Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Recognising the damage: Children and Parenting

Write about the ways you are still affected by the abuse. 
Write about the strengths you've developed because of the abuse. Think of what it's taken for you to survive. 

I am going to use the sub-headings mentioned in the book. I hope they will cover everything. 

Children and Parenting

"If the abuse took place within your own family, or if your family did not protect and support you, you grew up in a dysfunctional family. You did not have the benefit of healthy role models. Until you actively face your abuse and begin to heal from it, you are likely to repeat the same parenting you had as a child."

No shit, Sherlock. There is no doubt I grew up in a dysfunctional family. I always sensed it but never understood why or what exactly made it different. It was a way of life, and it was a shit one at that. 

After seeing other families at close range, like my closest friends', Darren's and also my own little family now, I can actually see just how wrong we had it. 

I'm not responsible for my family being "low-drama, take it as it comes and let's face it together." I didn't know how to do any of those things. It is all Darren. Him and his family have taught me the practicality of being part of such a family. How to be one of the many cogs in the smooth running of this machine so that everyone involved actually wants to be there. I think we could successfully overcome anything as long as we are together. 

Answering specific questions:

Do you feel uncomfortable or frightened around children? 

I've always adored children. Been very maternal from a young age. I think children have always liked me. I used to get an irrational fear of dropping a child and them ending up badly hurt. That I would be responsible for it. I think I have always felt the need to protect kids. 

Have you ever been abusive or feared you might be?

I have been violent. Quite violent with my brother. Verbally violent and abusive with my sister. I stopped doing that a few years ago now. Since I have started trying to confront my own abuse - from my mother as well as the sexual abuse - I have had the shocking realisation of just how badly I treated my brother and sister in the past. I don't think I'll ever forgive myself for it. I'm glad that I will never forgive myself for it because it is helping me every day with Veer. 

Violence is a learned behaviour from my parents and one that will not be easily un-learnt. I may have just about learnt to control the physical manifestations of it, but emotionally, it's still there. 

Do you find it hard to set clear boundaries with children? To balance their needs with your own?

I believe every child has different needs. Every human being has different needs. When it's your own child, it is important to keep the balance between discipline and fun. There are things you need to teach them and things they need to learn themselves. It works better to adjust your expectations to their abilities than the other way round. 

I try not to think about my needs at all. And with children, my needs don't exist. It's what they need from me. Whether it's my son or someone else's child. 

I do set boundaries and I think, in general, kids respect them. 

(I have also just seen the other side of this question: my clear boundaries with children with respect to the abuse I suffered. As a grown-up, what shocks me the most is that a mature person could do that to an innocent child; that they would take advantage of someone's unconditional love and trust. I have always seen children as innocent. I do get panicky around children approaching maturity because there's no way of knowing just how much they're aware of about things like sex. I generally just assume they know nothing and, if I'm called upon, talk to them about it afresh. But the only time I have felt like crossing that line has been that one time with my brother and it was just anger. Nothing else. I wanted someone else to hurt just as I was hurting. But even then, his innocence stood in front of me with such clarity, that I felt ashamed of myself. There's no excuse for taking a person's innocence from them.)

Do you have a hard time feeling close to your children? Are you comfortable being affectionate towards them?

I love my son. He is too young to respond to any closeness I feel with him, but I'd like to think we will be close. I feel very affectionate towards him; it even surprises me. I have no inhibitions while being playful, loving, adoring with him. He makes me feel worthy of something. That someone so beautiful and perfect should think of me as their world is quite fulfilling. He's my second chance. 

Have you had trouble protecting the children in your care?

No. All children are safe with me. 

Are you overprotective?

I believe children need space to grow. They need to fall and pick themselves up. They need to come across adversaries in the  playground and learn to deal with them. So, no. Not overprotective in general. But when I do see someone, another child or grown-up, be spiteful and causing trouble with full knowledge of what they're doing, I do tend to jump in. Not just with my own son, but with any children I happen to be looking after. I don't think it's ever too early to learn respect. 

Have you taught your children to protect themselves? Have you talked to them honestly about sex?

My mother never explained to me about periods.Obviously, she never did anything about the abuse and we've never really discussed what happened. I didn't know how to start and she never wanted to know.

That made me feel very uncertain and lost. Confused. When I started bleeding for the first time, I thought I had cut myself while playing and needed a band-aid. And even afterwards, my mother didn't bother explaining what it was. That's when I knew I would have to tell my sister. So I did. 

My brother has always been mischievous and physically affectionate, playful, with people he liked. When he was growing up, he was very close to our cousin. Still is. He'd tickle her and roll around with her like any other child. When her body started changing, I realised she wasn't always comfortable with the way Pranav behaved. So I spoke to him that a girl's body changes just as a boy's does and he needed to learn to respect certain boundaries. I also had 'the talk' with him, more so to explain that it was important not to coax a girl if she didn't want to do anything. Again, respecting boundaries. 

My son isn't old enough yet, but I do think I will be able to talk to him honestly when the time comes. 

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