Last week my 5 year-old daughter had her first school performance. Her class had been studying insects and she was a praying mantis, who did a dance with a boy praying mantis and then bit his head off. She thought it was hysterical. And she was amazing. There were more performances than just her class, however. And the one that brought more tears to my eyes than any other was a series of little vignettes the dance teacher called “Mini-me dances.” In my daughter’s school they do a lot of pairing up of little kids with bigger “buddies” from older classes. The buddies have reading time together, game-playing time together, art and music classes together, and more.
For the mini-me dances, there were about 5 sets of girls — an older girl who was getting ready to graduate the elementary school and move on to middle school, and a little girl buddy who resembled her –and the two were dressed identically. The dance teacher explained to us that the little girl, as the mini-me, had spent the whole year with her older buddy learning from her, bonding with her, being brought into the school as a new kindergardener, being taken under the older girl’s wing. And now the older girl was getting ready to move on to middle school and was leaving the little girl in her place, passing on the torch.
Even writing this brings tears to my eyes. I started crying as soon as the dance teacher explained the dances and continued as the dances went on in front of me, bigger girl swirling little girl around the stage, flowers in their hair, big girl lifting little girl to soar up above her, little girl running and leaping into big girl’s hands, and finally, all the little “mini-mes” swirling on the stage together with their older girls, getting ready, after a year of being cared for and nurtured by these big girls, to take over the stage as the big girls moved on.
I’ve been thinking about the impact this performance had on me…and haven’t really been able to stop thinking about why it was so powerful and elicited such an emotional response for me.The dances brought up an intense sadness about who I had been as a little girl.
As a little girl I was lost. I was confused, depressed, intimidated, stressed, frightened and angry. There wasn’t much that was healthy and nurturing that I was interested in and I had a tendency, in desperation, to turn my anger and despair inwards. I can think of a few older girls that I looked up to and when they paid attention to me I emulated and followed them. Sadly, they had walked the same path that I was on and what they were doing involved early sex, drugs, and other self-destructive behavior. The girls I spent time with had absent or unstable parents, ran away from home, lived on the street. I spiraled downwards in their path and it took me many many years of healing to re-balance and find the place I had lost so early on.
What would my life look like if I had had even one healthy, loving and nurturing older girl as an example, to hold her hand out and teach me things, to encourage and exemplify healthy interests and activities, to take me under her wing?
Our culture swallows girls whole. Things are worse now then they were when I was young — now we hear about older girls in high school selling younger girls desperate for group inclusion into prostitution with college men. We hear about older kids giving younger kids free drugs to hook them and create clients. We hear about bullying that destroys lives.
In contrast the beauty of these 9 and 10 year-old girls loving the little 5 and 6 year-old girls, holding their hands and leading them through their first year of school, leading them in celebration of their bodies and small, sacred selves broke my heart — for every bit of that that I missed. And I realized that my reaction to seeing it — to the tears that trickled down my face, was that there was some healing still needed of MY inner little girl who was led only in self-destruction, the shredding and shrinking of myself, the hiding of my heart and the carnage of silencing my inner self.
In honor of this message that I’ve uncovered I’ve started writing a short note to myself almost every night from a wise older person –things that I want to hear, need to hear. Information for healing. Witnessing of the bravery I’ve shown in my own healing work, shout-outs and gratitude for accomplishments. And I sign them with fierce love to myself, from myself.
What messages did your inner child, your little you get as you were growing up? Were you nurtured, swung through the air, led to skip through flowers and climb trees? Were you treated as if you mattered? As if your very person was sacred? As if your ideas and feelings mattered?
And moving forwards, what messages does your inner child NEED to hear now? Write a letter to your little self telling it all the things that you wished you had heard back then…all the things that you wished someone older and wiser had been there to tell you.
Britt Bolnick supports women in connecting with all the ways we hide our inner selves, and guides them through the work of building big, brilliant, joyful lives that we love living!
Connect with her at www.InArmsCoaching.com, and sign up for her mailing list to receive more articles, tips, and exercises to support you on your heart-centered path.