Trauma Cycle

Monday, November 18, 2019

*Warning* This post contains content regarding sexual abuse. I don't typically share this type of information on media platforms such as this, but it is imperative to my truth telling and more imperative for understanding.

I was raised by a mother who was sexually abused by a family member. Her step-father, to be more specific. As a result, my mother was not in her family home and placed in foster care for a considerable amount of time. Her trauma dictated the way she parented my sister and myself in the years to follow and also a strong distrust in males. Growing up, my mom never truly liked for us to be away from her for too long. We weren't left with men very often (outside of our father), if at all, and even down to the clothes we wore, my mother really wanted to keep my sister and I as "unappealing" to a predator's eye as possible. As I grew older, natural human experiences came about. I had crushes, interest in boys, and those kinds of ideas were just never welcomed in our home. It was hard to have these human nature maturities but feeling like there was something wrong with being able to feel and experience them.

This resulted in so much rebellion in my teen years and (God love my mom), she did endure a lot with me. I felt smothered and restricted for normal behavior and questions. Talking about sex, contraceptives, and hormones was not something readily or regularly discussed in my adolescence. I do recall my mom being very open and helpful about menstruation, but I do think it was different because that was inevitable and uninvited by myself or the opposite sex. But, also it was human nature, just like everything else I mentioned. Because my parents were divorced by the time I was Ava's age, I also didn't really have a home with a male-figure in it constantly. I grew closer to my mom and also felt uneasy when I'd frequent the home of friends and their dynamic was different than mine (having a male in the home). I say all of this to say, my upbringing is now impacting the way I handle situations with Ava and I'm not sure that I like it. I have to call myself out, as I was recently called out by a good friend of mine.

Since Pre-K, we have had many instances in which Ava's peers (only boys) have all contributed to some of the same ideas that I was discouraged from in my own youth. From fighting to sit next to her, gift giving, wanting to hold her hand, harassment (ALWAYS A NO GO), not respecting her boundaries (ALWAYS A NO GO), commenting on how pretty she is, and "crushes" being had... It bothers me that I cannot shield her from this. She's only six and at this age its concerning for me that boys are behaving this way. I feel like sheltering my baby more, trying to keep her away from stuff like that? I don't want any boy exposing Ava to ideas before she's mature enough to understand them, and also -- shouldn't they just be having fun right now? Why can't we focus on the innocence and fun. Why are these advances being made, sometimes encouraged or supported by their parents?

Then an outside perspective hit. "Leilani, why are you making this a gender situation? Girls too fight over their friends, they comment on how pretty one another is, they hug, they want to sit next to each other" -- and I sank. It's true. Girls are very much so that way, especially at this age. Why didn't it bother me that girls were likely having these same interactions with Ava in some way? If a girl peer bought Ava flowers would that bother me or her? I don't know. I have this subconscious double standard that I hadn't even realized until these situations were brought up with my grade school aged kiddo. I realize that I, like my mother, have reservations about interactions from males. There is an uncomfortability there that I thought didn't exist anymore. I'm glad I'm aware of what's happening because it means I can break the cycle and prevent my children from feeling this way. I really have to change the outlook here and remind myself that they are all just kids and most of what they are doing is just human nature among them all. I have a son, and I know I wouldn't look at him differently for doing things that are normal at his age. I need to extend that same grace to all little boys who happen to be around my Ava. In the same breath, I know I'd be bothered if a mom or dad out there was judging my son simply because he's a boy. It's not right and its not okay.

I always want the kids to know that our home is a safe place for all kinds of dialogue. Right now, our focus is on support and validation. I never want them to feel pinned up against another gender because of trauma that isn't their trauma to carry. I never want them to feel uncomfortable around a specific gender because their mom has had troubles wading through situations she didn't have comfort in. It is not their responsibility to endure because of my life experiences or that of my mom's life experiences. And while I have never expressed these ideas specifically to the kids, It is not fair for me to project, even unknowingly in any way - big or small.  I'm a work in progress guys, but I am working on it. I know the kids and the preservation of their childhood will be better for it.

Post a Comment