Have Trauma, Will Hover

Restrooms 4

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.

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37 thoughts on “Have Trauma, Will Hover

    • It is almost impossible to hide my energy from my kids. They are so perceptive to energy in general. I just have to ground myself a lot and question any thoughts that seem panicked.

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  1. It makes so much sense why you need to keep your children close-by.
    In time, you will hover with a little more distance. Try not to be too hard on yourself, too me it looks like you’re doing an amazing job. ❤

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  2. I still panic if my son needs to go to the bathroom when Mark’s not with us. He’s 9 and not in anyway interested in going into the women’s bathroom with me. Even those of us who had wonderful childhoods fear what we have seen happen to children across the country. I’m mortified to know we live in such a scary place. Though I get scared, I’m certain your level of panic is probably near nuclear level…if you could never trust those who were meant to love you most, how could you trust your child if he or she bumps into a stranger in the bathroom? I think a panic attack is an acceptable reaction. 🙂 I really think it’s great you have them in martial arts (at least I know your son is- mine is too). Teaching them how to defend themselves will make you feel more at ease. But let’s work on putting some meat on their bones. 🙂
    You are doing a great job, Elisabeth. You are so aware of what is best for those two beautiful munchkins and trying to hard to be strong. I, too, am trying to loosen my grip and give him a bit more freedom. But I do have short, panicky breaths throughout those times, too!

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    • Thank you Kelly for all of your supportive words. I get the impression that this is not an uncommon feeling. I think it just travels a continuum depending on circumstances.

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    • Thank you so much for sharing this. Of all that I discuss on this blog, the parenting topic is my most passionate and vulnerable. I just don’t think anything matters much more than my efforts with my children.

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      • Agreed. I firmly believe that how we are with our children (and how they thrive as a result) is an outward demonstration of our healing and healthiness. And although healing is a process and parenting is definitely a process, they are not mutually exclusive, and both can benefit from, develop, and drive the other forward.

        I know that I have learned to “let go” and have felt much freer to be me because of my children. They are instruments of healing when I choose to not let my past define my parenting.

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  3. I also hover over my kids. Parenting is so incredibly rewarding, yet stressful, as my guard has shot up even more than where it was before kids (and it was high to begin with). I’m suspicious of everyone. I cry really easily, if I’m frightened about something. When the normal reaction would be mild concern, I hit the roof with stress-based fear.
    My kids and I have annual passes to our local museums, which should be great, except I was violently assaulted by a stranger in a children’s museum on a field trip. I was 11. A few other girls were assulted, too. We had been jumped by a group of teenagers (?). The teacher cleaned me up. No one called the police. The assailants got away. We were instructed to tell our parents. I came home and told my mom, who regarded me in a dull manner and announced, “Spaghetti for dinner?” I got in trouble for never wanting to wear that outfit again. But I wasn’t surprised- I was being attacked just about every day by my brother, and she refused to acknowledge that. I quietly resigned myself as anyone’s trashcan.
    I never want my children to go through what I’ve been through. It just kills me. The older my kids get, the more outraged I am.

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    • I am so sorry to hear your story. It truly amazes me every day (and not in a good way) to discover just how many of us there are in the world today. Of course, we are already making things better by keeping our kids out of the abuse cycle, but for my own sanity, I am trying to take it the next step. I am so very tired of being afraid. I wish you some peace. I know it is what I want more than anything.

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  4. Bless you. Bless you for breaking the chain of abuse. Bless you for truly caring for your children. Bless you for being self-aware and desiring to grow as a parent an a human being. Bless you for being kind to yourself as you grow.

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  5. sweetheart……you do what you need to…to make sure they are safe. Whats the worse thing really that can cone of this?????….They feel smothered??….and they despise you for it??? You can live with that….surely.
    As they get older….and you learn to let go…..small things wins will become bigger ones.
    Why dont YOU have the sleepovers at your house…….make it riotious fun……you arent being too protective….you are doing your job honey
    big love to you…..you are doing a great job……xxxxxxxxxxx

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  6. Elizabeth I feel for you and understand you want to be in a place where the trauma is not in charge of your life.

    Have you come across EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) or Tapping as it’s also known?

    It’s an amazingly effective therapy that can lessen the emotional trauma of the memory by using a combination of acupressure and psychology.
    In the hands of a trained and experienced practitioner it’s possible to do this gently without re-traumatizatin.

    It’s an amazing tool that can actually set you free as the name suggest. It is possible to be that free range parent.

    You can learn more about it here but you may want to have help from a practitioner because your experiences have been severe. http://www.towards-happiness.com/emotional-freedom-techniques.html

    I wish you well on your healing journey. With EFT it is possible.
    Blessings

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    • Thank you Patricia, I adore EFT. I have not used it much, but when I have been stuck in a flashback, it has been crucial in the release process. It is truly miraculous.

