A blog carnival is a collection of posts about a particular theme, gathered in one place. Several of the bloggers I read are survivors of various forms of child abuse, and one or more of them will post a link when the month’s carnival is ready. While I’m not a survivor of abuse, I sometimes read a post or two and usually find there’s a lot to relate to, considering my mental health history; it’s also enlightening, fostering compassion and respect for the survivors, known or unknown, among my friends, and there’s often also good food for thought as a parent.
This month, I just read one of the posts, by Marj AKA Thriver. It’s about working with your inner child. In general, I find myself somewhat sneering at that term — it seems so, sort of, sold out to the psycho-babblers. It reminds me of a cartoon where someone writes to an advice columnist saying “My inner child seems to be missing,” and the columnist replies, “Look for its picture on your inner milk carton.”
And yet, it can really be a helpful and worthwhile concept. I have to not think of my inner child literally, as if there’s a separate and distinct younger me living somewhere between my spleen and my stomach. I have to think of it more metaphorically — thinking about how wounds and other experiences from the past still influence the present self, and how the feelings and thoughts from those times can persist. If the painful moment was not metabolized well at the time, some attention to it in the present can bring healing that was missed before. And usually the healing work does need to be done in a way that the younger self would receive well — this is one of the reasons why just changing the way you think, or giving yourself a lecture, is not always deeply healing.
I find that I already do some of the things Marj discusses.
Singing is a great comfort to me, whether the trouble on my mind is some past hurt, or a spiritual snag (the two are often connected, even if only subconsciously), or some difficulty in the present. Playing dulcimer or another instrument can also be very comforting, especially at times when using my voice does not feel right — when I’m feeling inarticulate, or not able to affirm the lyrics of anything, and so on.
I also love to sit in a comfy place with an afghan, cup of tea, book, knitting, and / or the cat.
During my PPD hospitalization, Mark brought me some of Amy’s presents to open, and one contained the cutest pink stuffed lamb with a little rattle inside. I kept that for myself for quite some time. Likewise the kitty blankie (a blanket square with a cat’s head and paws sewn into the middle), when Amy lost interest in it. That one was especially comforting because a good friend made it for Amy. (I wish I remembered who gave her the lamb — I was diligent about writing thank you notes even in the midst of the PPD, but I forgot to write down for myself a list of who gave what.)
I love swinging. I can’t do very much, or go very high, because the Zoloft makes me a bit nauseated with that kind of movement. I would love to have a porch swing long and wide enough to lie down on, to swing horizontal and sideways, especially if someone or something would swing it for me. Sounds like I wish I had a cradle, eh?
Just being outside, or working with my hands, can be good. Something less mental and more heart / body oriented.
None of these things are failsafe for me, but all are helpful at one time or another.
Several of the commenters on this post talked about how they weren’t really allowed to be kids — no silliness, had to be serious, etc. That’s tough — it continues to be a challenge for me to accurately assess Amy’s maturity level and what appropriate rules and boundaries are for her.
She can’t be silly ALL the time, and while I don’t want to rush her, growing up in independence and maturity IS a major goal of parenting. But I also don’t want to squelch too much. I want to make sure she gets enough time for being silly and ridiculous and even loud. I want to make sure that she knows she’s allowed to be upset or angry or sad or afraid about anything, if that’s how she feels, and that it’s not my place to judge whether her feelings are valid. If it’s how she feels, it’s how she feels.
On the other hand, she needs to learn that there are more and less appropriate ways and times to act on and express her feelings. Mark and I are both getting especially tired of such patterns as top-of-the-lungs screaming when it’s time for bed or nap, and “I can’t — there’s too much!” when it’s time to clean up a lot of toys or a toy with a lot of parts. Or the persistent arguing with us when we ask her to do something. I don’t mind THAT much if she doesn’t cheerfully get up and do whatever we ask whenever we ask it — but I’d rather she didn’t feel the need to voice her displeasure every time, multiple times. We’re working on it all.
In the middle of reading over this before publishing, I thought about my hair. Amy has always enjoyed playing with combs and brushes — she tries to brush or comb her hair, or ours, and pretends to give haircuts. The other day I unbraided my hair to let her brush it, and it was glorious. I’d forgotten how much I love to have my hair brushed gently and attentively. Mmm. Did I enjoy that as a child, too? I remember nearly fainting with concentration and anxiety, trying to stand still while having my hair curled… and I remember the pleasure of having my hair washed in the kitchen sink… especially the sprayer held close to my scalp with that perfect temperature water… but I don’t remember brushing or combing much.