Sunday, 28 August 2011

What's it like to be five?


I suspect most people can remember being five but can you remember what it felt like to be five? I don’t mean what TV programmes you watched or which school you went to. I mean your emotions and reactions as you saw those cartoon cats or Dr Who’s daleks. The programmes may have changed but the emotions are still the same.

Even if you remember the emotions, it’s not always easy to put them into words. I can remember watching the grey and white flower opening up on the TV screen at the beginning of ‘Watch with Mother’ but how can I describe the feeling in simple terms? It was a mixture of excitement at the anticipation of a familiar programme and the exclusivity that this programme was being screened just for me. There may have been more emotions going on inside me. I can’t remember.

And I’m really not sure how I would describe my emotions on my first day at school. The other children were confident, comfortable in their environment, or so I thought. I was scared to step on each strange section of floor in case it sucked me in and ate me up and I cried until I made myself sick. It was probably a way to try and get Mum to come back for me. I’m not sure. One thing I do know is that I was a real pain!

So what’s brought on this latest bout of introspection? I treated myself to the 'Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2012'. The last one I bought was the 2005 edition. This new one is much thicker. Excellent, I thought, that means there’ll be more publishers waiting for my manuscripts. Wrong! There are more articles about writing for children though and it was an article by Anne Fine that got me thinking.

Anne fine in ‘Writing Books to Read Aloud’ says that a child has to care about the character in a story so we must make sure that we give the character thoughts and emotions that young children will recognise. Her example is, rather than saying what a shame it is that it’s raining, show the water dripping down the child’s neck. It’s the old adage of ‘show don’t tell’ but does it go far enough to touch those real emotions, the disappointment when rain has stopped a longed-for activity?

Another article by Geraldine McCaughrean called ‘Writing for a Variety of Ages’ tells us that she embarks on a picture book as she would poetry rather than prose, “pouring on the word play and euphonious vocabulary, making the most of the aural splendour of words.”    [aural splendour... I like that. I must try and use it in conversation today!]

I can do word play. I can even do euphonious vocabulary, but I’m still not sure about the feelings. Does the English language have enough child-accessible words to accurately describe those childhood emotions?

How would you put into words the way it felt to have a story read to you at night?

Or the emotions you experienced during your first funfair ride?
Or is there another childhood emotion that you could share in words?

   

30 comments:

  1. Oh this is a tough one, but I do remember going round and round on the walter at the fair until I thought I would never be able to breath properly again. And legs feeling like jelly when I tried to get out of the deep chair after the ride was over. I loved every minute of it!

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  2. ....excuse me I meant to write waltzer... :)

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  3. That's a really interesting concept - to try and articulate in words what one felt like as a child. Interestingly I have been trying to do that myself when writing my memoirs about events as a child. Its hard really as we can only know what we feel like in the now and it may be a little removed, embellished or tarnished from the reality we felt as a small child. We can only articulte now using reasoned thinking which as a small child was probably not there. We relied on instinctive feelings and they are harder to define I think.

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  4. I have written a story about my five year old self. I was told I captured the voice of the five year old. And yet the story had still not found a home! HeyHo!

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  5. There was something very comforting and safe about having a story read aloud at night. I loved the comfy cozy feeling!

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  6. Good post! When I was five something big happened in my life, (although I didn't know it was big at the time, of course), and as I sat here I thought 'yes, I could describe that'. I'm right, I can; but only from the perspective of a forty year-old woman. I find I cannot summon up the memory of the feelings beyond excited and nervous. Yet what five year-old would describe herself as nervous?

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  7. Great advice with regard to writing for adults, as well. It is always easier (at least for me) to tell rather than show, and I must always review my work with a serious and critical eye to be certain I'm "showing."

    My memories of childhood emotions go hand-in-hand with specific scenes rather than anything general. I recall how I felt in certain moments, but not as a whole. But, oh, if I could!

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  8. Great questions, Rosalind. It's tough to convey childhood emotions. As kids, we often couldn't name the feelings. To go back to that place and give words to it is challenging.
    xoRobyn

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  9. When I'd get on the school bus and be talking to my friends and then realize the bus had pulled away and I hadn't waved out the window at my mother, I'd get this horrible, tight-chested feeling. Many times I'd look back and see her walking away. Usually I'd cry a bit, big lump in my throat, huge regret because I missed her so much and was sure I'd let her down. It seems so silly now, but this happened over and over again. Or if I WOULD wave and she wouldn't see me, like if she was talking to the other mums, I'd be crushed ... for at least several blocks. ;) The amazing thing about kids is they feel SO MUCH emotion, but it's usually short-lived. Thankfully!

