by Laura Forehand
Being a Mimi is one of the quintessential joys of my life. This season began with me four years ago with the birth of our first grandchild, Hollyn. About the same time, ironically, I began my deconstruction journey from church, religion, evangelicalism, and God. With that deconstruction came hours of focusing sessions with Dr. Paul Fitzgerald and hundreds of hours of real and raw conversations with my husband Karl.
Much of my focusing has to do with my inner child ~ the wounded part of me. I feel as though my work with my inner child began the day Hollyn was born. I don’t remember much from that day except when I first held her. It was the most surreal experience. I held her to my heart, and it was as if we melted together. There’s no other way to explain it. Since then, I have been able to marvel at the births of two more grandchildren.
All three present with their own beautiful personalities and joys. I connect with them on such a spiritual level. When they are with me, I am captivated by them; I am drawn into another realm of love and joy. It’s unexplainable, but the feeling is bliss. It is in the leaving that I find difficulty. When our time together is over; when it is the next day and the sleep overs are done; when mom and dad come back from their adventure and life must return to what it once was… I find separating from them leaves me with a heaviness almost too overwhelming for my heart.
In the earliest days of my spiritual deconstruction, I thought such emotions were ridiculous. This wave of melancholy was torturous. I didn’t want to feel it. There was a shame associated with it. Why did my grandchildren leaving, which was a ‘normal’ part of the visitation cycle, cause, what felt like, my heart to break? It has been a question I have been seeking the answer to for four years. It took a recent plane ride to Texas to see my sister to help me begin to dive deeper and perhaps begin to answer this question.
In the last 30 minutes of my flight, as I finished a book I had been reading for a few months, I began to think about this inner child work that was a part of me now. It was then a very real, very comforting idea engulfed my every thought. In that moment, I felt as if the answer to my question was revealed to me ~ each grandchild, in fact, represented a very real part of my own inner child. As I contemplated that, a flood of emotion and justification washed over me. Perhaps there was some deep truth here.
Hollyn is that part of me that is compassion, empathy, and a cautious spirit. She has a love for others that in unmatched and unwavering. She is a rule follower with a strong desire to do what is right. She is learning to take chances and do those things that once seemed scary. She is methodical and if given the time and space, will branch out and try something new. When I first met Hollyn and first held her, it was as if I was holding my younger self for the first time. No words were needed between us, but in my heart and mind I promised her I would always protect her; something I couldn’t do for my inner child for a very long time. Hollyn has helped me reconnect with my inner child in the most precious way. She has taught me how to love that part of me that I viewed as weak. She helped me realize that every part of me, my inner child included, is worth being held and beloved. That what I thought was weakness was in fact compassion, empathy, and a cautious spirit. These parts of me are not meant to be looked upon as a flaw or something that needed to change. Just as I want to cultivate those very qualities in Hollyn, I now want to cultivate in myself. I love that Hollyn represents that part of who I am.
Before Jackson was born, we knew there would be challenges. Diagnosed in utero with CMV, there are many health and physical complexities associated with such a diagnosis. Knowing the extent of these challenges is on-going. Jackson was born at slightly over 2 pounds. He would remain in the NICU for 2 months after his birth. I wasn’t able to hold him in the same way I was able to hold Hollyn. Yet, I was still able to hold him. It just looked different. As he lay in his isolate, I remember my daughter instructing me how to lay my hands on him and put gentle pressure on his body – no rubbing, stroking, etc. It was very deliberate. At that moment, however, I remember thinking I needed to have a bucket by my feet to catch my tears. Even as I write this, my eyes are welling up. It is still such a sacred, beautiful memory. Much like Hollyn’s, but also very different. Once again, my inner child was touched. Where as Hollyn’s birth showed me to importance of accepting my inner child, Jackson’s birth revealed the importance of sitting with my inner child and just feeling that gentle pressure of being held. I had neglected her for so long. Jackson reminded me that a gentle touch can offer a world of comfort. We don’t need to say a word. Our presence; our tears; our touch is all enough to let that wounded part of ourselves know that they are worthy. Truly, for me, nothing else matters. As Jackson has grown, there are still some things he can’t do in the same way or to the same extent as Hollyn. One of these is talking. It is in those quiet moments when we are together – he on my lap – me rocking him – that we are communicating at such a deep and profound level. He reminds me that some of the best care I can give him and my inner child is to sit and be present, offering a gentle touch, and be extremely intentional to simply be.
They always say it is amazing how two children from the same family can be so different. That is what I think when I see Sloane! She was born in 2020 when Covid was ramping up. We were not allowed to see her until she came home from the hospital, so my first encounter with her was completely different than her sister, Hollyn’s! While Sloane looks so much like her sister, everything about her personality is different. At first, she may stare you down to try to figure out who you are and what the heck you are doing in her personal space, but then, she let’s her voice be heard! She loves to ‘talk’ and scream… she is not afraid to let you know she is in the room and demands to be acknowledged! I love this about Sloane! I love her zest for life and her curiosity for everything and everyone around her. She is up for adventure, so I always have to be sure the dog food is picked up so she doesn’t decide to give it a test taste. Everything I love about Sloane is what I am working on discovering about my inner child. I am in process of discovering my adventurous side. I am learning, after 20+ years of ministry, to use my voice. A voice that speaks up for injustice and says, “I deserve to be here!” There is no doubt in my mind that Sloane has much to teach me as long as I am a willing student. I find myself wanting to be very much like her when I grow up!
I am extremely grateful for the things my grandchildren are teaching my inner child. Because of them, she is learning to be brave and a listener. She is learning that compassion and empathy are beautiful. She is learning that her voice matters, but so does her silence. My goal is to continue to observe, to learn, and to grow.
I honestly can’t wait to see how they will continue to reach down and teach the part of me they each represent.