The Little Grown Up
"I showed my masterpiece to the grown-ups, and asked them whether the drawing frightened them. But they answered: frightened? Why should anyone be frightened by a hat?"
The Little Prince. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
The "hat" was actually meant to be a boa constrictor digesting an elephant, it was made by a child who had his talent discouraged by grown-ups. "Stick with the numbers" they said, "Practice a more mature hobby". It's funny how some children get to grow up and other just turn into adults. The difference is remembering childhood and keeping a bit of it throughout life. The Little Prince is a poetic and philosophical tale about human nature and its complexity, through the eyes of a child and an adult who remembers being one. The book remarks the strangeness of the adult world. This is a book meant for children, including the ones who grew up.
Later in the story, when the same little artist grew up to become a pilot, he crashed into the Sahara desert and found a little child Prince. When the Little Prince asked for a drawing of a sheep he wouldn't be satisfied with the pilot's attempts, until he tossed him a drawing of a little box with breathing holes. "This is only his box.", said the pilot, "The sheep you asked for is inside.", and he was surprised to see a light break over the face of his young judge. "That is exactly the way I wanted it!", said the Little Prince appreciating his drawing, "Look! He has gone to sleep . . ."
Children know what they are looking for, and they can find it with imagination. The tools they are given are so simple most people can't believe it's enough satisfying. A salt shaker and an ashtray lid could easily become a king and a princess to me, as my brother would use our soup bowl as his pirate ship. That imagination, that wonderful silliness that one day must vanish before society's common knowledge, is the best thing we can try to keep with ourselves to understand how adulthood can be misinterpreted. Some are lucky enough to remember and keep childhood forever. Those will live, accept, and understand the world better. Having vivid memories of childhood and what being a child is like is not only the key to understanding children but also to retain that sense of unlimited possibilities in story making.
Keeping in contact with the emotional time I lived as a child brought me understanding and curiosity about many things in life as an adult. Therefore I always prefer to think what children have in common with adults rather than dividing their characteristics. I too was a child with talent for drawing and was also asked to grow up. But as I do grow up I understand more and more that the child spirit never leaves us and the best thing is to keep practicing it. For those who can't remember, don't be faithless. You can be sure that your own child is fast asleep in a box with breathing holes.