On my blog entry entitled Overprotective Parenting after Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:
I have two children and shortly after they were born, the affects of the abuse I endured and witnessed, came crashing back to the surface. I found that I could not return to work as I could not fathom the idea of someone else caring for my child, and inflicting potential harm. It would leave me literally ill at even the thought. Now that they are older, I am trying to find that balance, but it is causing me to be so conflicted. I want to give my daughter (11) the social relationships she needs, but still have not been able to allow her to sleep over at another friend’s house. I let her friends stay here, but when the question comes up for her to stay elsewhere, I freeze. The boy (9) has stayed at a friend’s house, but only because the family is a close friend of my husband and trusted. I know no girl’s her age where I know the parents well enough to let her go. She is increasingly distant from me because of my overprotective nature and I know things need to change, but I just don’t know how to take that first step. ~ SH
I have been thinking about how much I have changed in regards to my overprotectiveness. I think that part is due to therapy, but a larger part is due to my own childhood experience.
My abuse started when I was a toddler at my mother’s hand. Things got much, much worse when I reached school age (around age six) as my mother made my sister and me available to a “cult,” which I now recognize as being a child pornography and prostitution ring. My elementary school years were very, very hard.
My family moved away right before my 11th birthday, and the severe abuse ended. I did experience sporadic abuse after that, such as when S&L, family “friends” who were my most sadistic abusers, would come by for a visit and a “reminder” not to tell. However, the ongoing severe abuse ended by age 11.
My son is 10-1/2, and his 11th birthday is just around the corner. As he nears his 11th birthday, I am finding myself letting down my guard and being much better able to let him be a kid and take some “risks.” I let him spend the night on a newer friend’s husband’s watch while the friend and I went out of town for the weekend. They have three children – two who are school-aged – and the 11-year-old daughter is one of my son’s best friends. I cannot imagine doing that a year ago, but I felt comfortable with it today. My son called me regularly to check in and say hi. He had a wonderful weekend and would very much love to do it again.
I have also given my son permission (at his initiative) to try a residential (sleepover) week of summer camp next summer when he is 11-1/2. He only wants to do it if his best friend will as well, and I have confirmed that the camp will ensure the boys get to room together. He has attended the summer camp as a daily camp for three summers now, and he LOVES it! The camp also has a residential program, and the residential kids get to participate in activities exclusive to them. My son feels ready to take the leap. A year ago, I would have said, “Hell no!!” Today, it makes me a little nervous, but I trust that he will be OK.
I think part of this change in me is that I know that my son has passed my own “danger years.” Yes, I know he could be abused today, but a one-time incident of abuse at age 11 doesn’t have the power to damage him to the degree that I was damaged. I still want to keep him safe and protected from child abuse, but I can also rest in knowing that I have done my job. It is no longer possible for him to experience enough severe and ongoing abuse to shatter him into dissociative identity disorder (DID).
My son is also not me, and I am not my parents. My son knows who he is. He is not afraid to stand up for himself, and he is nobody’s victim. He is on a different path from me, and he is old enough now for me to recognize that he is not an extension of the abused me – he is his own person. I am also able to recognize that I am partly responsible for this. I did my job, and I have raised a kid to age 10-1/2 who is confident and not a victim. I have broken the family legacy of abuse. It ended with me!
Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt