Dear my sweet, “two-hands old” girl;
As your 10th birthday approaches, I’m thinking about how I want you to have a “normal” childhood; one where opportunities to express love and potential are plentiful, except I’m not sure what that looks like. I’m just wingin’ it, baby.
Just as you are learning norms, so am I. When I see the wheels in your head spinning, racing to make sense of a moment, that is often how I feel when it comes to being a “good” mom.
I can’t ask, “What would my mother/father do or say?” because my mom and dad weren’t there for me. The people that raised me in their absence offered only lessons on what I shouldn’t do; I have the scars to prove it.
There’s a reason for all that, baby. I know you sense the jagged pieces that still exist in me. You pick up on the vibes of pain, uneasiness, and indifference that cycle through me. I know you sometimes wonder if you cause those unpredictable moods. You don’t; neither does your brother, or father or anyone else in our present lives. Mommy carries cracks and bruises on her heart as birth marks. These are the result of other people’s decisions, before I was even born.
“For every lie I unlearn, I learn something new.” ~ Ani DiFranco
Our relationship may always be challenging. I’ve known that since you were a year old. Our fierce yet delicate personalities clash. But there is a beautiful rhythm between us. We get each other on an unspoken level that lends itself to trust and love. That in itself is a parenting win for me.
But I won’t ask you to go easy on me. It wouldn’t matter if I did anyway. Your nature is gentle, but not docile. For that, your Momma is very proud. You are inheriting my strengths more than my faults. I’m watching you fine tune your demand to be heard and seen, and I can literally hear the cycle coming to a halt.
You don’t have to survive; you were born a survivor, baby.
Dawn Daum is co-editor of the book Parenting with PTSD: the impact of childhood abuse on parenting. She is a survivor of childhood abuse with an ACE score of 9, and has spent nearly 20 years working in the trenches of the mental health system. Dawn uses both her personal and professional experience to write, speak, and facilitate conversation; helping to repair the systemic cracks witnessed nearly all her life.
Dawn is also the Program Director for a dually-diagnosed community residence in Saratoga Springs, NY. She is currently experiencing moderate to severe growing pains as she works to shift our culture’s understanding of what it means to experience and heal from trauma. Dawn is also a member of the NYS Trauma Informed Advisory Council.
Dawn lives in Northville, NY with her two children, husband, and three feisty cats.
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