Be who you needed when you were younger.

I took a picture of my youngest pestering her sister for attention by making kissy faces. This went on for some time – about 10 minutes. It made me laugh, because I saw myself reflected in that silly, persistent, joyful declaration of love and the desire to be loved back. She felt no shame in it. She just loves.

Her dad made an observation that was as pithy as it was mind-blowing: “She’s you, without the baggage. She’s who you could have been.”

Children are a frightening and awe-inspiring responsibility. Every newborn I’ve brought home has terrified me. They are wholly dependent on you, the adult in the room. At 46, I still don’t feel like an adult, and I know what it’s like to lose a child. The possibility of loss has become an impediment to every relationship I’ve formed since that day, and it is debilitating. I feel it with every child I’ve been fortunate enough to watch reach adulthood since.

Compounding this is the baggage I’ve carried since I was about 4 yrs old. It’s heavy and I hate it. I’d love to set it down.

Who would I have been, had my parents realized the gravity of their responsibility? Parents who’d accepted that pedophiles do not change? That there are things more important than familial harmony? My parents were wonderful in many ways, but my mother is a victim and my father’s weakness is loving my mother. His weakness cost me.

Who would I have been?

My inner child is a ghost. When she’s afraid, she masks it with anger. She becomes a poltergeist. I rip apart the people who love me, because I don’t believe them. They can’t love me; I’m not worth protecting. My adolescence was all anger and self-destruction. If our view of the world cements at around the age of 4, I’m fucked. There’s no way anyone can love me enough for me to believe I’m worth it.

My daughter isn’t me, but she has similar traits, and is blessedly free of the same baggage. It’s my responsibility to be the person my inner child needed – not that it will heal my hurt, but that it will prevent her from becoming this banshee. Parenting our children as if they’re our inner child is necessary to stop the cycle. Setting aside what hobbles us, so that they have the chance to become more.

A friend of mine noted that she has the same “laugh face” I do. She is joy. She’s radiant. I’m in awe of her. I want to love like she does – fearlessly, fiercely, completely. Instead, every time I get close, I panic and self-destruct.

But there’s hope for her. That’s really all I can do.

2 thoughts on “Be who you needed when you were younger.

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