The other evening, I went to see a ballet.

In the interval, I got talking to a young mum and her small son.

The little boy was a really natty dresser and was wearing a grey suit, matching scarf and spectacles, and he was cradling quite a dramatic outdoor hat.

He was only six, but his mother told me he had strong views about his clothes, and also that he was mad about ballet. 

Looking at him, I could see the man he’ll become; someone with individuality, style, and a passion for fashion, dance and so on.

He may of course have the talent to become a dancer, but my money is on him ending up as a ballet critic or maybe an artistic director. 

He was extraordinarily self-possessed.

But some children are like that, aren’t they? They seem to emerge from the womb with a knowing expression and ready-made personality. 

Recently, I read an article about Russell T Davies in which he described how he became hooked on Doctor Who before he was four years old. How amazing that he latched on to the programme so early, and that years later it would play such a huge part in his career.  

Interestingly, he was quoted in the piece as saying that if he could be transported through time in the Tardis, he would choose to return to the 1960s so he could tell his younger self: “You’ll be running the show one day!”.   

Russell T Davies and the child at the ballet set me thinking about how much of us is already formed in our infancy.

I recall being crazy about ballet, like the little boy. And most of the stories I read were about wannabe ballerinas. But when I wasn’t reading about them, I devoured books on doctors and nurses because I was equally fascinated by health and medicine.

I loved music too and was always singing. Nothing much has changed!   

So, are you and your childhood-self alike?  

I ask because it’s natural as we approach the seasonal festivities to look back at past Christmases.

And of course, if you had bad times as a child, you might find it painful to wander down this particular lane of your memory. 

Alas, as any therapist will tell you, problems experienced in childhood such as poverty, alcoholism, violence, or lack of love, can impact seriously on our adult lives.

But therapy also teaches us that though we can’t change the past, we can alter how we think about it. 

I was reminded of this the other night when I watched a documentary about Hollywood legend, Cary Grant. As you doubtless know, he was born Archie Leach, and grew up in a poor household in Bristol.

Despite reinventing himself bigtime and becoming hugely successful, he came to realise that he always messed up his relationships with women because of the baggage of his early years. 

He was in therapy for a very long time, but eventually it helped him to view his parents in a different way, and to acknowledge the troubles which had made them what they were. This acceptance seems to have improved his life immeasurably and made his later years happy and fulfilling. 

Now, not everyone wants, or can afford, therapy.

But many folk do work out ways in which they can connect with their early selves, and go on to find alternative perceptions of that time. I know of cases where hypnosis has enabled them to talk to, and reassure, their inner child.

I’ve known people who have conversations with their childhood photographs. And others who have written letters to the small person they once were. 

Now, you may think this is all rather weird stuff; certainly, I know it wouldn’t suit everyone.

But I believe that to some degree we all have the ability to look back, with compassion, at our younger being, and reconnect with him or her.  

On a purely practical level we might remember we loved making Meccano bridges or doing woodwork or painting pictures, then decide to give these hobbies another go now.  

We take on so many roles throughout life. There are all the jobs we’ve had for a start, but we’ve also been wives, husbands, parents, step-parents, siblings…

Even now we might be adding to the list by volunteering or becoming babysitter-in-chief.

But it can be helpful to remember ourselves before we had all those labels.

And to recall what made us tick back then and ponder the similarities we share with our younger self.

Indeed, this can lead to a heartening sense of affection, sympathy and pride for the child we were, especially through challenging times.  

Coming to terms with our early life, and loving the boy or girl we started as, can help us to feel more grounded and complete today.

It’s something to think about, anyway.