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The Children Inside


Generally when I write in my blog, or anywhere else, I’m writing from the point of view of my most grown up, most presentable self, because that’s what people do. When I leave the house to interact with other people I generally dress up in a certain way and use certain words and facial expressions, and I pay close attention to how I present myself. Am I being nice enough? Mature enough? Responsible enough?

But when I’m at home, watching TV, doing puzzles, or playing with the dogs, other parts of me are allowed to surface and have their say. There’s a lot of arguing about food (Why can’t I have the whole container of ice cream right now?) and clothes (I want to wear pajamas all the time!) and entertainment (Cartoons! No, wait, mysteries! No, episodes of Law & Order on an endless loop!). Most of this doesn’t fit my image of who I’m supposed to be at my current age, and therefore I try to keep it at home where no one can see and judge.


The girls don’t seem to care what we watch, as long as everyone’s together.

Or I bring it to therapy. Though it’s still hard for me to bring my whole self to therapy, even after twenty-five years. Generally, I report the hard stuff from my notes, or I keep it to myself.

Over winter break, I watched the HBO miniseries version of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, and it reminded me all over again of the thing I loved about the first book when I read it a few years ago (someone said to me, if you like Harry Potter, you’ll love this): each character, in this alternative universe, has an animal dæmon; not just an animal companion, but a part of their soul that exists outside of their body and takes an animal form. Up until puberty the dæmon is able to take many different forms (ferret, mouse, bird, turtle, cat, etc.), to meet many different needs, and then at puberty the dæmon takes the shape of one specific animal for the rest of the character’s life. That last part was the only thing that didn’t ring true for me when I read the first book. Only ONE animal companion? Only one aspect of the soul? Unlikely. My dæmon has never settled. My self has never come together into one definite and unchanging thing. I still flit and switch and change.

I would say that, for my most grown up self, the part of me that goes out into the world, my dæmon would be a Yellow Labrador Retriever – not quite as trusting and fluffy as a Golden Retriever, but playful and loyal and gentle, and smart, rather than clever.


“A yellow Lab. Really?”

My writing self is more like an eagle, soaring above it all and observing, feeling the wind in her feathers and finding her way; mostly isolated, but able to be part of a congregation, when necessary.

But the little ones, the ones who live in pajamas and think chocolate covered pretzels make a great breakfast, they’re different; both from the adult version of me and from each other. After watching the HBO miniseries, I tried to come up with a list of animal familiars, to help me recognize each internal child part more clearly, but that just set off a lot of internal noise and a sort of buzzing that sounded like a table saw, so I had to stop for a while and rest before trying again.


“It was so loud I could hear it too, Mommy.”

I think there must be a porcupine, and a fluffy brown rabbit, and a black Lab puppy, and a Starling or a Sparrow, and a bee (though nobody likes the bee).

I don’t have anything like a tiger or a bear or a lion in there, and I feel the lack of that protection.

This feels like a project I should take on: get out a huge animal encyclopedia and see which ones resonate with me and which ones don’t. I should draw pictures and write stories and figure out everyone’s favorite foods and colors and music. But just the thought of it exhausts me.

Like Walt Whitman said: “I am large, I contain multitudes.” I’m just too tired to count them right now.


Clearly, everyone’s exhausted.


If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?



About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

75 responses »

  1. I tried to think of a ‘familiar’ that might represent my inner self. All I can come up with is Yoda. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. Whitman knew of what he spoke. Bring on the PJ’s and chocolates, Rachel. Girls just wanna have fun!

  3. Mine is a dragon – who sleeps most of the time but don’t poke her – never wake a sleeping dragon, you know. One of my friends, who sees the essence of people, says she sees a dragonfly when she looks at me. I can live with that.

  4. There’s a book, Animal Speak, it describes animal spirits. It’s interesting. This is the Chinese year of the rat. As awful as that sounds apparently it portends good things, if you believe in that.

  5. Well Adi and I might be a tad partial, but we really like your Yellow Labrador Retriever adult self and are cheering on your child like black lab puppy self.

  6. Yeay, you always make me smile with your doggie stories. Which reminds me, just yesterday when Oreo saw an ampalaya while we were eating lunch, he started munching on it. I didn’t even know that some breeds of dogs eat ampalaya. We took a video of course. I wonder if I’ll be able to share it here.

  7. I haven’t thought about an animal spirit since my college days, many moons ago. I like the train of thought though. Great post.

