our wellies stuck in a bog – they were all adventures in their own right (even if Mum didn’t agree at the time!).

It is a well know fact that you can spend hundreds of pounds on the latest trend, and your child will be more excited to play with the box in which it came packaged in! To a child, the bland packaging is so much more than just a box. It can double-up as a spaceship, a horse stable, a jail for scorned teddies… Give a child a blank canvas, and the possibilities are wondrously endless.

With Christmas fast approaching, it is hard not to feel overwhelmed by the garish, constant reminders to spend ridiculous amounts of money that often, we do not have to spare.

Don’t feel pressured into succumbing to the ‘hypes,’ and don’t let guilt consume you. Contrary to popular belief and mass media disillusions, children don’t require long lists of the most up-to-date gadgets to embark upon a blessed existence. Children don’t need a big house, or a fancy car and an endless stock of toys to flourish. Toys and gadgets are forgotten about and replaced at the drop of a hat – memories shared between families are timeless.

PJ’s and a movie marathon Christmas Eve (Home Alone 2, anyone?!), and a Christmas Day filled with fun and laughter with the fam is an appealing disposition to any age group, even if Granny’s armchair snoring is on the brink of unbearable! A refreshing Boxing Day walk also goes down a treat, and provides the perfect opportunity for families to just talk and reconnect.

These are the things I fondly recall from Christmases growing up. As much as I wanted that ‘Poochie’ robotic dog with the light-up eyes back in 2001, it is the recollections of the days spent with my family around me that strike the hardest, most nostalgic chord in my mind’s eye.

Fostering a child can make for that all-important second chance. Every child deserves a childhood; the time to actually be a child. Childhood lasts for such a limited amount of time, especially nowadays, and every second should be relished. After all, happy childhood memories often become our most valued adulthood treasures.

Written by Cara Jasmine Bradley

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