My nerves and heart were both tested this week. The realization that the world can intrude on the safe, secure space I have built for my mini me, came crashing. Former foster children who become loving parents are rocked hard deep in the soul even by minor intrusions on the children we have sometimes smothered for their own protection! 🙂
Often our minds are flooded with the physical and emotional trials of our own past; innocence and trust ripped from us before we knew what either meant. The moments that flash like slide show images when insecurity, fear, doubt, and frustrations sit at our door as adults. It is startling. This is why many former foster children try not to love or attach to anything. For those like me, who ventured into loving motherhood, the slope is especially tricky. We are vulnerable, so is the object of our unconditional affection; it is a tough reality to face.
I have prided myself on being a good parent. Mini me trusts me, relies on me, she feels loved and wanted. Check. But what about what the rest of the world can do to this gentle creature I helped create? There are things I can protect her from and do; people I keep her far from, events and situations we avoid..but what about what is outside my grasp? This is something I had not considered.
I was put in foster care at age 5, after I was found abused by parents and left to starve in a basement. For years, I saw my own mother on supervised visits until she too vanished. I was adopted, and both of my adoptive parents died within 2 years. The remainder of my childhood I learned to simply detach. Motherhood for me was a risk. I was afraid to love something so much, but it saved my soul from a lifelong sentence of nothing.
In any love I experienced in my life, even my early friendships, my happiness has always been filled with dread. True emotional security has been hard to attain. But when I do love, I love hard.
As a mother, I immerse myself entirely in my idea of motherhood. I feel every pain and smile my girl endures, deep under my skin. As time goes on and she becomes her own person and the tentacles of the world try to hone in on her, I struggle accepting that this is just how life changes for children. They need to learn to adapt and grow, in ways I never learned to grow.
I sat out in the bitter cold at 330 am, this week, trying to rationalize my new fears. I questioned every choice and word I said to mini me. I questioned how I’ve sheltered myself over the years; how I put time and so much geographic distance from past pain. I questioned the distance I put between myself and those I did love, in hopes of protecting myself. And I realized I have done a lot right and I have done some wrong. In my letting go, I held on too tight.
Like many mothers, I see myself in my girl’s young face. And I can remember my own innocent young face and perpetrators of that innocence. Of course we all have some painful memories. But former foster children, like myself, who were abused by a parent, and others they should have been able to trust in their “family,” everything seems untrustworthy. Abusing children is a lifelong sentence for the survivor.
In moments of crisis, even an argument, or moments of fear… I still almost physically feel my bones and heart breaking. And so it is challenging to always emulate strength to my young innocent daughter. Though I try.
She thinks I am brave and fearless. I am not.
Some weather the storm of life with memories of a parent, long gone..and this is how they draw strength, others have at least one parent who they emulate or respect who gave them a sense of value..just by being a part of their history; some have friends so tight, they are like family and offer support. But, for former foster children with no real familial anchor, and sometimes little pride in their past, trusting our own parental instincts is like grasping in the dark for a light switch.
Our sense of security as adults relies in part on those early experiences of our youth and the extreme tragedies we overcome. Physical abuse as a child actually physically alters brain development. How we handle stress, fear and love..are encoded. And when I think I have overcome everything in the past, I learn how vulnerable I still am.
I suppose it means my heart and brain are functioning at full capacity despite the past. I learned to love. I learned, unnaturally or not, what it means to be a mother. That is something the abusers of my childhood never took from me. Now, it is just a matter of giving mini me the gift I was not bestowed: the gift of self-worth, the gift of trust and security, the gift of being able to be a girl..with its mishaps and fears, its ups and downs, its smiles and tears, so she can face the dragons better equipped. It is time to give myself a gift also, to start living the way I want her to live..fully, vulnerabilities and all.
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