I once saw a button that read: "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." I wondered how a person could have a happy childhood after the fact.
As the oldest girl in a family of six children, I felt my childhood was more of a "wanna be" experience. I wanted to be a mom to my younger siblings, and my mom certainly was grateful for the extra set of hands. Other events, including my parents' divorce, led to less than idyllic memories. The moments I was childlike, free from grown-up concerns, were few.
For some, childhood holds experiences that seem difficult, if not impossible, to reverse. There's a depth of sadness that follows them into their adulthood like a cloud. A snappy saying like "It's never too late" isn't enough.
In my case, I needed to recall and magnify the moments that were childlike and focus more on those times.
I immersed myself in a more carefree childhood by reading books about families and children. When I wanted to feel stability, harmony, and freedom from fear, I "found" my families within the books I read. I embraced my Marmee in "Little Women," by Louisa May Alcott, sat at dinner with the Austins in Madeline L'Engle's "Meet the Austins." I felt the joys of friendship in reading Arnold Lobel's "Frog and Toad" series.
Another inspiring avenue for changing childhood events from lemons into lemonade was presented at a week-long session on children's publishing. One author defined her work as a way to right all the wrongs in her past. Through her writing, she found courage to stand up for what she believed. As a child, she had simply gone along with the crowd, not wanting to be ridiculed. Through her writing, she could become the heroine she wanted to be.
These are two ways to start a journey toward a happy childhood. Turning to prayer is another way. In my prayers to God, I asked to be delivered from focusing on sad occasions and bring into my thought happy memories.
Soon I recalled small moments - making forts out of discarded delivery boxes, the smell of a new toy or book, picnics at the park. I thanked God for bringing these memories forward, and I felt less burdened by the other times.
A man in the Bible, Nicodemus, was told by Christ Jesus that he needed to be born again. Nicodemus wondered how a person could enter again into his mother's womb. Christ Jesus assured Nicodemus: "When you look at a baby, it's just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can't see and touch - the Spirit - and becomes a living spirit" (John 3:1-7, Eugene Peterson, "The Message"). Christ Jesus was telling Nicodemus to let go of material birth and death and think of himself as a child of God, a spiritual idea.
Like Nicodemus, we must first be willing to become so aware of our spiritual heritage that the material memories become more dreamlike and our awareness of sweet moments comes closer into focus, magnifying God's ever-presence and nurturing care. This may seem like a fantastic notion, but nothing is impossible to God.
The woman who founded this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote a brief biography of her own challenges. Near the conclusion of one section is this statement: "The human history needs to be revised, and the material record expunged" ("Retrospection and Introspection," page 22).
Each one of us is living proof that God exists and is our divine Parent. It is our right to be free from painful memories, to see human history revised as we become more aware of our heritage as His beloved children.
As you turn to God, His tender messages will help you wipe away the tears of the past and enable you to claim the joys of the present.
Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom
of God as a little child
shall in no wise enter therein.