On my blog entry entitled Changes in Overprotectiveness Based on Your Own Child Abuse History, a reader posted the following comment:
Most of all, I worry about handing on negative behaviours to my child, because of the lack of role models to show me appropriate ways of behaving (though I do try). I also worry about the impact of my PTSD, with periods when I am very preoccupied by memories, or depressed, or feel shameful and angry. I know I do my best and love my young child, and actually his presence is the main motivation for me to heal stronger, he guides me. ~ A x
I, too, have struggled with the fear of how much my history of child abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms affect my parenting. I love my child with all of my heart and don’t want to hurt him. I want to keep him safe and would do anything to keep him safe.
In fact, when I first entered into therapy and learned that I had dissociative identity disorder (DID) and “lost time,” I told my therapist that I would commit suicide to protect my child from me if I discovered that any part of me was hurting him. My therapist assured me that my passionate desire to protect my child told him that I was not capable of hurting him – I would never do something so fundamentally against my own value system.
There is no question that my history of child abuse colors my parenting. In most situations, though, I don’t think it is a bad thing. For example, I don’t let my child have a sleepover unless I trust the parent(s). To me, that is being smart, not overprotective. He does have sleepovers at his three closest friends’ houses, so he is not missing out on anything.
I never learned how to process emotions as a child: I had to learn how to do this as an adult through therapy. I model the healthy expression of emotions and explain to my son how to do it. I don’t impose my own likes and dislikes on my son – I give him the freedom to explore his own interests, which is something that was denied me as a child. I remember how it felt to be treated like X, so I make sure I give my son the room to be his own person.
There have been times when I have worried that having me as a mother might harm him in the sense that he has seen me banging my head when triggered, etc. I decided early on to pay for anything therapy he might need as a teenager or adult that is a result of any of my actions.
What I have grown to learn, though, is that parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. Parenting is not defined by one moment, such as the moment of my son walking in on me banging my head on a pillow. Our relationship is defined by the hundreds of thousands of moments we have had together, most of which have been positive.
I also talk openly with my son about how everyone has problems and that everyone can benefit from seeing a “talk doctor.” He knows that when I had a rough summer, I started seeing my “talk doctor” again. My son sees his own “talk doctor” (a child psychiatrist) to prescribe his attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication. He knows that it is OK to talk about how he is feeling and what is going on in his life. He also knows that if he cannot talk to me, there are other adults in his life who love him that he can talk to.
I have had moments of feeling sad for my son for having “damaged” me as a mother, but I have come to realize that he is actually blessed because he has me. As a child, I had no one other than my baby sister, and it wasn’t her job to be my parent. My son has **me** — a mother who loves him unconditionally, who enjoys his company, and who supports him in being the man he is growing up to be, no matter where that journey leads him.
Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt