“The most sophisticated people I know-inside they are children.” Jim Henson
It’s taken me nearly 32 years to experience childhood. I was one of the few kids that would talk to adults as if they were my peers. I had a severe case of only child syndrome. I would talk about current events, the type of career and job I would have and where I would live. I felt alienated from those my age as if I had nothing in common with them. Frankly, I viewed other kids as immature, and I was not going to invest my time in them. I would get bored playing with stuffed animals or dolls because they couldn’t talk back. Of course I still had an imagination, but I was always in tune with reality, often times too in tune with what was happening around me. Adults would comment on how mature I acted, a compliment that actually felt like something I had to live up to. It shaped me into the adult I am today. I didn’t want to let anyone down by acting too childlike so instead I molded myself into someone who was almost always composed. I needed to be the perfect child, both in my eyes and in everyone else’s.
It was like there were two versions of me: the fearless optimist, and the girl afraid of making a fool of herself. I had difficulties being silly and letting go, but when I did, I would transform. My imagination would run wild. I felt as if I could do anything, achieve anything. I had no obstacle, my past and present did not define me. Then I would be visited by the girl afraid of failing, the one who was terrified of making a fool of herself. She gave up learning how to ride a bike because she felt too old (I was 14) was insecure in her ability to learn how to swim (I was 6) and was afraid of what people would say. She was so fearful of letting her mother down. Of being too different. I was in a constant battle with myself.
There were times I felt like I had to mother my mother. She would often confide in me, pulling me into her world. Drifting me away from my own imagination and reality. Being a single parent was extremely stressful for my her, and there were moments we worried about what we would eat and how we would afford the rent. In my childlike faith, and innocence I would encourage my mother, tell her everything was going to be ok. I had no other choice but to believe that we would be taken care of. In my heart, I knew that no matter what we would make it through. We would overcome the circumstances and persevere. At times I dreamed of someone saving us, and I know she did too.
At the age of 9, my mother and I became homeless. We arrived at an intake shelter in the Bronx. We were in a large room with hundreds of woman and children. We were all in limbo waiting to be taken to different locations. We slept on the floor with the lights on during the night. The flu was going around making it difficult to sleep. My mother and I got extremely sick. I remember feeling so much shame. After a few days, we were moved to another location. An old converted hospital.I would wake up from the screaming and yelling in the hallway. The unrest and tension hanging thickly in the air, spreading throughout the building. We were moved two more times before we got our apartment. It was the longest most stressful year of my life.
I reached adulthood in an almost exhausted state. The reality of everything that had happened weighing heavily on my psyche. I couldn’t seem to shake it off, and it followed me in my early adult years. I had a difficult time laughing at myself or even relaxing. I always felt on edge. My true self remained hidden, waiting to be unleashed. Occasionally she would show up and say hello, she was begging to be let out. In my late twenties, something started to shift. I began to care less of what people thought of me and the less I cared, the more honest and caring people I attracted.
My husband and I recently went on vacation with friends who have a wonderful 2-year-old son. He is one of the most loving, kindest and fun little boys I know. As I spent time with him I learned a lot about myself in the process. Anytime he stumbles he brushes himself off and continues.He doesn’t allow minor setbacks to get in the way of what he wants to accomplish. He lives in the present and isn’t afraid to make a fool of himself. He loves unconditionally and without reservation. He is straightforward with what he likes and dislikes. Most importantly he isn’t scared of having fun and lots of it. During those 5 days, we made a fort out of an ottoman, ran while screaming (that was him) and blast in the playground hammock (that was me). I was able to awaken the child in me and remember my essence.
Something that’s become very evident to me in the last few years is that no matter how old you are, your inner child will always remain. Just like in childhood it needs to be nurtured and loved. To be told that everything will be all right. That we can achieve everything our heart desires. In adulthood, it’s easy to become jaded and keep note of the people/things that have wounded us. We hold on to things that we can’t change, only hurting ourselves in the process. I’ve decided I’ve had enough of adulthood and I want to dedicate myself to being in touch with my inner kid. Will you join me?
“I’m happy to report that my inner child is still ageless.” James Broughton
Inner child action plan:
Laugh often at yourself
Do something unexpected
Find your innocence
Dance/sing even if you’re offbeat/key
Love without being afraid of being wounded
Play in the ocean with a loved one
Get dirty (however, you see fit)
Be around children, pay attention and learn from them
Take frequent breaks from technology, be in nature
Be happy, it’s your birthright!
Did you know that you can get in touch with your innocence through meditation? Start by closing your eyes. Lay down or sit in easy pose. Visualize yourself as a child, surrounding yourself with unconditional love. Begin to send healing energy to yourself, giving the love and encouragement you wished you had. Make sure to say how proud you are of your accomplishments. Slowly inhale and exhale. You can meditate in this position for as little as 3-11 minutes. Write down how you feel afterward.