I recently had a discussion about the “inner child” – the well-founded idea that there is a distinct part of us that is still the small child we used to be. In the concept of the inner child, our greatest joys and greatest fears arise from the child we used to be. What we loved then, we love even more now. What terrified us then still terrifies us.
I agree with this concept, except for the idea of “inner.” For me – and for most people I know – the child is right out there for everyone to see.
I am still that plain little girl vying for my share of attention – trying to find a bit of spotlight for myself in the shadow of an older sister who was clearly a genius and another older sister who was a talented – and funny – musician. Every time I write something or draw a little cartoon – I am the same little girl shouting, “See? I have skills! Look at me!”
And my husband is still the same asthmatic little boy who wants to be strong and healthy and independent. The boy who can fix a car and a furnace and anything else. The boy out chopping wood right now with a neighbor who is at least 20 years younger.
And then there’s my friend who is traveling by herself to the exotic places that she used to circle on maps in the family encyclopedia.
My cousin whose Christmas cards reflect the awe he found more than 50 years ago, when seeing the stars through his first telescope.
The coworker at my previous employment who became paralyzed at the thought of any decision-making – “What if I am wrong?”
No – most of us do not have to get in touch with our inner child. We are still the blatantly the children we have always been. It is the adult that we only see glimpses of now and then.
These moments of adulthood are often attached to milestone events – getting our driver’s license, becoming a parent, the first time you file your tax return. Oh dear, you think, I seem to be an adult.
But it doesn’t last. Soon you are back to the elation of setting off firecrackers and the misery of your boss’s (i.e., parent’s) wrath, and hoping your friends will still like you after than dumb thing you said.
Sometimes the glimpse of the inner adult happens with small events too.
I was nineteen the very first time I felt like an adult. I was commuting to college and still living at home, in my twin-bed bedroom with the bright green walls, my brother in the next room building model airplanes and my mother making dinner.
I needed a new bathrobe, and I went to the department store. There were tons of pink and aqua fuzzy bathrobes. There was chenille and there was flannel. There were big pom-pom buttons and head-to-knee zippers.
But there was one bathrobe that stood out. Black. It was a floor-length wrap-around velour robe. With a leopard print shawl collar. I put that bathrobe on over my bell-bottom jeans and love beads. And I was transformed. I was a woman.
I came downstairs to breakfast the next morning, fully expecting either reprimand or ridicule from my mother. She said nothing.
And I wore that bathrobe for the next thirteen years. I wish I had it now.
I could use just a bit of adulthood right at this moment.