Parenting is hard. Single parenting is extremely difficult. Single parenting with family-based trauma is borderline impossible. There are so many times I have wanted to stop a parenting moment in mid-stream, so I could research possible approaches on the internet. I don’t know what I would have done without the countless books, articles and Google searches that have taught me how to be a parent. I have come a long way in the past seven years. I’m much more patient. I am willing to apologize and admit when I am wrong (sometimes). I don’t spank. I yell significantly less. My children are not exposed to my dangerous biological family. They live a safe life. So safe that it might be too safe.
I am one of those helicopter parents. I have spent so few nights away from my children that I can actually count them on my fingers. My kids are not always with me because I work full time, but if they are under my care, I am close by. I don’t take my eyes off of them. They know they need to stay where I can see them. Up until recently, that was an acceptable parenting style. They were still relatively dependent on me. It really just looked like I was being a good, attentive parent.
Of course, that is starting to change. All of my parent friends say this next stage is the best. As a parent, you start to get your life back. They are becoming less dependent. They can do things on their own. They are not teenagers yet. I have to admit that I was looking forward to this stage. Now that it is here, I am petrified. I read a Huffington Post article yesterday and it reinforced the fears in the back of my head. The article was well-written, and I agree with the author, but I am not sure I am capable of allowing the freedom that my children will expect.
When my father would sell me, the transaction would be disguised as overnight babysitting or a sleepover. I spent so many nights at other houses, I am surprised that I knew what my own room looked like. Not surprisingly, the inevitable sleepover invitation terrifies me. When my children ask me to go to their first sleepover, I will probably throw up. I know that, as a parent of a healthy child, it would be wrong to say no. I am just not sure how to say yes. Of course, I know the parents of their friends. I trust them. But trauma doesn’t work like that. It isn’t logical.
Although I might be able to weasel my way out of the sleepover predicament somehow, there is no way to maneuver around the public bathroom visits, which were also a scene of attack when I was a child. I usually accompany my kids to the bathroom, even at 6 years old. No, I don’t go in the stall with them. I’m not that bad. Nonetheless, my kids have started to push back.
A week ago, I finally caved at the grocery store and let my daughter go in the bathroom by herself because her brother was enthralled with some random item just outside the door. We had been to this store chain many times, but for some reason, this location had arranged their men’s and women’s bathrooms opposite the other stores. After a moment had passed, I realized that I had just watched my daughter enter the men’s bathroom by herself. So what did I do? What would any sensible mom do? I threw open the men’s bathroom door of course. I found her coming out of the stall in a completely empty bathroom. If the bathroom had been occupied, she probably would have been escorted out of the bathroom by a perfectly nice man. However, as I said before, trauma is not logical.
I really want to be that free-range parent who lets their child explore the world around them in a magical, perfect way that leaves them with no chance of lifetime therapy. I am just not that person yet. I have to question every old belief pattern. I have to change my old comfortable habits. I will have to learn to live in a world that doesn’t look like my childhood. I will have to learn to trust that my children will be safe. If I don’t, the trauma is still in charge … and that is unacceptable.