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A childhood self-study
By Barbara Alison Himes

Birth to Two Years
Unabridged version
Unpublished work © 1998 Barbara Alison Himes


Introduction to Unfinished Working Version
Introduction to Finished Working Version

I was five years old when the idea to do this study first occurred to me – on the afternoon after my first morning of kindergarten. It was then that my differences from other people hit me all at once, and I realized that the several differences I knew about myself probably all grew out of a root difference, that they all were related at that root. I caught a few glimpses of the relation¬ship between those unusual differences on that day, and saw a few hypotheses as to what made the differences, but I knew that in order to understand my situation to my full satisfaction, I’d have to put my memories of my first five years of life in order, write down everything in memory from those years, the background of experience and thought from which all my meaning comes, and do a thorough analysis of how my mind had developed from baby to the unusual five-year-old that I was. I was sure that in doing such a study I would gain a deep understanding of many crucial issues, an understanding that only someone with my kind of differences would think to pursue. This opportunity was a rare and precious gift of unusual circumstances that would be unbearable to pass up, and I had to understand it for my own sake, because I had to fully understand myself and my relationship to the rest of the world. But I also saw that my unusual position was an opportunity to discover facts about reality that possibly had not yet been discovered by anyone else, and that if I didn’t do the exploration of these facts, they might not get explored by anyone. And the subject was an extremely important one, involving crucial moral issues at the roots of human intelligence, improvement, discovery, invention, and happiness. I promised myself to keep thinking about my differences, and then, when I grew up, to do the big project that I had conceived on that first day of school.
Also, by writing out everything I could remember about my early life and putting it in order of occurrance, I would be able to fully understand the whole story of my first five foundational years and “get the right meaning” of my life. Remembering my life honestly and “getting the right meaning” of it when I got to the end was something I had already promised to myself at a younger age, and I had not forgotten that promise. At age five, I saw that both interests were one: by writing out my memories in order and finding all the relationships and implications and questions, and finding the answers to those ques¬tions, I would be solving the mystery of my differences and writing the story of the the roots of my life, where my story and it’s meaning begin – something I would have to do if I were to “get the right meaning of my story” in the end. I would be keeping two promises in one. And in the process of keeping those promises for myself, I would be making clear to any interested reader the important principles that I already understood, but which the rest of the world did not seem to grasp yet, and perhaps I’d
be the first discoverer of more facts that needed to be known – the answers to the questions that I had yet to answer. And if people would be willing to listen to me, my old knowledge and the new knowledge I discovered could improve human life and happiness – although at the time I was skeptical that anyone would listen.
I saw my future project as several great purposes blended into one effort – one effort yielding many profound benefits – and such complex blendings were always the most meaningful and compelling to me. Once I conceived of this project and saw how much meaning it held, I could not let it go without despising myself.
THE DIFFERENCES: By the time I reached age five I knew that, unlike me, most people did not have numerous. detailed memories of infancy. My mother was astonished when at age two I began telling her these memories, which she recognized as accurate, and she had told me that she knew of no one else who could remember infancy.
By age five I also knew that I had been unusually small at birth, and that most babies who are that small were born early, but I was not.
And most babies who are born early sleep more than full-term babies. I had slept less than full-termers. Much less. Most young children had “nap-time” every day, because they got tired and needed the rest. I had not even taken naps as a new baby, just home from the hospital, let alone as a toddler.
Also, when I was born the doctor had told my mother to expect that I would develop more slowly than most infants, because I was (he thought) premature. Yet I had developed faster than most infants, e.g., I spoke in full, grammatically-correct sentences before most children are putting two words together.
And at age five I discovered that I had done something at age three that most people – adult or child – didn’t do, something I considered crucial to human goodness and happiness, to civilization itself: I had worked out a set of fundamental guiding principles that were so obviously right, there was no way I could honestly deny them. And at age five the discovery that most people did not understand these principles which were so obvious and crucial to my mind was devastating to my respect for “society”.
At age five it became clear to me that I didn’t “work” the same way other people did, and all my most treasured values, the ones that made life worth living to me, the ones I could not bear to do without, were tied to the very aspects of myself that were not like other people. I hadn’t planned it that way – had not deliberately tried to make myself be different – the differences had grown
