Write Essay Your Childhood Was Great
Michael Morpurgo, author
A child needs to feel from the very start that she or he is wanted and loved. They should grow up in the soil of affection of care. There is no replacement for that, it is the most important thing. If that isn’t right from the very beginning then everything that follows is playing catch up – trying to make better that which isn’t good.
After that, it’s all about caring for the individual genius of the child – discovering what it is that that person loves to be doing – whether it’s painting something, turning over the pages of a book or on their hands and knees in a sand pit. It doesn’t matter. It’s focusing on what it is they love and giving them the space and time to explore that.
Linked to this is a very strong conviction that the first seven years of school should probably be delayed. The grounding at home is so, so important. To me, the formal learning process should kick in much later, only after all this ground work has been done. When they do go to school it shouldn’t be a huge separation from the atmosphere of home – it should be a continuity of that care and affection. The whole notion that we should suddenly make scholars out of children and be testing them when they are four or five is completely absurd. Courtesy of recent education ministers, things are now akin to how I was brought up in the 1940s and 1950s when everything depended on passing tests, and if you didn’t do well the presumption was that you weren’t trying hard enough.
What do we learn from all this testing? That some parents will be able to say, “Look how bright my child is – isn’t it great?” But at the same time another child is going to feel knocked back, not up to it and ultimately that they won’t be loved so much. The whole process can create major problems in terms of self-confidence later on. It’s very sad and it makes me very, very cross.
That’s the thing about childhood – you can’t measure it. You can witness the most wonderful things when young people grow up but of course you cannot grade it. When it comes down to it, the building of self-confidence and self-worth is everything. Nothing else will happen if that doesn’t happen.
Cerrie Burnell, CBBC presenter
I’ve got a physical disability and I’m severely dyslexic so you would think both those things would have worked against me as a child, but actually they didn’t. I have a mum who didn’t make an issue out of it, instead she focused on the joyful aspects of childhood in a very simple, creative way. She told me there was nothing I couldn’t do. So I rode a horse when I was two despite having just one hand to hold the reins. I went to France on my own when I was nine and America when I was 11.
I remember a doctor saying to me once, if you don’t wear your prosthetic hand you won’t have any friends. I just laughed. I always used to remove it when I got to school and my friends thought it was hilarious that I would just walk into the classroom and take my arm off. For me it wasn’t an issue. Children come into the world afresh, without all of the baggage, sadness or anxiety that the parents carry. What my mum did was mask all of that for me and met me at my level. I think childhood is a time to learn tolerance and how to be inclusive.
For me it’s all about the basics. Childhood is about learning how to make friends and working together in a group. It’s about imaginative play, sharing stories and planning midnight feasts. Things like that will ground you in a human experience of loveliness that you will pass on. The communal experience is also essential for a child and that could be reading, watching TV or anything, so long as it’s in a group. Increasingly we rarely see different generations coming together, unless it’s at a wedding, and that’s a shame.
We didn’t have a TV when I was growing up which, at the time, was a real bugbear for me. I found it really frustrating when my friends talked about programmes that I couldn’t see. It’s ironic, in a way, that I’ve gone on to work in children’s TV, but it also meant that we were always doing other things and I was never bored.
These days spontaneity is crucial. We have all become obsessed with making plans and booking in playdates. Even the word play-date I find weird – I can’t bring myself to say it. What’s wrong with, “When can I see you?” We have become way too prescriptive and organised about what we let our kids do. A child has no measure of what things cost so you might as well go for a walk in a forest as a costly trip to an ice rink or restaurant. To them it makes no difference. We are living in such a time of change, such interesting times, but a whirlwind all the same. Simple pleasures must be cherished.
Lemn Sissay, poet
I think that nature is a gift that every parent should try to give to a child. If you form a relationship with nature early on – and I don’t mean you have to go and live in a field, you can be in an urban area and form a relationship with nature – it’s a very powerful thing. Enabling a child to be at ease in open spaces helps them to understand their feelings.
When I was in a children’s home, I used to go walking in the fields just to allow my brain to connect with something that was bigger than the institutions that brought me up. And the same could apply to the institution of family just as the institution of a children’s home.
I also think it’s a really good thing if a family has a belief. That could be leftwing politics, rightwing politics, Christianity or the Koran. The child who sees their parents believe in something is the child who will have a strong idea of who they are. One of the greatest signs of growth in a young person is when they start to choose what they believe in.
I was brought up in a very dysfunctional, seriously Christian foster family, but they always encouraged me to ask questions. That ability to think of home as a place where ideas can be cultivated is really important. You can’t give a young person a voice – they already have one. The skill is learning how to hear that voice and offering the space and opportunity for it to grow.
We tell our children the world is their oyster yet at the same time many of us have a fear of the rest of the world. If children are not taught about the virtues of diversity then they fall prey to racist behaviour. So a happy childhood is one where they are taught that there are languages they don’t understand and people with different experiences to theirs. You don’t have to be the huggy kid who shakes hands with everyone, but it’s important they are taught to be OK with it.
Ultimately, family is a collection of stories and childhood is an introduction to that book. As you live your life you come to realise the significance of that introduction. The effect of your childhood is played out in your adulthood. What happens in that introduction is everything.
Jacqueline Wilson, author
At the moment I am going through lots of emails from the girls who read my books and send them to the website. At one end of the spectrum there are the children who are upset about being teased or not being popular and at the other the ones who are actually having a really tough time.
It’s almost impossible to make a completely happy, safe, secure life for children with all friends being kind to each other and nobody running off with someone else. So it’s all about making children resilient and helping them not get too upset if there’s a bit of name-calling. It’s also important to recognise the difference between harmless teasing and hateful, sadistic behaviour, which obviously has to be stopped.
