We all need a place where we can feel like ourselves. Sometimes as an adult it’s hard to remember how difficult it can be to find that place. As adults these places can even be kind of portable. We can take our identity with us in the clothes that we wear, the books we have in our bag and a whole host of identity affirming things like tattoos and piercings.
What’s more we can alter our environment through choice by picking a favourite coffee place, a spot at the library, even simply a seat in the staff room.
However, children lack this luxury (and I’m not trying to condone letting your child get a tattoo or get a piercing here). A lot of children, especially in early primary school, will have a whole collection of decisions made for them: their clothes will be chosen for them, their meals decided in advance by someone else, even what they do with their day is largely out of their control.
Kids go to school, they then get rushed off to whatever club or group their parents have signed them up to, in amongst that you wonder how they manage to find something that feels like ‘theirs’. In the midst of all this jostling its inevitable that children may sometimes need a secret place or, if they’re lucky (or are an only child), they might even get a room of their own. It sounds like a difficult task yet somehow we’ve all gone through it and we all managed to find that place.
When I was a kid (with a younger sister who got into everything) my safe places could sometimes get kind of small. Sometimes it would be an old biscuit tin filled with niknaks and half broken toys that I didn’t want to part with. I sometimes wonder if this was the beginning of the traditional ‘man’s bit box’ (typically filled with screws, odd bolts, parts of old electronics and a host of possibly dud batteries.
However, I also felt safe and like myself in big, open, natural, places like forests and the ‘beaches’ beside rivers. I always used to imagine all kinds of weird and wonderful stories there, somehow these places seemed more connected to magic. It’s probably why so much the books are set in these kinds of places.
I can’t help but wonder if my experiences are unusual or if feeling safe and more like yourself in these kinds of places is quite common. Where did you feel most at home as a child? What places offered you the most adventure and did you have a niknak box? As always, thanks for reading, all the best, John