Admitting Your Child Is Dealing With Trauma

There are a lot of good reasons to be in denial about signs of trauma in a child. One being: it sucks. It's painful and terrifying as a parent. I can't only imagine what it must be like to be a child entirely dependent on their parent for supporting their healing. I use the word "good" loosely of course. I am sure when an adult sits down with their therapist they might not consider their parent's reason for remaining in denial "good." Maybe they are understanding, but I can't be sure it lessens the damage.  

I talk myself for a while that not admitting to my son's traumatic experiences were for his privacy, I imagined him feeling exposed and upset about my decision to speak out. It was my shame. Shame around how long it took me to understand what was happen even as he screamed and writhed, possessed with memories. Frustration and fear of the systems I am beholden to that seem to refuse to offer protection for fear of "vindictive baby-mama stereotypes." A freeze response to secondary trauma and pure exhaustion. 

There is value in secrets; they serve to keep us isolated. There is no value in silence it does not alleviate pain. There is no honor in shame; it only chains you to your oppressor. These are the things I remind myself. 

I will never speak about the specific traumatic events my son experienced. I don't know them all. The harsh reality that we are two entirely independently souls but what has been confided in me is not mine to tell. 

But I will speak about trauma. About parenting a child through trauma because many people are doing it yet, I keep reading that it is isolating. The two shouldn't be right simultaneously. So consider this a step out of the shadows.   


This Fight Just Started

The struggle with parenting young is that your fight with life is far from over. The dust on your definition is far from settled. Motherhood can become your entire identity at any stage in your life came. Being unsettled isn't only for the young. I wish I knew that when I was 20. I wish I knew how bad ass I was at 20, walking around campus with books and baby. I wish knew I was radical and beautiful, I wish I saw my revolution in its full glory but honestly, I thought I was just surviving. I wish I knew that who I was then was enough, to refine instead of redefining. In some ways, surviving is what it was but it was on my own terms. My independent study in black feminist thought had me realizing my fight with life had just begun. Do you know how many fights women have fought with babies on their backs? Motherhood did not give me purpose but it did narrow my path options enough to help me make a choice.

That's what I thought until sitting with the creative limits I put on myself. Does a single mom have the right to follow her dreams? Yes of course but the devil is in the pursuit. Resources are limited and a woman that tells you she can do it all at the same time is a lier. I am not always comfortable the give and take of big dreams. All these chips are not my own anymore but this fight just started.

This fight was just easier when my son was younger. When what is said was the unquestioned norm and he couldn't fight sleep. This fight just started but I'm getting hammered by the growing independence of a young man on the brink of an increasingly fucked up world. I haven't seen a blue-print for juggling all these balls and nothing I have created seems to stick but my fight just started and I'm not ready to give up.

The rules of my fight are simple:

1. I can't get into the ring unless my son is working toward his goals simultaneously.

This was really easy when his goals were things like crawl, walk, read, make friends. Before he had projects, beefs, and serious opinions. A schedule and a preference for pizza and TV. His is the fight that just started and I have to be ringside and engaged in ways the stages before this just didn't require. I used to read him my assigned reading as bedtime stories. I used to listen to recordings of my lectures while I made dinner or walked through the grocery store. There was a time when he didn't ask open-ended questions. 

I know if I didn't homeschool I would at least have school hours to myself push toward my personal goals but that's just not the best option for him. So there it is, now what is best for each creates a bumpy grueling road.

But you know what, that's ok. I may not have a blueprint but I know it can be done and Imma at least have some best practices to show for it when I get to the teenage stage.


That Never Ends

Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold. A circle of friends that never ends.....

I have very strong feelings about friendship. Growing up the only black girl besides my sister in Indiana meant I didn't have many. I remember telling my mother, I wanted one. Just one, one friend who would be like a sister. I thought this was a reasonable request. As a mother, I haven't forgot my childhood request or helplessness around maintaining friendships outside the proximity of school.

This weekend I drove to see my son. I was determined bordering on possessed. Duty had taken hold of me. It has been almost two years since we moved to Chicago. In that time my son has relentlessly made the same request: to see his close friend again. I honestly was not sure if his friends mom would be interested in maintaining their friendship and building ours, I wasn't sure how he would handle it if I tried and failed. I thought in time he would forget. He didn't. If anything with each passing month his resolve grew. No new friends could replace the old. 

He doesn't have a cell phone or a car. He can't follow thru on plans. It is my job to help him maintain his friendships. And so I drove to help them reunite. They played happily for four hours, time and distance are no match for true friendships. As for his friends mom and I, we talked the entire time. We took pictures of our smiling boys and set the intention of meeting again. I felt such an intense amount of relief and joy.

I drove a total for 10 hours in a 26 hours period so I could ensure that interaction. As a drove my son back to his dads, where he spends a portion of his summer, we sat in silence. He could barely keep his eyes open after a full day of play. He told me stories about their adventures between trips to slumberland.

He has a circle of good friends and I am excited to watch it grow.