The ontology and epistemology of childhood

As children, we have so little concrete information about the world, and such a random collection of experience-based learning, that we construct oddly poetic worldviews and beliefs.

Some of these misconstructions of knowledge have their origin in semantic misunderstandings. Having been told repeatedly by our parents that we could be anything when we grew up, I decided at about age 4 that I would be the Pope. (We weren’t a Catholic family, and I had not the faintest idea of the Pope’s role; I just liked the hat.) Given the same sort of encouragement, my sister N. eagerly looked forward to becoming a circus bear.

Other childhood misconstructions are simple mechanisms for coping with common fears. Like many children, I believed a) that the night was filled with horrors, looming unseen in the dark, hungry for my innocent self; b) that keeping my head under the blankets protected me from these monsters. As an extension of this logic, and based on I-know-not what previous evidence, I further hypothesized that c) if I kept my head under the covers and held my breath for exactly sixty seconds, I was safe uncovered for the rest of the night. Although I cannot claim that my hypothesis was proven, it surely gained credibility as, night after night, no monsters attacked.

Ah, childhood beliefs. Some are just plain silly, some are quite touching, and some have the strangely comforting Lynchian quality that pervaded my own childhood.

I had a strange fear that if I closed my eyes in the bathtub, William Shakespeare would come up through the drain and kill me. I knew his name, but I had no idea who he was, so I just naturally assumed he was some sort of bathtub vampire. —– Dan


4 thoughts on “The ontology and epistemology of childhood

  1. That site makes me feel almost normal. On second thought, normal might be the wrong word. Mature? No… Still, good link.

  2. As I was falling asleep last night I realized that my fears were very similar to yours except that I had to keep the covers over my head because I thought Van Gogh would come cut off my ear while I was sleeping. That thin layer of sheet was vital protection from the crazed master.
    Then I had to cover my ear again before I could fall asleep.

  3. Just yesterday I remembered that I feared my mother for a brief period around the age of five or six. I had lost a tooth, and I was to leave a note on the refrigerator for the Tooth Fairy. I forgot what I was doing and found myself staring into the fridge and trying to remember what it was I was about to do. My eyes were fixed on a jar of pimento-stuffed green olives. Knowing nothing of Occam’s Razor, I believed that they were alien eyeballs, and that my mother had been murdering aliens in the night. It terrified me that she might be the Tooth Fairy, too, sneaking into my room after come violent alien bloodbath.

  4. Schmutzie, whoa, there are so very many lovely ideas in that little paragraph, but somehow I can’t get past I had lost a tooth, and I was to leave a note on the refrigerator for the Tooth Fairy.
    Me, I was quite terrified of the Easter Bunny, but then I never struck up a correspondence with him.

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