  8. Loved your post- and giving yourself permission tohave more than one daemon. My main one is a Tiger but now youhave got me thinkingabout others

  9. Phillip Pullman’s books made quite an impression on me as well. I can’t imagine that my soul would be expressed as anything fierce. When I read the guidelines for each House in Harry Potter, I would have been in Hufflepuff, so probably no dragons or tigers. Get some rest with those puppies of yours!

  10. I love Pullman’s books. As for my spirit animal? Hmmm? I’ll get back to you on that.

  11. Rachel, I’m glad I’m not the only one who wears comfy pajamas & binge watches Law & Order episodes! As always, your reflective posts make us pause & think. Thank you for sharing… ☀️🐾☀️🤗🐾☀️

  12. I like The Incredibles, Up, Despicable Me, Brother Bear, and Frozen. I made no secret when buying the DVDs that they ere for me, not kids, as we didn’t have any. Hubby and I act our shoe size, and if we want to splash in puddles when we’re wearing wellies, why not?
    The winter wonderland at the garden centre is being dismantled now, but I felt the magic at Christmas and got weepy. We are who we are, though sometimes we have to put on the professional face as otherwise we wouldn’t be recognised!

    • When I carry around my Harry Potter books in French and Spanish and Hebrew I keep hoping for fellow travelers but instead I get strange looks. Very disappointing. Why must everyone be so grown up?!

      • It’s a pity isn’t it. We were all kids once, and I remember my history teacher (who was ancient then!) sitting down on the train to read The Beano on one of our filed trips!

  13. A question for all of us who practice a faith. Is it a place to hide, a place of community, or a place of comfort and enlightenment?

  14. This makes me think there’s a wonderful children’s book in your animal musings…

  15. A wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    Doggies look so sweet, as always. 🙂

  16. Pingback: Totems | sparksfromacombustiblemind

  17. I love His Dark Materials, and I love the forms you’ve come up with for your changing daemon. I don’t think mine ever settled either, but if it did it would be a greyhound – short bursts of energy interspersed with hours of laziness! I’ve often thought of my dogs as my daemons or familiars.
    Pearly Greyhound isn’t well at the moment, so I’ve been having to go for walks without her, and it feels weird – almost like my daemon has been cut away!

  18. I’ll give +1 for getting the “a” and “e” to stick together on daemon.

  19. I bought a number of Folkmanis finger(not the full sized) puppets a few years ago to use in therapy. I found that there was a puppet for each of the little kids and that they were very helpful in getting to express things that the adult me wouldn’t or couldn’t. They are very well made and I made great progress with the little ones using them.

  20. We can be any one we choose privately.

  21. I love it! Yes we are all multi-faceted but I never thought to associate each with an animal – such a fun yet also insightful post. Really enjoyed!

  22. As someone blessed to have lived with a small dog who happily spent a great deal of her time “in pajamas,” I love everything about this post.

  23. Heliophile's diary

    A wonderful post.

  24. Pingback: The Children Inside — rachelmankowitz – DrWeb's Domain

  25. Great post, and got me thinking about our spirit selves, especially those animal ones. I shared your post on my blog, hope that’s okay.. see at

  26. I like this! My daemons persist as well; I know there has to be a ferret inside of me for sure!

  27. Why does nobody like the bee? Besides making honey, they are responsible for pollinating quite a lot of crops. Their survival is essential and these days they are in trouble. They also won’t sting if you don’t bother them.

  28. I recently watched the “His Dark Materials” series and I loved it! The idea of the daemons was brilliant. I was also disappointed at the thought of my daemon not being able to shapeshift into different animals after puberty. I have a menagerie of animal familiars and would find it impossible to choose only one. I haven’t read the books but I enjoyed the series so much I’ve ordered the first one. I can’t wait for series two. 🙂

  29. My biggest joy in the late afternoon when day is done to put on flannel PJ bottoms and an old sweatshirt. My husband calls them my comfy clothes. My binge watching is episodes of Castle, I’m on my third time through the seasons.

    I loved those books, I think daemons should be able to change as you develop in life. Wonderful post, thank you.

  30. I have watched the His Dark Materials series and enjoyed it. The daemons are one of my favorite parts. I’ve read it is quite a technological challenge to incorporate them. I look forward to the next episode season. I hadn’t thought about what might fit me. Undoubtedly a dog of some sort.

  31. You are an awesome person all the time…so just be YOU! God bless.

  32. Multiple daemons for our “multitudes.” Cool. Maybe that book needs to be written?


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