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  7. You just validated my parenting and I want to cry. I am very, very protective of my 2 yr old son, and I know that people chalk it up to me being a “first time parent”. The truth is, I don’t trust a soul. Not with him, anyway. The few people I allow to care for him have strict rules that I check and double check to see if I can trust them. And I let them know boldly that they will lose the right to see if him I suspect any secrets or going against even my tiniest wish. I’ve always known deep-down why I am afraid, but to bring my awareness to it like this is good. And sad. Because my gut is on fire when I have to trust another to care for him. And soon I will confront these same obstacles you are, and I have no idea how I will handle them. It is hard being a single parent who has experienced childhood trauma because there is no one to talk to. No one to share parenting ideas and solutions. No support in the moment. It’s as you said: I rely on internet and books. It’s a scary world and you never know who is capable of hurting an innocent being.

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    • It is definitely scary. We just need to take it one step at a time. If we can learn that not everyone is as untrustworthy as those who did us harm, we are on our way to breaking the cycle for our children.

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  8. Thanks, Elisabeth. My story was different, but similar to yours. My mother overcame her addictions which caused my own abuses, and I have forgiven and allowed her in my daughter’s life, but it is a struggle to trust someone with my most important person when there’s bad history/trauma. I hope you find a place of grace that can help you navigate these challenges 🙂

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    • Hi Jennifer. Thanks for your comment. It is great that you were able to witness your mother’s recovery. I can understand being wary though. The moments of grace come and go. I am grateful for them when they come.

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  9. I whole-heartedly agree with all the support and though I had no childhood trauma, I am the VERY PROTECTIVE about my daughter as well. We talk frequently about where it is OK for people to touch her “Not where your swimsuit covers” and that secrets are NEVER OK if someone is trying to have her keep one from us. We do safety drills often about what to do if someone picks her up at Target or Walmart. These things do happen, and sadly, they happen often. No one is being paranoid here.

    And sleepovers ARE NOT GOING TO BE HAPPENING unless they are at my house. Or unless I am going to be staying there too…. lol!! It only takes once and I don’t blame you for being extra cautious. My parents let me go on only 1 sleepover in my life, and the husband and older son were out of town for that one. I have never once been angry that I didn’t do more, in fact now I am thankful they watched out for my well-being that way. I think parents in this era are so clueless about what their kids are doing when they aren’t watching them and they are far too casual about letting them go with people into potentially dangerous situations. You obviously love them and care for them, and they must know that. Kids never like what boundaries we put out for them, but in time, with love and patience, I think they grow to understand the reasoning for them and all is well.

    God bless you and keep up the good fight!!!

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    • Thank you so much Cara. I actually have considered staying in the guest room at the first sleepover. The parents of my children’s friends are very supportive and would probably be glad to oblige. If that is what makes me comfortable, that is what I will do. However, I am looking for that middle ground where I can let go just a little, but not too much. We will see where life takes me. 🙂

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  10. I forgot to mention– there is an excellent children’s book about this very topic. Written by a mother, whose son was approached in appropriately by a peer at a sleepover. It’s on Amazon, called “I Said No: A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Your Private Parts Private.” I read it often with my son. He is five, and I’m not sure how well it’s sinking in, the neighbor-mom tells me she “caught” her 7 year old daughter getting my son to expose himself to her. Neighbor thinks it’s innocent, but I don’t…

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  11. After my divorce, my ex moved out of state, married a heroin addict and went partying. After my abusive, violent childhood, I was devastated to learn of this when my kids finally came to live with me.

    It seemed generational, I married someone who resembled some of my abusing caretakers.

    Now, I left another marriage and moved in with my daughter and three Grandkids. The father of the six month old, two year old and five year old is an addict, so I determined to stop this generational abuse personally.

    My Grandkids have a stable male caregiver here everyday giving support. Life changed from easy as effortless to a mad house of stress and financial,issues. I try not to judge any of it, knowing I have impacted four lives dramatically which has brought pure happiness in small moments.

    I am learning how,to be a much better caregiver the second time around.

    Looking at my daughter, I see how single moms have such a hard time, need much more support and understanding.

    I have grown up to be the opposite of my father, to be a giver, a kind soul.

    Life is not easy but who said it was supposed to be. I try to live each day in the moment and be with the kids on their level.

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    • You have just described a broken cycle. That should make you proud. Those kids will get so much from what you have done. The best things we do in life seem almost impossible at times.

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      • You understand that it takes courage and a willful spirit to endure at times.

        That is why we give up judging good or bad, right or wrong and just be in this moment with them, it is where happiness and opportunity can be found.

        You understand what it takes to crawl out of childhood abuse and let go, accept and then surrender.

        We have developed unique skills by surviving and then using our ain and suffering to support others, it is art of happiness in this journey.

        It is our attitude and effort not exterior forces that determine who we are.

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  12. I love what you said about trauma not being logical. I trust very few people alone with my children… Two, in fact, and even then I catch myself second guessing it sometimes. Worrying that maybe I made the wrong decision and continued the cycle. It’s terrifying. I do helicopter, and people don’t understand, they take it personally or tell me I’ll loosen up…

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    • Trauma is not logical, but at any given point, you are doing the best you can. I have had people tell me to relax or loosen up. It used to be a huge trigger for my anger. Now, I just recognize that they cannot possibly know my own internal struggles. I will just make the best decisions for me and my children. That’s what you are doing.

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  13. Pingback: The Five People I have Met on My Recovery Journey | Trafficked

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