Learning to Hug My Inner Child


Daniela Schwartz -Hug My Inner Child3

I was standing at the threshold of my home. My broken family had gathered. I hurt. I hurt with the pain that made me want to run from my body. The ache was so painful, I feared I would shatter into a million pieces. That was the first time in my life I knew I would never be the same. I was 10 years old.

My parents were separating. I was leaving my mother to live with my alcoholic, drug-addicted father. I always felt I was my mother’s keeper, my twin sister was my father’s. She was determined to go with him and take care of him, and the thought of being separated from the person I shared this earth with since conception was too much to bear. So I left my mom, my heart, to live 300km away in a small town with my dad’s family. That was the day my childhood began to end.

The next few months were hard and confusing for me. My father’s addiction had spun out of control and the closest person I had was my grandmother. We were living with my aunt and her family, but she was cold and unattached and for some reason did not like me, but loved my twin sister. It was weird.

It was okay though, because I had my grandmother. I could sit on the floor at her feet and listen to her tell stories for hours from her rocking chair. She had beautiful white hair and sparkling eyes. Then one morning she passed away from a stroke. I stood in her doorway feeling even lonelier. That was my second life-changing moment.

The death of my grandmother brought Mom to us. I was hopeful the nightmare was over and that we would all be together again, but when she left after the funeral, I knew things would never be the same. I was on my own.

When I was 11, my dad hit rock bottom. He took us down the river and sat us down and told us he was an alcoholic. Strangely, this shocked me. He then offered my sister and I a cigarette, which I smoked. I guess when your dad tells you he’s an addict, this makes you officially old enough to smoke cigarettes. We were sent to live with our mother while my dad tried to pull his life together. I was devastated to leave my dad; it felt like being ripped in half. I wanted to stay with my dad, but I was happy to be going home to my mom.

When I used to look back at these years of my life, I was flooded with regret and shame. I only saw my failures. Then the last few years something happened.

My son turned 10.
Then 11.
Then 12.

I began to look back at my childhood. I realized a 12-year-old is still a kid. I was still a kid. My perspective shifted and I began to replay these scenes in my head, seeing the kid.

I’ve healed these past years. I’ve grieved my lost years of innocence, but felt restored by seeing my kids have theirs. I’ve healed by giving them a safe, solid home to flourish in; by allowing them to enjoy childhood. I didn’t expect these years to have such an impact on how I would see myself. I didn’t expect the light to shine into the dark places of my heart. Slowly God points out the memories. I feel held in those moments. I now get the “Hug your inner child” cliche. I hug her often.

I look back at my life now and see my defining moments.

When I walked down the aisle on my dad’s arm (he has been clean for decades) to marry the love of my life.
When I became a mother.
When I saw my baby’s first smile.
When I decided to never love again
When I cracked my heart open to love.
When I hurt so bad, I was afraid I would break into a million pieces.
The day I met my Jesus.

These moments defined and shaped me. The ugly ones? Their colour is being transformed by the beautiful moments. I don’t see them the same anymore. Time is healing them. So I am going to live my days finding peace in unexpected places.

My parents did the best they could. They were so young, and came from hard lives too. Being older and seeing them as people—not through the lens of a child—I am able to understand why life played out like it did, and I’ve forgiven them. God gave me the grace to do that. He opened my eyes to life playing out around me and softened my heart. My journey with God has been like that. No “BAM, Hallelujah”moments. It’s always been the small steps, the awakened moments that eventually led to a radical transformation.


I grab my son’s hand as we drive. I know this will last for about 60 seconds. He’s at the age where separation is happening. No longer a child, not quite an adult. I steal my moments. I am raising a teen, which is crazy because I don’t know what being a normal teenager looks like. My teen years were some of the hardest years of my life.

As we pull up to stop, he lets go. I fight feelings of regret and nostalgia. The regret comes from the years I pushed him to grow up. I had been trying to prepare him, get him ready for what a hard life could bring. I am letting go of that now. We are safe.

He will have his defining moments in life, but for now, they look like scoring the winning shot in a close hockey game, shaving, graduating from middle school, going to high school. Exactly what they should be.

There will be broken hearts and disappointment, but as long as I am on this earth, I will be there for him.