Parenting: Growing from an Abused Child to a Strong Mother
I ran across the term ACE the other day while reading. Adverse Childhood Experiences is a term I wasn't all too familiar with. At first, I laughed and thought my entire childhood was an adverse childhood experience. Then, I kept reading...and reading and had this incredible moment of recognition that laughter was a way to cope with my own ACE's, and that my parenting has been shaped indelibly by my adverse experiences as a child. It feels vulnerable and too honest to admit I was abused as a child and it has impacted my journey as a mother. As an 80's baby, I def feel I was among the last generation to get the hell beat out of me for any offense and no one raised an eyebrow.
I'm a helicopter mom that probably overdoes even the simple things. Not too deep down, I was and have always been terrified that someone or something would hurt my child or give them negative experiences. I always held dear the notion that everything I was doing or not doing was going to be a memory in my child's mind that might stay with them long after it was over. Down to the way I decorated their rooms, I kept in my mind that this room, would be the room of their childhood memories and I didn't want it to be less than a great memory-drawing from my memories of a child growing up in poverty, in a crowded home with little to no space to call my own. I didn't trust sleepovers. I didn't trust people spending the night in my home with my children and certainly didn't trust even my own marriage to provide love and balance to my children. This was all based on my ACE's. I didn't trust myself in motherhood. Anyone with ACE's will understand what I'm trying to say and how I felt.
I speak to my closest sister on a constant basis. We laugh about certain childhood traumas and wrap events into adult wit, explanation, and dismissiveness. We talk as therapy even when we didn't recognize talking was therapy. We found coping tools to step around real traumas. Traumas that are very close to the surface that both my sister and I didn't want to pass on to our children. We are both what most would consider successful, so it would seem we out ran and left behind that tiny dusty town in eastern Oklahoma and everything bad that happened while we were kids. I know, however, I parented based on avoiding my children having my experiences of neglect and poverty. I know I'm scared, even after coming so far.
This may seem like, duh...break negative cycles, do better than your parents, learn from the past and so forth, but it was so much deeper than this. I spoiled my children rotten in an effort to heal that I never had anything growing up. I indulged my children's every whim as if it was a necessity. I grew up with one pair of ragged shoes, so my children had more shoes than I could count. I could go on forever. I carried the household chores of a grown up at 10, so I rarely burdened my children with chores or the hard work they need to learn to be functional adults. I defended my children from every perceived threat, I was overly sensitive, way too defensive and hyper-overprotective over EVERYTHING. My parenting was fear driven. I literally had a mental quota of holding my kids and giving them one on one attention so I never felt like I was accidentally neglecting them or our relationship. I never wanted my children to need closure and answers to their childhood like I did. Parents die, as mine have and I will never be able to ask as an adult, why? I can also never ask, How? How do I do this job of motherhood? Maybe more importantly, I was scared for a long time that some of my parents' deepest flaws were inside of me and that somehow against my will, I would become them or repeat their mistakes.
According to the CDC, one in every four children suffers or has suffered from some sort of abuse or neglect. This means two things. My childhood was not unique and that
many formerly abused children are now adults attempting to be balanced, decent parents that make sure their children aren't among the above heartbreaking statistic.
What I have learned is that shame is a controlling demon and a heavy burden. Talk. Talk to your family, your friends and seek therapy if need be. Knowledge is power. I began to recognize why I parent the way I do, both good and bad. I overcompensate, I overindulge, insulate and I hover. I see that I'm capable of harming my children with suffocation. I was raised by an alcoholic father and a mother who suffered from chronic depression. It made me keenly independent. I certainly don't want those traumas for my babies, but I don't want to render them impotent to adult life because of overcompensation. Therapy has helped me to realize when I lack balance, and to remove shame from my personal ACE's so that I can parent based on logic and love, not fear or shame.
If you didn't get hugged enough as a child, the logic says hug your children more. No one explores that maybe...a simple hug may not resonate with you how it does with the next person. Your hug may have a different meaning, or maybe a negative meaning. Find a way to express yourself and your parental love based on YOU and by all means, keep loving and keep exploring you, even after you become a parent.
My last piece of advice based on what I lived and therefore know is NEVER, EVER let someone guilt you concerning your ACE's. I did what one must do when they grown, I talked. I let go of shame. Later, a once trusted confidant attempted to shame me and to make me feel guilty about my truths. Those are not my burdens to carry. Children are not in control. Don't ever let someone assign blame to you where there is no blame. I was told outright by this same person I was a bad mom because I couldn't have learned any different based on my childhood. I rebuke this lie in the name of Jesus. We can, we must, and we do overcome the past to become amazing parents after even the worst childhood experiences.
May light and love guide and heal you so that we all raise children that never need healing.