I have always had a mental health issue from since I was a child. There have been bouts of depression, paranoia and crippling anxiety.
The feeling that I wasn’t good enough regardless of what I did. Guilt that I didn’t do enough. The guilt that I keep messing up. Maternal Guilt, should I be leaving her for work? Should I be spending more time with her? Should I feel bad for wanting to be on my own? Unfortunately, these things have followed me into Motherhood, but a few new feelings have joined the old familiar ones.
Am I doing good by my child? Have I irreparably damaged her through my own issues? Have I cursed her to my life? Have I cursed her to a life similar to mine? Why have I inflicted this upon her? Will she conquer her demons better than I have? Will she grow to hate me as she continues to grow older and wiser? As she acknowledges the ills I have caused her, will she turn her back on me?
As a person, I am manipulative, I am a person who strops when she doesn’t get her own way. I shout. I scream. I cry.
My child is 9 years old. She has already learnt all of these attributes. I watch her and can see myself in her, replicated to a tee. Although she still has a lot to learn, to master the art. Though, she is an almost replica of me. Although she has compassion, she loves deeply and cares for those around her. She will hold me when I am not strong enough to hold myself. She wipes my tears when they fall so freely over my face and will not cease. She holds me tight and tells me everything will be alright.
All at the age of 9.
Kiddo has been taught things from a very early age that most children do not hear.
Secrets that are told to you or that you are made to keep, if they make you feel uncomfortable or dirty, you are allowed to tell. Secrets can eat away at your very being and taint everything you touch. They can spoil everything shiny and new. Do not let toxic secrets hold you prisoner to them. Free them. Tell someone.
“No Touch Zones”. As soon as she was able to intimately wash herself properly, I stopped doing it. I told her that no one should touch those parts. If she wanted help wiping herself clean, she could ask. BUT if anyone touched those parts and made her feel uncomfortable, she was to tell me. This was then expanded on. If anyone touches you and you feel uncomfortable, tell them to stop. If they don’t stop, scream for me. Why? Most people will laugh off a child’s request to “Get off me!” They think it’s a joke. It’s not. If a child has expressed that they have had enough of physical contact with you, you do not ignore them and continue, if you do, you are invading their space. You are violating them. Harsh, isn’t it. Seeing it written like that. But it’s true. If you are tickling a child and the child screams “ENOUGH!” You stop. If you don’t, you are then teaching that child that their voice will not be heard amongst adults. You are teaching them that their voice is not important. This rule applies to kisses, hugs and touches. If you don’t ask my child’s permission before placing a hand on her, you are confirming that consent doesn’t matter. I don’t give a shit who you are, if you want a hug from my child, you ask her. If she says no, take the rejection like a grown up and walk away. Do not guilt her into giving physical contact she does not welcome or feel comfortable doing. Now this is so vitally important to me, that she understands. NO ONE is allowed to touch her without her EXPRESSED permission. NO ONE is allowed to make her feel uncomfortable in her own skin. NO ONE is allowed to guilt her into doing anything.
Posting and Taking photos. If someone is asking her to post photos, would she show me those pictures? Would she be happy showing the pictures to her father? Do the pictures make her feel dirty? Was she pressured into taking them? These are all important to consider. I have also taught her that regardless of how quick you delete the picture, once it’s been sent, there is no deleting it. There can be no way of taking that back. Once the picture is out there, it’s out there. I have asked friends and family to ask Kiddo’s permission before posting the photo on social media. It’s about consent and being comfortable with what is out there on the internet. It’s all about consent. It’s vital. If she can be strong enough, no that’s wrong, if she can deny the pressures placed on her by others, stand her ground like the headstrong and ferocious little person she is, then hopefully she won’t fall prey to the mind games that are being played by lots of others.
I am proud that my child can stand up to her parents, telling us when we are wrong. Kiddo will tell us that we are out of line, that we are disrespecting her or not listening to her. How many people can say that they are happy their child talks back to them? Telling them exactly how the parent has upset the child? How many parents encourage their children to remind them when they have gone too far?
The narcissist in me would love to say I have raised a person who isn’t afraid to tell people they are wrong. That isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in. That understands how important it is to listen to other people and lift them up to speak for themselves? A person who loves and shows compassion to those who need it. That is brave enough to embark on new adventures even though her fear may be truly terrifying. That understands and knows what fear can do to a person.
The realist in me understands that there will be an impact of me on her. Kiddo has learnt the art of manipulation. Kiddo has learnt that after you behave appallingly, you apologise. Kiddo has learnt that with mental health issues you have to beg and plead before you are listened to and you sure as hell can’t go on the sick. You are penalised for being ill. Whether it’s the school telling you that you aren’t good enough or your job or the government telling you that you must starve for being ill. Kiddo has seen her mother sobbing and shaking because something she did triggered that response from me (probably trying to hug me from behind). Kiddo has seen the scars across my body and has asked what happened. I told her that I didn’t know how to deal with stress and nasty situations in a healthy way. I had to use myself as an example for what she shouldn’t do. I have shown her what happens when you bury your secrets. Talking helps. Talking always helps. You just have to trust yourself. I have sat her down and explained that we have to talk about the things that bother us. The experiences that hurt us and holding onto them will only cause more damage.
Kiddo has already picked up some of my bad habits. Being an OCSP, she has already learnt that if I am stressed, I pick. If I am worrying about things, I pick. Kiddo has started doing the same, not as drastically as she doesn’t like pain.
I feel so much guilt. Guilt for what I have put her through, guilt for what I will put her through and guilt for the life I have given her. What the future holds for her and me, who knows. Kiddo is a bright little person who understands far more than she should at her age. Old before her time. If you were to sit and talk to her, the language she uses, the mannerisms and the way she speaks are beyond her years. Although guilt is on my shoulders like a boulder, pride is growing in my heart at an alarming rate. It is a new feeling and completely knocks me off my feet. This time last year, Kiddo was a year behind with her reading and her maths. This year she has advanced a little ahead of where she should be, making up the 2 year difference. Statistics shouldn’t mean shit. They shouldn’t impact on how a child is taught or valued, but with the British Government determined to put statistics on everything have made it so that if a child lands between a certain bracket, despite how hard they work at the subjects they are failing, not including the subjects that they excel in, will be told they aren’t good enough. It’s soul destroying for the children.
So I have made it my mission to continue working with her, telling her that although the schooling system is designed to make children conform to a certain way of thinking, she is allowed to think outside the box. Kiddo is allowed to be who she is and I will do my damnedest to make sure she remains true to herself. Even if it means we do her homework in different coloured pens and pencils, plaster her work in stickers. Make it her own.
My ultimate plan is damage limitation. I want her too remember the fun and the sad times but too understand them. To not be the person I am. To not become the person I am. I know her life will take a different path to mine, she is 9, the age I was when I was first sexually assaulted. It’s hard letting her be just a child but I don’t want to infringe on her innocence. That time in her life where she is inquisitive about everything. If I am honest, I don’t want her to grow out of it. I want her to question everything. Not to take things blindly. I don’t want her to be me. I want her to be a confident person, who isn’t ashamed of her mother.
I guess only time will tell me the answers to these. I have to be patient and wait.