A few months ago I read a book that reminded me of what it is like to live with young children, partially because it was narrated by a man looking back on his childhood, and partially because the author meditated on several points about childhood.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
Neil Gaiman relates this book through the eyes of an adult narrator–an adult narrator who remembers a traumatic experience he had as a young child. All the description is such that I found myself thinking about the innocence of childhood and our own inability to describe the things that we don’t have words for.
These thoughts were particularly triggered by the young child witnessing a love scene and not realizing what was happening. He didn’t have the words to convey it, and if you didn’t know what it was, as an adult, you would not be able to piece it together.
This story was a fairy-tale for adults, and Gaiman perfectly mixes the mundane and the fantastical. It was a lovely read, and I passed it off to my fifteen year old, and he loved it too. I don’t know if he was able to reconstruct the sex scene on his own. I didn’t feel like I had the liberty to ask.
One quote I loved from this book was on the attitudes of small children. It says:
Small children believe themselves to be gods, or some of them do, and they can only be satisfied when the rest of the world goes along with their ways of looking at things.
I remember this stage of having small children. I think of them as the crying years, the years where they wield their unreasonableness as power in the face of their actual powerlessness. One of my children would cry every time my husband would hug me, and push himself between us saying, “No. My mommy. Not your mommy.” Even then, it was the cutest thing I had ever heard. He wanted reality to bend to his will.
Unfortunately, I see the same attitude happening at times with my teenagers. They seem to think that reality bends around them. They want everyone to conform to their viewpoint and to agree with them about right and wrong. I often find parenting teens to be as frustrating in its own way as parenting toddlers.
However, when I look at myself, I am not sure that I have made much progress from that self-centeredness of my teen years. I still find myself unhappy, wishing I could control everyone’s viewpoint and have them see my own “enlightened” viewpoint as the only correct one. I’m not always satisfied with the opinions of other people, and I find myself attempting to argue them into agreeing with me. To date, I have not changed one person’s opinion through arguing with them.
That was a little deeper than I meant to get, but I think we can often relate. Do you have children in your life? Do they ever act like they’re the rulers of the world?
Have you read The Ocean at the End of the Lane? What do you think of Gaiman using a child narrator for this story?