    Amy

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  10. 5 wasn't too too long ago for me, but I still can't really say I remember my emotions that well. I remember thunderstorms scared me, but not wanting to wake my parents I'd just use my stuff rabbit as a pillow on the floor of their bedroom. Just looking at their sheet covered lumps was enough for me.

    I think I felt the same emotions back then in similar situations; saying goodbye, meeting strangers and the like. It's just easier to pick out the nuances now and I bet I just used simple emotions in my head. Sad, happy, scared, lonely.

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  11. I have a terrible memory. Sadly most of my childhood memories are centered around those small humiliations we all experience growing up. I still remember those emotions vividly

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  12. We had a very hard winter in 1947, and I remember looking out of the window watching my father and little sister playing in the snow. But as much as I wanted to join them, I even more strongly didn't want to be wet and cold. I haven't changed much over the years. I was a wimp then, and have remained so.

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  13. Idk if I could do it, but it would be an interesting thing to try

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  14. So hard to access those memories - do they ever come back to us? I think we also overlay what we think we felt with what we have picked up from hearing people talk about us. Sometimes two people in a family each believe something happened to them uniquely. But a first memory at 4 was opening the back door on Nov 5th to see a neighbour and a guy staring down on me - and I was petrified!

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  15. Ooooh what an intriguing post....I remember so much of how I felt when I was young but putting it into actual words is so much more difficult.

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  16. I just tried to post a comment here but not sure it worked as Google had a funny turn. What I said was that I remember so much of how I felt as a child but putting it into actual words is very difficult.

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  17. I think it's hard to remember childhood emotions exactly because, as a child, you aren't able to articulate them yet. As an adult, you can articulate better, but then you're looking back with the wrong perspective. It's a tricky problem! Ultimately, though, disappointment or excitement or regret are what they are, and if you're showing not telling, you probably need details, not words :)

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  18. I loved having a story read to me at night. It made me feel safe. And when I could read my own stories that is the time I would choose. That same old safe, warm feeling.

    I got stuck in the ride, hovering hundreds of feet in the air. (To me, it looked like hundreds of feet. I was little.) I sang Jesus loves me over and over. That got me through.

    Great post. Putting everything into words is not as easy as people think, is it? Sheesh!

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  19. I remember how I enjoyed storytime in school, and I also remember the big picture books like The Wizard Of Oz that my parents gave me. I always loved cuddling while I read with my boys. Julie

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  20. Gosh, I'm not sure I can describe how a memory felt when I was 25, let alone 5. Thanks for sharing!

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  21. I remember being sent to my room when I was about ten years old, sitting there fuming, so full of emotion and feeling like my parents just didn't get me. I remember thinking that I would write down what I was feeling right then so that when I was a parent someday, I wouldn't alienate my child the same way. Oh, how I wish I had actually started a journal like that!

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  22. Oh what a lovely blog you have and very interesting posts. Very interesting questions. You have me hooked!
    I am a very new campaigner and very much hope we get to write, cook...whatever together sometime....lol.

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  23. Hello there, fellow campaigner calling by. I like something funny that you can't wait to join in with and say aloud and my kids are the same. Anything with too many words and they walk away too. They are very hard to please. I love the idea of approaching it like poetry too.

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  24. Oh boy, I wonder if anyone can recall emotions of a 5 year old. How can we when the amnesiac block goes on? Good questions and some thoughtful answers.
    Manzanita@Wannabuyaduck

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  25. What a great question. And so difficult to answer. It's not something we think about is it.

    My earliest memory was when I was three and my mum went into hospital to have my little sister. I can remember the event but I'm not sure I can remember the emotions that went with it. One thing I do recall is that I didn't want my mum to go and leave me. Not so much an emotion, but a thought process I had.

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  26. Fellow Campaigner here! And what great questions. Some things I can remember so well . . . the injustice of being sent to my room for telling people how I felt (aka temper tantrum). Definitely worth delving deeper as we write.

    I look forward to getting to know you through the Campaign!

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  27. New Campaigner here and cruised around your blog a bit. Love the questions at the end of this post. Got me to thinking... 5 was a very safe time for me after a great deal of trauma. Reading was an especially precious time because it meant I sat on my Grandpa's lap, safely surrounded by him, held by him, and with the sound of his voice next to my ear. What a wonderful memory you have brought back to me! Thanks for that!

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  28. i can't even remember what happened last month! lol
    followed u over from karen's bbq... brought whiskey and steak! enjoy! and great blog--following!

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  29. I don't like going to bed, it means the day is over. Mummy and Daddy stay up late and that's not fair. But every night my Daddy tucks me in and reads me a story before turning out the light. Or, even better, he tells me one he has made up. He makes me cozy as I'm tucked in tight, and he makes me hope I can dream about the great places he talks about.

    Love from the 5 year old me x

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  30. I was confident at five, looking forward to school and my independance.

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