naturally out of my own seeds and soil. And I wanted to understand it, had to understand it, because the clash between me and the rest of the world went down to my roots. I could not betray my own honesty and intelli¬gence and my very love of life in order to conform to their ways, yet there was a man-made law that forced me to act against my own mind and happiness. Against my own most profound mental and spiritual needs. Against my knowledge of self. I knew that I had been on the right track during the preceding five years of my life, but now I was being forced off that track and away from my most precious loves and gifts. I was being forced onto a path far less engaging, less enriching to the mind and spirit – a mediocre path that could not take me to where I wanted to go. The educational path prescribed by law withered my motivation and energy – drained all the life out of learning – and that was torture to me because learning was the greatest love of my life. So I had to understand why I was different from most people – why they were different from me. I had to understand that and all the other issues and implications involved in the clash. And on that afternoon after my first kindergarten class, I promised myself that I must never let myself forget my first five years, and that before.I die I must understand all that they imply, “all the way down to the basement,” and write it all down.
This manuscript is the unfinished working version of Volume I of my childhood self-study, covering my first two years. What “unfinished” means is that I have yet to write the full introduction that will appear with the finished working version, and I also have to correlate more precisely the various aspects of Piaget’s stages of cognitive development with my own. I have also planned several appendices.
The “working version” part of the description means that this version is my personal workbook, into which I have dumped all the memory content of my first two years of life, or have done my best to include it all. This is the information-organizing stage of my study, in which I have put my memories into chronological order to the best of my ability, written them out in detail, included my mother’s perspective, and analyzed the material, for the purpose of drawing out the underlying principles, integrating my life story more thoroughly and learning as much from it as I can.
Naturally, in an attempt at such an exhaustive organization of memories a few will be overlooked. This accounts for the “OOOPS!” sections which appear at the end of some of the installments, but this is no guarantee that there aren’t a few tidbits from these first two years that I’ll have to put into “OOOPS!” sections in Volume II of this study. However, I don’t think I’ve left out anything of great significance or length.
The reason this volume appears in installments is because it was sent in installments to Dr. David Henry Feldman of the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts University. I’ve just put them together here in one volume for convenience.
I should mention that during the writing of this study, I coined a term so that I could easily refer to a concept for which I knew no single term. As it turns out, the term, or something close to it, is already used in the field of psychology. My term is “Archetypal memory”. According to Kaplan and Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry^ Carl Jung coined the term “archetypes”, and according to another source he referred to “archetypical memories”. I did not consciously know this when I chose the term (but later found out that I had heard the term in passing at least once), and my use of the term does not refer to the same concept as Jung’s use. But before this volume is published, I mean to find a different term for my concept so that there is no confusion.
This unfinished version of my manuscript is for friends and acquaintances who want to read what I’ve written so far, especially parents-to-be. So I want to remind those parents-in-waiting that every child is a unique little person, and will respond in his or her own way to any given parenting technique. This manuscript shows one example of a parenting policy that nurtured one child to prodigious development, and I believe that the general principles involved will nurture any child’s ability, whatever his nature might be. But the most important thing you can do for your little person is to pay attention to him or her, observe thoughtfully, and adjust your parenting policies to what you judge to be the needs, capabilities, and interests of your particular child. There is no rote way to do this. In every case it’s a learn-as-you-go operation, and you have to be fully conscious and observant to do the job well.
Also, please note that my mother did not push me or try to force anything onto me. She paid attention and offer¬ed me as much stimulation and information as I would accept. She was not out to create a “super-baby” and she very definitely was not out to compete with or impress anyone. It was my happiness, my fulfillment, she was interested in nurturing. It was a loving, private, personal purpose, just between us.
The idea that I hope to get across to readers is not that everyone should try to produce a prodigy, but that parents should enter into parenthood with a dedication to fostering the potential ability that is born with the brain of their infant, whatever that level of potential may be, so that their child does not get cheated of the treasure that he brings with him at birth. Whether a child’s particular treasure is great or small, how much of it he keeps depends in large part on the quality of
nurturing he receives in infancy and his first few years of life. A parent can feed an infant’s brain a stimulat¬ing banquet, or starve it, or help it just get by. And that has already been established by the research of others, not by this personal study.