Being an adult is not all it’s cracked up to be. When I was a kid, what got me through boring homework, rainy summer vacations and not enough birthday cake was the thought that someday in the not-so-distant future–after college and a sensible career commitment–I’d be set adrift in those pleasant, calming waters of adult decision-making and total control. There, I’d be able to pursue short-term goals, such as the amount of candy consumed and appointed bed times, as well as long-term objectives, which I believed would revolve around earning oodles of money and sharing clever witticisms with a worthy partner of the opposite sex.
It hasn’t worked out that way. Somewhere along the road of lustful adolescence and gung-ho college I lost my inner child and replaced it with a golden oldie. My adult persona can’t seem to handle the freedoms that my inner child longed for. It’s like being locked in a Tootsie roll factory and not knowing how to remove the wrappers to get to the good stuff.
Obviously I needed to get in touch with my inner child. But how? I already had donated my library of 100-plus self-help books to the Visiting Nurses Association. And I wasn’t currently enrolled in any psych course at the local college.I didn’t have the foggiest notion how to return to the good ole days of Bobbie sox and weekend pajama parties.
So where was I to turn? Of course I could always call up my neurotic best and oldest friend, Tina, and ask her–she usually knew the latest in fad mental health strategies–but something told me that Tina would not be helpful here. Tina wasn’t so much an expert on her inner child as she was an expert on her inner wacko–the girl had not only taken every drug known to man, but she had sampled from the Schmorgasbord of Unsavory Stuff. Two abortions, a car wreck, one divorce and one house fire: she was still shoveling in yucky food bites. No, she wasn’t the best person to consult about recapturing a youthful joy and blissful innocence.
This time I would have to bite the bullet, bear the pain, and figure out for myself how to tease out the whimsical, spontaneous remnants of that fun-loving second grader I used to be.
So when spouse decided to skip town for a few days and vacation in Louisville and Nashville, I decided this would be a great opportunity for introspection and a solitary search for the child within.
The first 24 hours was a bust. Although I made a decent first start by couch potato-ing with a Harlequin novel and working my way through a quart of Signature Real Vanilla ice cream, I couldn’t seem to work up the momentum for anything authentically juvenile. I considered telephoning a woman friend I palled around with, but I knew she was even more estranged from her inner child than I was. She couldn’t even buy a pound of salt water taffy without feeling a quickening of guilt: Should she brush her teeth and floss after every piece or was it just better to flush the candy down the toilet and eat the wrappers?
To make matters worse she actually ate healthy, combining yogurt and probiotics into a nutritious breakfast at least three times a week. Once in a while she skipped her webmed-recommended diet and just had one lone cookie with coffee, but still, that wasn’t anything to brag about. Now if she were downing a glass of whole milk with chocolate syrup, that would be something to write home about, but she never even got close. Never even bought a package of straws.
No, there was no one to call to brainstorm a childlike or childish activity. I suppose I could run around the backyard for a half hour–no wait, 15 minutes tops–with the three schnauzer pups currently sleeping on their comforters, but what would be the use? I would be pretending to act like a child, not really fulfilling a deeply felt wish. And I would be exhausted and risking respiratory distress.
I was running out of ideas. Fast. I knew I had to do something quickly or my inner child–if it weren’t already dead and buried beneath several layers of worry and anxiety–would hightail it out of the building. So I did something I haven’t done in 30 years. I watched an animated film. On Netflix And guess what? I was so impressed with the technological advances in cartoon land that I didn’t give my inner child a chance to just sit back, relax and be entertained.
I’m all grown up with nowhere to go!