I think if you’ve got someone who loves you, makes a fuss of you and cares about you, that means you are having a good childhood, no matter what the circumstances. I don’t think it matters a tiny bit about money, nor whether you are being brought up by both parents, like people used to think. If you’ve got love and attention, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a single parent or are being raised by a granny.
I think that the very best kind of attention you can give a child is reading with them. That could be cuddling up with a toddler or sharing stories with an older child. I think it’s a lovely thing to do. I’m also very much in favour of doing things as a group. So eating as a family and viewing things together on TV, rather than a child watching the iPlayer alone in his or her bedroom. I’m just old-fashioned, but I think we have to pull together.
I also think a good childhood is one in which the child is consulted. Not that they should dictate to you but that you should sit down once in a while and just have a little discussion about anything they want to share.
A few rules help, too. It’s important that children know that you may be indulgent about some things but that there are also some things that you won’t tolerate. When I was about 13 some of my friends were going off for a few days on a Ban the Bomb march. I asked my mum if I could go. She refused. I whined and moaned and told my friends it was so unfair but inside I was quite glad. I was a wimpy kid and would have been quite frightened.
It’s all about balance. It’s a good thing to have a few rules but lots of love as well.
Laura Dockrill, performance poet
My memories of being a kid are my most pure; everything is still so clear to me and that’s a good sign. A childhood should be silly, fun, thoughtful and free. I loved being a kid so much that it has influenced my work and pretty much everything I do today. My parents were kind of punks. They had a big group of friends and I was the first child to be born and brought up among them so I spent a lot of time in pubs having conversations with grownups. I knew I wanted to observe, write and create characters because I was just fascinated by all my mum and dad’s friends.
My childhood memories are rich and varied.
I loved visiting my grandma’s apartment, with its fringed window shades and faint smell of eucalyptus. Her desk drawers, lined in green felt, spilled over with card decks, cocktail napkins, and golf tees. Every door in the house was fitted with wobbly crystal doorknobs. The bathroom smelled of Listerine.
My brother and I would sleep in the small bedroom off the kitchen—the very room our mom shared with her own brother growing up in the north side of Chicago.
I can picture myself reaching way down into Grandma’s frost-filled chest freezer for the ever-present box of Eskimo Pies. Her well-stocked pantry and doily-covered tabletops contained loads of delectable treats I was often denied at home: pastries, chocolate-covered marshmallow cookies, and delicate bowls of jellied orange sticks and other candy.
This was the 1960s, long before big-box stores came on the scene. Together Grandma and I would walk to the corner of Roscoe and Broadway, where we’d explore the wonders of Simon’s Drugstore, Heinemann’s Bakery, and Martha’s Candies.
Those childhood memories of my grandma are largely synonymous with food.
In my mind’s eye, I can still picture driving from Illinois to Wisconsin beneath a canopy of crimson leaves against an blindingly blue sky. I remember Passover dinners with a million Jewish relatives in the basement of some wizened old uncle’s apartment building.
Other childhood memories recall the mysteries of new baby brothers coming on the scene, building a hideout among the branches of a fallen tree, and giving my best friend’s parakeet a ride down the stairs in her aqua Barbie convertible.
It’s good to write down our recollections. As vivid as the moment seems at the time, memories fade. These prompts will help jog them. Invite your older children to participate. They’re in closer proximity to their memories, and can usually remember the details more vividly.
There are no rules: Jot your thoughts in snippets or write them out diary-style. Either way, do your best to recall the sensory details that made the moment important, for it’s those little things that keep the memory alive.
22 Writing Prompts That Jog Childhood Memories
- Describe one of your earliest childhood memories. How old were you? What bits and pieces can you recall?
- Who was your best childhood friend? Write about some of the fun things you used to do together.
- Can you remember your mom’s or grandmother’s kitchen? Use sight and smell words to describe it.
- Describe the mostunusual or memorable place you have lived.
- Did you have your own bedroom growing up, or did you share with a sibling? Describe your room.
- Were you shy as a child? Bossy? Obnoxious? Describe several of your childhood character traits. How did those qualities show themselves? Are you still that way today?
- What childhood memories of your mother and father do you have? Describe a couple of snapshot moments.
- Write about a holiday memory. Where did you go? What did you do? What foods do you remember?
- Describe your favorite hideaway.
- Did you attend a traditional school, or were you educated at home? Describe a school-related memory.
- Think of a time when you did something you shouldn’t have done. Describe both the incident and the feelings they created.
- Have you ever needed stitches, broken a bone, or been hospitalized? Describe a childhood injury or illness.
- Do you have quirky or interesting relatives on your family tree? Describe one or two of them.
- Describe your most memorable family vacation. Where did you go? Did something exciting or unusual happen? Did you eat new or unique foods?
- Did you grow up with family traditions? Describe one.
- Books can be childhood friends.What were some of your favorites? Why were they special?
- Describe a game or activity you used to play with a sibling.
- What were some of your favorite television shows as a child?
- What was your most beloved toy? Describe its shape, appearance, and texture. What feelings come to mind when you think of that toy?
- Think of a childhood event that made you feel anxious or scared. Describe both the event itself and the feelings it stirred up.
- Write about some sayings, expressions, or advice you heard at home when you were growing up. Who said them? What did they mean? Do you use any of those expressions today?
- What are your happiest childhood memories? Describe one event and the feelings associated with it.
What’s one of your most vivid childhood memories? Share a snippet in the comments! And if you’re looking for a resource to help you write a longer memoir or autobiography, check out Stories Kept for some excellent ideas!
Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
Copyright 2013 © by Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
Photo: Lisa M, courtesy of Creative Commons.