The greatest Mother’s Day gift of all – A happy, safe and well adjusted kid.
Mothers Day has always been a fickle day for me. I have long harboured a great deal of guilt for the horrific emotional and physical abuse my baby both endured and witnessed in her infancy. Given this, I used to down play my parenting achievements and often felt as though my inability to initially protect my daughter was a reflection of my mothering.
Why should I be celebrated on Mothers Day when I held in my hands an emotionally injured child. I would so often forget that my child was wildly happy, adored by all those around her. I’d forget that my child loved me with her whole heart and never once behaved as though I were to blame, even if I felt I was. Guilt can eat you alive if you let it. I don’t anymore.
For separated mothers with children, it can be particularly hard to move on to a new relationship. For mothers who’ve escaped violence with children, the fears associated with re-partnering can be dramatically exacerbated. Physical abuse. Emotional abuse. Sexual abuse. Substance abuse. Exposure to harmful behaviour. The possibilities are endless.
How are you supposed to protect your child from a new unrelated partner when you could not protect them from a biological parent? It is impossible to imagine a mother willingly putting their child in harms way. Even the smallest risk, let alone a proven one is far more than I could ever bear.
In fact, having been in the exact position discussed above, the very idea of willingly putting my little girl into the path of an abusive monster is enough to make me want to scratch my own eyes out. But I didn’t know what was to come, and that is the only reason I’m able to sleep at night.
If like Eva and I, there has never been a father figure, that is aside from a few volatile interactions during infancy. Then you will know there is sometimes a gaping hole in your child’s story. A story you do your best to fill in piece by piece in an age appropriate and protective manner.
Eva never did ask me why she didn’t have a dad. In fact our discussion came about when she asked why her school friend had two mums. I explained that there are all kinds of families. Some with a mum and dad, some with just grandparents, some with two mums and then Eva excitedly cut in, “and some with just one mum like me” that’s our family.
I gently said, “yes that’s right, but you know everyone has a dad when they are a baby right”. She said “yes I know that mama”. I then asked her if she would like to see a picture of hers and she declined. Every so often after this I would ask if she would like to see some pictures and she would always immediately decline.
Eva was three and in her first semester of preschool with this discussion took place. I remember discussing this with Eva’s child psychologist. I asked her “what do I tell her when she finally asks me why?” She responded, “tell her the truth, in an age appropriate way of course, she needs to know to be cautious.
You can explain that he was unkind and hurtful and needs to stay away until he can behave well at home just like you have to behave towards others at school. Eva seemed to understand well and I left the conversation alone.
Last week, Eva asked me if her new twin sisters will call Casper ‘Daddy’ or Casper like she does. I explained that they will call him Daddy, but that there was nothing wrong with calling him Casper. Eva promptly explained that she would like to call Casper ‘Daddy’ too. I told her that she could do that if she liked, but asked her if she knew why she had needed to call him by his name at first.
Her answer shocked me, but confirmed that my worldly and fiercely intelligent little girl is just too smart. She told me, yes I know why mum, because I had a different dad when I was a baby and we needed to know Casper first before I could say ‘Dad’ because he is my ‘growing up dad’ and not my baby dad. I said ok, yes you’re right.
For those of us blessed enough to meet someone worthy of the honour that is parenting our children and sharing their lives, we then have to tackle the issue of what roles the new partner will play.
My Mother’s Day gift this year is that I no longer hold an emotionally injured child. I hold a child who has suffered tremendously with a traumatic and hurtful past. But now has a stable home, two new sisters on the way and new daddy who loves her dearly. Best of all, she has a mama who is proud of her mothering, confident in her ability and knows that she is to thank for the beautifully rounded child she has independently raised.
So yay me!
Happy Mother’s Day!