Through the Eyes of a Child by Later in Life Mother Liimu McGill
You’ve seen your toddler fall down while playing. What happens next?
Sometimes kids barely notice when they fall. A tumble that might look scary to you doesn’t phase them—they bounce right back up and keep going.
Sometimes they look to you for a reaction. If you stay calm, they realize they’re not hurt, but if you get upset, they cry.
And sometimes, kids cry right away. This especially happens if they’re already tired or cranky. So, you comfort them, check them for injury, and encourage them to play again. They may need some hugs and sympathy, but you know that playing and learning takes some falls.
When our children are young, they look to us for how to react to objects and situations. Psychologists call this social referencing. Dr. Tovah Klein, Director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development, puts it this way:
“When a parent gets very upset, or overreacts—often out of a parent’s own fear or anxiety—the child feels that too, and can get more upset. The parent is the one who helps the child regulate their emotions. So if the adult’s reaction is high, the toddler brain registers more anxiety or negative emotion, rather than a message of comfort and care.”
Of course, if your toddler actually gets hurt, even if it’s just a tiny boo-boo that needs the smallest Band-Aid, you take care of them. Klein says the most important thing, no matter how your child reacts to the spill, is letting them know you are there for them. “If a child falls down and gets hurt, the child needs comfort. Comfort gives them the message that when hurt… they will be cared for; they are not alone.” Knowing that they’re supported can give them the confidence to keep exploring and enjoying the world.
Little ones are remarkably resilient, if we don’t over- or under-react. If we remain calm and reassure them through minor bumps and obstacles, they’re ready to go before you know it. The next time they run or climb, they don’t worry about that fall. Instead, they’re excited to play again.
Watching my children at that age, I saw how they viewed each experience as a new opportunity for fun and finding out how powerful they are. Their ability to let go of the past stumble allowed them to face challenges and learn with an amazing sense of joy!
Now here’s a radical question: what if you treated yourself the same way?
If you’re like me, sometimes you feel resilient, and sometimes you don’t. Like a kiddo who needs a nap, some setbacks can feel way worse when I’m already tired from a long day or a rough patch.
When that happens, I remind myself that, as adults, we can play both the parent and the child for ourselves. When you face a hurt or trauma, it’s easy to get frustrated or scared, especially if you didn’t feel supported when you were little, yourself. But that’s when you remind yourself that you can take a moment to acknowledge your hurt and comfort yourself.
How? First, take a breath and try to really observe what you’re feeling. Can you remember what it was like to be a wounded or startled child? Do you have any of those feelings deep inside you, now? Can you imagine and picture how little you would like to have been treated when that happened?
Rather than trying to push the feelings away, let yourself feel the surprise, sadness and fear that come up. As the saying goes, sometimes the only way out is through. By acknowledging our hurts and hesitations, we allow our brain and body to process them. When we hold onto hurt and fear from trauma, instead, we stay scared that something bad will happen again. That fear can turn into a feeling that holds us back in all kinds of situations, even when we don’t consciously know why.
I learned this the hard way. For many years, I tried to dull feeling sad, angry, or scared with drugs and alcohol. Eventually, trying to escape my trauma led to living in my car, being institutionalized in a mental hospital, and going through rehab.
To move through recovery and get sober, I needed to learn to face my feelings and get the help I needed, while building up my ability to support and nurture myself. I had to be the kind, present parent to myself that my mother and father couldn’t always be. Even decades later, I am still learning and practicing how to acknowledge the reactions and feelings that upset me in a way that makes my inner child feel listened to and comforted, but encourages her to leave minor hurts behind and enthusiastically join the next game that excites me.
So, what can you do when you feel blocked by fear from trauma? What if, even worse, you associate a past trauma with something you enjoy or want to do? What if, for example, you gave up singing because someone criticized your voice, or feel too anxious to apply for a new job after getting fired? When you’re still holding on to the pain of falling, you start to imagine every bump in the road will trip you up.
Here’s when you can remember one of my favorite sayings:
Past experience does not equal future results!
You have the power to affirm that feeling upset is human at any age, but you can and will recover from it. The trauma was just that one circumstance. Let yourself feel the scared kid inside, then assure that little one that you are a unique, loved creation of the universe, and that so much good is happening and will happen for you. You will be okay. After all, you’ve already made it through all the other worst days in your life!
When you feel a little calmer, reassure yourself about the current situation that’s got you down. For example, if one job lets you go, that doesn’t mean that the next job will be unstable. In fact, maybe by forcing you to leave that job, the universe made room for a new, incredible career for you!
Sure, as later in life mothers, we can get tired. Sometimes it can be hard to see the positive when we’re worn down. It can even feel like the only reason we keep going through hard times is for our kids. But I believe that one of the greatest things we can do for our children is to live the example of not just persevering when things get tough, but loving and supporting ourselves enough to keep reaching for our biggest dreams. After all, if children gave up every time they slipped, how would they ever learn to walk?
So, the next time you face a challenge that reminds you of a past fall, remember the beautiful, pure kind of faith children show when they get up from a tumble and joyously take off again. Imagine seeing it as a new opportunity through a child’s eyes. What if this time you didn’t fall, but you flew?
Liimu McGill is a visionary, entrepreneur, writer, speaker, singer and mom.
After facing challenges like being broke, addicted, living in her car, and experiencing a mental breakdown, she managed to get sober and built a life as a successful businesswoman with a happy marriage and thriving kids. Still, in 2007, Liimu realized she was stuck in a soulless corporate job. Determined to change, she began journaling, detailing how her ideal life would look. This led to her book, The MomStar Manifesto, and the MomStar methods, including Writing Your Next Chapter.
As the mother of four young children, Liimu knew she was setting an example for them. By developing the MomStar methods, she built a multi-million-dollar business and did a star turn on NBC singing for nearly 10 million viewers. In 2017, she began teaching the MomStar methods via speaking engagements, workshops and her solo stage show, “MomStar: From Madhouse to Malibu.”
Liimu is also the creator and star of the independent reality YouTube series, “The Making of a MomStar.” She lives in Southern California with her husband and kids.