by Christina Enevoldsen
I could never take a vacation for more than four days. I didn’t understand how people could be happy just “wasting time” or how they could prefer fun and games over tangible results. Hard work was my fun.
It was frustrating when my son and daughter were young and I tried to get “important” things done while they wanted me to watch their new ball-catching skills or to admire their fingerpainting.
As they got a little older, I learned that good parenting required nurturing a child’s emotional needs, which meant “entering into his or her world”. I really wanted to be a good mother, so I did my best to engage in play, to enjoy the moment. But all the time, I watched the clock and thought, “I wonder if they’ve had enough”.
In their teen years, it was easier to relate to my children and enjoy our activities together. By then their interests were more serious and adult-like.
I was also learning the balance between work and play for my own benefit. I adjusted my schedule in an attempt toward balance, but recreation was stressful; my thoughts drifted back to, “I wonder if I’ve had enough.”
My children are grown now, but a few months ago a friend expressed the challenges of balancing her role as a mother of children still living at home and working toward her goals.
I felt relieved that I didn’t have that challenge anymore. In the midst of that thought, a little girl’s voice interrupted me, “I’m still here.” I immediately knew it was my inner child. I still had a small child at home.
On my healing journey from childhood sexual abuse, I’ve been very aware of my inner child. She was the one exposed to adult experiences and left with the adult responsibility of protecting herself. She never got a childhood. She was never allowed to express herself.
Her pain, fear and anger still awaited expression, but so did her playfulness. Part of my healing is to nurture her—nurture that stifled part that missed the carefree abandon of play and the wonder of discovery. Her little voice was tugging at my skirt, reminding me of her presence, asking me to consider her needs.
One of my greatest sources of pain is to know how many times I turned down invitations to play with my children. Finally listening to my own inner child, hearing her longing, gave me some idea of how much it must have hurt them.
Even so, I knew if I could go back to change things, I was still the same person I was then–driven toward accomplishment. My years of attempting balance didn’t do anything to relieve me of this inner struggle. I was way overdue to confront whatever it was that was keeping me there:
I saw myself as a two-year old. My parents were caring for my infant brother and I needed something. They laughed at me and said, “Do you think you’re the only one who matters? You’re not the center of the universe.”
I felt shame for needing. My parents’ response told me I didn’t matter. Since I didn’t matter, I had to do something so people would want me. I needed to produce tangible results to prove I was important. It became the way I earned my right to live on the planet.
My parents may not have filled my needs, but I’m not bad for having needs. No matter how I am treated, I am important. My value doesn’t come from anyone else; their opinions don’t change my value. My value does not go up or down based on what I do. I am valuable because I exist.
Knowing that truth released the kid in me. I’m liberated to have fun and be silly. Now I’m happy to cooperate with my inner child and provide her the playful expression she never had. I play Charlie’s Angels at the store with my friend. I give in to spontaneous urges to jump on the bed or spin across the room or doodle in my coloring book or make up funny endings to classic stories. Fun is FUN!
How about you? Have you reconnected with your inner child? Please comment below. Remember to subscribe to the comments so you don’t miss any of the discussion. You can post anonymously and email addresses are kept private.
I’m Christina Enevoldsen and I’m the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse and the author of The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. I’m a Strategic Interventionist and Certified Professional Life Coach with a specialty Life Story Certification. As a survivor of incest, sex trafficking and a 21-year long abusive marriage (now remarried to an emotionally healthy, loving and supportive man), I bring personal experience, empathy, and insight as well as professional training to help childhood sexual abuse survivors thrive.