Listening to the radio last weekend a programme caught my ear. “Mark Watson’s Inner Child” was a light hearted documentary on the rising tide of “kidult” activities and the companies who peddle them, encouraging adults to get in touch with their inner child. I listened with a slight sense of incredulity accompanied by the notion that it might all be missing the point. When we want to know how to love and get the most from our inner child overcomplicating matters with adult ball pools and bedtime stories might not get to the heart of the matter at all.
Most of the beliefs you have about yourself and the world were established in childhood, and they still reside in this innocent childlike part of your emotional consciousness. When we feel frightened, frustrated, hurt, angry it’s often a childlike reaction to an adult situation and, although we are perfectly able to navigate our way through the tricky waters with the adult in charge leaving a child at the oars might mean we are dashed on the rocks.
A child wants to feel she matters, that she is heard and loved. A child wants to feel safe and, within those boundaries of safety, wants to be allowed to run free and explore. A child is, by nature, narcissistic. It is not a child’s job to consider what everyone else needs, she relies on a protecting adult to be doing this because she is lost wandering in her own blissful existence. The inner child is such a valuable part of who we are, and she only needs simple care.
While there are an increasing multitude of companies profiting from helping adults get back to their childlike selves, there are also a myriad ways you can connect with and care for your inner child everyday without the need for any such structured creativity.
Don’t sit on a mood.
I am reminded of my daughter’s leaving assembly in Year 6. The children appeared inconsolable as their first united experience of an “ending” played out before us. It was heartbreaking. Ten minutes later they were all in the park running and laughing together completely clear of the grey cloud which seemed to consume them moments previously.
We can think of being “stuck” in a mood as an essentially childish state but it is not. Children let emotions come and go. They instinctively know that moods pass like the weather, so instead of gazing into the eye of sadness they look up expectantly waiting for the call of something more comforting and enjoyable. If we can allow emotion to come and go more freely we are connecting with the innate hope of the inner child.
Understand that forgiveness is a gift to yourself.
I remember being hurt by the ending of a relationship. In the moment it seemed easier to cast blame, to identify all that I felt had been promised and undelivered, that was inferred but never exhibited. The idea of being gracious in the face of loss is hard for grown ups. I will not love you because you do not deserve my love. Instead I will hurt you like you have hurt me. The happy inner child knows this is cock eyed nonsense, and that forgiveness is a gift we make to ourselves. Releasing the need for retribution is a liberation as great as any. A child will rarely resist the offer of reconnection, a cuddle, a smile, a “sorry I hurt you”, and if she does reject it, you can be sure she learnt to do so from an adult.
Allow yourself to create.
Sometimes I write a post here and, when I have finished, I read it back and think, “that’s not all that good is it Graham?” It is a uniquely adult voice. In a box just to the right of my desk are two cards my children made for me on Father’s Day when they were very young. In terms of quality they are “not all that good” but their value is unquantifiable. Creativity has inherent value, and your inner child knows it.
Effort is more than achievement.
In France some years ago I was teaching my son to ride a bike. He kept falling off and, when he managed to get his balance, he rode straight into a container of flowers toppling into them like an over enthusiastic gardener. Later, when he was spiralling around the site as if he had been riding all of his life, I thought about his tenacity, his resilience, his enduring effort, never once put off by the notion that achievement was either beyond him or, more importantly, the only part of the journey worthy of enjoyment. The inner child loves the journey, the journey is everything.
Apparently we are living in a “post-fact” world, whatever that means. To be childlike is to be far from “post-fact” . We develop the propensity to lie as we get older, because we think it protects us, creates some value, but it does not. We develop an emotional resilience through a willingness to be who we are, trusting that it will be good enough. Your inner child wants to be honest, it is you who gags her, to your own detriment.
Be playful, inquisitive and laugh.
There isn’t a day and never has been one when I have wondered why I had children. I always knew from the first minute on that windy Tuesday when I held my son, slightly jaundiced and yellow, in my arms. When my daughter had arrived two years later I can remember being at home with them both as they slept and wondering how I got so lucky. On rainy days we would cover the entire table with plain paper and, armed with an array of paints and crayons, glue and glitter, we were able to cast our playfulness far and wide without an encumbering boundary. On a walk in the woods, if there were a path jutting off in any direction, it would need to be explored. Through it all there has been laughter, like a thick seam woven through our entwined lives. The adult in me loves to be with them but the inner child feels safe, loved, precious and able to, let go, run free, and be his true self.
There is nothing here which needs arrangement, appointment or structure. I don’t need another adult to tell me how to take care of my inner child, I need only the knowledge of his value and a will to love him and give him what he needs. This afternoon I have to write some invoices but first, as the leaves fall gently into a quite startling golden carpet, I’m going to the park with a camera. Little Graham? He’s coming too.