Did you grow up, or did you grow in? I sat in the park the other morning feeling a bit sad, trying to figure out my day and realizing how overwhelmed I am with the list I created. You know – the dreaded “To Do” list.

As I thought about it, I grew more and more anxious. Then, I heard a child laugh. I automatically smiled, not even seeing the child, but just by hearing the laughter. At that moment, everything went out of my mind. I continued to smile and exhaled. I turned and looked at the child. He lay at the top of a small hill at Juniper Park, getting ready to roll down. I remember how simple life used to be, as I watched him roll down, turning and spinning freely. It made me laugh and think. Nowadays, the only spinning I did was in my mind. How sad. I realized at that moment what I was missing. The child within me. The child who laughed no matter what.

What is the Inner Child? The Inner Child is the little child you used to be, who wanted to be loved and played with. He is emotional, creative and sensitive. She is imaginative, fun-loving, playful. He is the child you were forced to mold, and structure and organize and ultimately, for most of us, stifle, as adult life became more important.

Your Inner Child is the person within you who was happy and joyful. He is the person who used to scribble with crayons in coloring books or paint on big sheets of white paper, not a care in the world. She has always been there, from the moment you were born until today. Any fond memory you have of your past childhood is your Inner Child speaking through memories. But for most of us, our Inner Child has unfinished business, either because we were forced to grow up too fast, or because we grew up anyway, and there was simply no room for that child to grow along with us, so we left her behind. But he still haunts us. She still wants to come out and play sometimes, but because our lives are so hectic, he continues to be stifled and stuffed into the back of our mind’s closets, forgotten and abandoned.

Part of the reason the Inner Child retreats is because there were things she needed to hear but didn’t. Things like “I love you,” “I accept you the way you are,” “I am proud of you,” “You are beautiful,” “I am sorry I neglected you,” “I am sorry I ignored you,” “I am sorry I made you grow up so fast.” These are just a few of the things she wanted to hear, but didn’t. So he hid.

But it’s not too late to draw her out, to rebuild his sense of self. There are things you can tell her every day to nurture this child and help him become a significant part of your life again. Here are just a few of them:

☺ It’s okay to be “selfish” and take time out of your adult schedule to do things you want to do.

☺ It’s okay to associate only with people you want to associate with, and not those people who drag you down.

☺ It’s okay to give and accept love from others.

☺ It’s okay to take time to play and enjoy yourself every day, even if just for 10 minutes.

☺ It’s okay to cry, to feel hurt and feel anger, as long as you share your feelings and not turn them inward to fester.

☺ It’s okay to let your imagination free to explore the possibilities.

So, if you want to spend your Saturday morning at the park, sliding down the slide and swinging on the swings instead of dusting your house, it’s okay. Do it. Set up a “play date” with your Inner Child. Take her to a museum, or the park or the movies. Enjoy “me” time with him. Try to do something every day to nurture her, to show her that she is accepted in your adult life, and that you cherish him and love him and accept him. Do it, because it is important. Because your Inner Child is important in your life. She is who you were before life got in the way.

I sat there thinking of the little girl who lost so much in her life, whose innocence and child-like ways were taken by sorrow and fright. But I buried that and kept laughing and smiling, reluctant to give up loving my Inner Child. I realized that, growing up, I had an insight to my Inner Child all along, and worked hard to keep her happy and alive. I skated, I danced, I laughed. I rode my sled in the winter snows.

As I near 50, I find that my Inner Child has receded somewhat; she isn’t available to play much anymore. It’s become more work to draw her out, but I still knock on her door and make her come out. I still try to laugh. I go out and “play in the snow.” I go to the beach and enjoy the sun and waves.

Look in the mirror, to the little boy who became a man, the little girl who grew into a woman, and say “I love you” and “It’s okay”. Take just a little time every day to ask your Child to come and play with you. It will do you a world of good.

So, what happened after the boy rolled down the hill? The child left with his mother. I sat for a moment on the bench, then stood and walked to the top of the hill and rolled down and laughed like that boy when he got to the bottom. I stood up and brushed the grass off my pants (and I realized at the same time that I was brushing away my adult anxieties and worries) and laughed again. I knew everything was going to be okay and that all the things on that list would, sooner or later, get done. But first, my child had to play for a bit.

What do you think? Do you have story you want to tell us? Write in and let us know what you feel or what you do to play every day. You can email us at mcan1028@aol.com.