Travels of the mind…
Children are among God’s most interesting of creatures. The first friends I made on this assignment were of the young kind. We’ll call one of my new little besties Kaitlyn. She’s in early elementary school. We saw each other for the first time one morning, then again that same afternoon. She recognized me at that point, so she came up to me for a hug. She decided I smelled good, and asked, “Do you wear Bath and Body Works? My mom loves Bath and Body Works.” I was wearing Bath and Body Works perfume, actually, and was surprised she could pinpoint the smell. She notices all types of details. Kaitlyn is vibrant, loves to play, and is extremely expressive. Which means that her strengths lie in affection and compliments and explosive excitement. Her weaknesses—loud crying when unhappy, fussing and nagging when things don’t go her way, and stinging critique when she is really feeling herself.
She developed such a quick attachment to me it stunned her mother and other adults as well. “Did you know her from before?” One asked. Another, “Do you know her parents?” Still another, “Is she YOUR daughter?” No, to all these. But as I observed her, clinging to me, telling me she loved me, giving me a card that was first meant for her parents (not even bothering to cross their names off, by the way), fussing at her friends when they wouldn’t play with her, throwing herself dramatically upon the floor when she needed attention and comfort, and even asking me to put my arm around her when she wanted to snuggle close and do art, I realized, with some sheepishness, that she almost perfectly acted just like my own inner child.
The other day, after I corrected her for something unkind she had said to someone, she tried distracting me with tears and an accusation, “But such and such is being mean to me!”
“No, that’s not true. I’ve been watching.”
She quieted, then said in that transparent way of children, “But I’m afraid you don’t like me anymore!”
“There’s nothing you can do to make me not like you. Nothing.”
“But I wish I could open up your head and see…to make sure.”
“You will have to trust me on this….” And I patted her back for added reassurance. Wow. And I completely understood her panicked insecurity and scramble to avoid the possible abandonment and rejection she feared in my stern tone. I have felt it myself, many times throughout my own life.
It is sometimes as if my hidden little self had run out of my body and then walked up to me to be my friend again. I could watch my little self playing, and giggling, and running, seeking happiness and transcendence, and sometimes wailing. I could see myself in a purer way, observing what actions worked for me, which ones didn’t, and what needed to change in order to keep myself out of misery’s way.
The other day she greeted me with a warm hug, then glanced at my backside.
“You have a big butt,” she observed casually. “Have you tried exercise?” Stunned, I glanced at an older child who was clinging to my opposite side. We both burst out laughing.
“But you’re still pretty! I was just wondering what you would look like smaller. Do you have a picture?” she chirped on. I laughed again.
I tried to explain that she probably should not say such things to others, as it could hurt their feelings, but inwardly I didn’t know if I was actually hurt by her words or just amused. She definitely wasn’t wrong! It was so much like something I would do in an effort to help someone that I just kept thinking, “This child is me.” My goodness.
Just like Kaitlyn, I have had to learn over the years not to say everything that pops into my mind. Just like this little girl, I’ve had to restrict myself from offering unsolicited advice just to “help”. It took many hard knocks to realize that people can’t be guilted or fussed into liking me or treating me the way I want them to. And I continue to love others exuberantly, sometimes upsetting their equilibrium; I’m always yearning for a deeper connection. Watching this adorable little girl is helping me accept and understand myself more. Despite her quirks and occasional bark, she is a pleasure and a joy to behold. Having patience with her learning curve of life deepens me and teaches me new things. I want to see myself and others in this exact same way. Maybe everyone should meet their real life inner child…