Insights with Emily: Loving the child inside

Emily Salerno-Oswald

Lifestyle Columnist

Do you remember what you were like as a little kid? Were you care-free? Were you full of energy? Did you want to grow up to be a superhero? Or a princess? Did you like to run? Did you like to play? What was your favorite thing to do?

Maybe your childhood isn’t such a nostalgic topic to think about. Maybe when you were a kid, things weren’t so great. Maybe there were people in your life who you should have been able to depend on, but you couldn’t. Maybe, at times, you felt like a little adult — even though you were just a kid.

And maybe not. Maybe your childhood was wonderful. You look back on it with a fondness, wondering what ever happened to those days. Where has the time gone? Maybe you feel like, with your childhood passing, a piece of you was lost that cannot be gotten back.

Now, you are in the world of adulthood. A world of demands and obligations that makes no space for being a kid. A world of realities that sometimes come crashing down around you. If we don’t hold it all together, who will?

The fact is, we’re not kids anymore. Like it or not, we have to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and face it.

This is the message the world tells us.

It’s quite a harsh message, if I do say so myself.

But what if that kid who used to be there isn’t completely gone? What if that little boy or girl is more present in us than we admit?

Psychology tells us that who we are as kids shapes who we become as adults. The circumstances we are exposed to, the authority figures in our lives — all of this plays into the way we are shaped and formed, until we are all grown up one day.

Sometimes, there are needs within us that don’t get met when we are kids. The need for security, the need to know who we are, the need to be loved, the need to be kept safe. … Sometimes the people in our lives who we look to for these things fall short. We end up entering adulthood with a hole in our heart, which needed to be filled but never was.

When you’re a kid, you depend on others for nearly everything in life. What else can you do? No one has yet taught you how to function on your own. Some of us never receive that instruction and are left to figure it out for ourselves, as we go. Others receive certain provisions, but not others; or perhaps the provisions they do receive are provided in a flawed fashion.

As we grow, we learn to be more and more self-sufficient. Where other people failed us, we learn to provide. We learn to trust ourselves and keep everyone else at arm’s length. We become jaded and untrusting. We become cynical. We learn that things like vulnerability, trust, hope and letting people in are all recipes for disaster.

People have let us down before, and we are constantly on guard for when it might happen again, putting up defenses and protecting ourselves against emotional wounds. We don’t want the hurt that has happened before to repeat itself. We won’t be made a fool of again. We won’t be weak again. No, not if we can help it.

Is this what it is to be a “grown-up?” If so, why would anyone want to be a grown-up?

I propose that, in the eyes of God, none of us are grown-ups.

He is our eternal Father, and we are all his little children. He sees past all the facades we put up and straight to the heart of the little child in each of us who needs to be attended to. And he knows the exact way to satisfy the needs that are unmet in all of us.

So, maybe you look in the mirror and see the business woman, about to go into an interview. The woman who thinks that if this interview doesn’t go well, she is nothing. God sees the little girl who won his heart before she ever accomplished anything.

Maybe you see the man who is gearing up for a fight. The man who wonders, “If I’m not strong, then what am I?” God sees the little boy who puts on a tough face but actually wants to hide in a corner.

We all are little kids who have simply grown older. But to God, we remain his children forever. We can come to him with the vulnerability and reckless abandon that our adult selves would say is foolish and naive. But we can come to him that way anyway.

Because he is a good father, and he can be trusted more than anyone we have ever put our trust in before. Unlike our earthly family and friends who can be unpredictable or inconsistent at times, God shows up every time. We don’t have to worry about him leaving us orphans, because he never leaves us, period.

It’s so scary to believe that he won’t just drop off one day and leave us to fend for ourselves, like we’ve seen others do. But we must challenge ourselves to believe this. Or else we deprive ourselves of the most intimate and important relationship we could ever enter into.

God is not going to walk away from you, I promise — no matter how many times you’ve been walked away from before. Don’t let the people who have let you down keep you from putting your trust in God. Because that’s letting them win. That’s giving them way too much credit — credit they don’t deserve. God is not those people. Give God his due credit, and trust in him. Or if you don’t know how, then ask him to teach you how to trust him.

Saying “yes” to God is saying “yes” to him restoring the child-like joy you left behind, or better yet, letting him instill in you the joy you never had. Because all he wants, more than anything else, is to hold his little girl or little boy in his arms once again.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” – 1 John 3:1

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

“You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.” – Psalm 139:3

“He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.” – Psalm 40:2