To this day, the toddler reminds me who the boss is. Attending a Slipknot concert at 4 months gestation, she mirrors the very fearlessness I exhibit today. Her first word was no. In fact, when I went to drain the tub before she was ready to get out of the bath, she turned to me and pointed her stubby little baby finger and said with all her might, “No! Mooooooom. NO.” I laughed and laughed, and then I prayed.
That’s also not a good thing in some situations. A healthy amount of fear would have kept me out of some precarious places in life. However, you can’t practice what you weren’t taught. So, I do my best, live, and learn from the many mistakes I’ve made throughout life. While I had excellent people radar, I had terrible common sense for other things.
Having been dis-empowered as a child and literally, everything controlled, I had zero idea that I actually had the ability to stand up for myself. Over-correcting by age 20, I pushed people away through building walls of anger and pain. Both mental states were miserable.
You only lose your power if you give it away.
I repeatedly say in my practice that it’s not the trauma event that’s actually so traumatic; it’s the aftereffects. Not being believed, told to get over it, told that you are lying, being shamed for speaking out, and having those very people that are supposed to give you a healthy start to life be the ones to outright shame any aspect of your identity is way more damaging than the physical trauma. Physical wounds heal. The psychological effects of abuse last a lifetime. Shame will kill people. It keeps addicts locked into their drug use, alcoholics sick. The helplessness and hopelessness learned in dysfunctional families leads to suicide; one for roughly every 19 minutes that pass. In this setting, a person learns this way of being that exists through the reaction of the judging ways of others. It becomes second nature to lose yourself and to people please your way into some very dangerous relationships. I figured a solid middle in late adulthood after entering recovery.
This all factors into my parenting. My husband and I work together to solidly lead our familial cir(cuit)(cus). So when the opportunity for life lessons, I take time to sit with my daughters and explain not only the situation but also a healthy reaction with both strategic skill and confidence building, along with methods to cope. I promise them nothing of the mirage that life is always butterflies and unicorn farts, or that their prince charming will come someday and rescue them. They don’t even know who Barbie is. They know to make it in this world, they will have to mostly depend on themselves and each other (we strongly encourage sibling peace, love, and respect).
So recently, a situation presented itself through the form of a teaching professional that they were intensely scared of. While I listened often to them discuss stories of someone that ruled through fear and intimidation, I also allotted a lot of room for eight-year-old imagination and feeling. However, this all changed when they came home one day and told us they were forced to be in a videotaped advertisement for their school’s promotional launch. I about lost my ability to stay empathetic.
We have signed waivers to keep them from these school recordings. Very purposefully, I keep their identities discreet. So when I asked if the teacher knew about this, they replied they informed her and they were told they had no choice.
My very sense of fear and pain fused with anger. Having been told throughout childhood that I had no choice, this heightened sense of protection. I watch as my parents violated others’ boundaries and used people for their own physical, financial, or sexual gain by taking what they wanted and giving no one the ability to decide for themselves through informed relationships. All alarm bells rang. This is the one very thing my children will never be told. So, I made a call.
The principal and I played phone tag for a good week. While informed they would not be in the video after this week, I asked the teacher to talk to my girls and apologize, correcting the fact they were told they did have a choice and they were right for bringing this to everyone’s attention. She said she would.
Fast forward a week later, I checked with my daughters. No such discussion took place. Along with other distresses this year has brought, their sense of safety has dwindled in this class. I often hear about how scared of this instructor they are. We receive stories for justification for why she is angry.
It was time to make a change.
People endure rough times. I am usually lenient. However, this shit becomes personal, when my children are so deeply affected that fear rules their day. There is no room for oppression, and no excuse will ever make that okay.
We had a nice chat with the principal in person. They changed classes. End of story. I would not accept less. The teacher ended up apologizing the very day I said that lying is not befitting for a leader of little minds. The girls are already back to their bright selves, beaming with creativity and love for everyone and everything. Their light went dim for 7 months. And while this time they witnessed me get extremely angry and defensive for them, I talked to them constantly about what is and is not appropriate for similar situations. Anger is a useful tool for change when harnessed in effective ways. While they do need to adhere to those in charge and be respectful to their instructors, they should never feel unsafe or made to feel they have no ability to get out of any situation. We talked about the next time this occurs, and how to protect themselves. They always have choices, and no one will ever take that from them. And, nobody fucks with my daughters.
History will not repeat itself.
At least, not while I am alive. While the monsters are gone living in other states, intergenerational trauma ends its ugly head here. These girls know just how much power they have, and that they are equal to their peers. We do not run an in-house democracy because they need guidance and direction, not best friends. However, as they enter adulthood, they will take those reins.
For now, as the youngest proceeds to run around and let everyone know exactly what is hers- everything, and howls at the moon with our dogs, I am not worried. Her view is that the world is mine. And, that is okay. Yes, it is dear. The world is yours.
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