When we become a parent, the way we see and do things immediately changes. Our first priority is to keep our young ones alive and well. One day, we are spending lazy Sunday mornings in bed with a cup of coffee and the next we are crawling around on hands and knees looking for sharp corners, tiny objects and uncovered electrical outfits.
As our children grow, we teach them how to be safe.
Don’t go into the streets. Don’t go near water without a parent. Don’t talk to strangers. We all do this. We all want to see our children stay safe.
I knew when I became a parent, I would do all I could to keep my kids safe. When they hurt, I hurt. What I didn’t count on though was parenting my kids after a trauma. And how much that would change me.
You see, when I was nine months pregnant with my oldest, my dad was killed. The man who spent our teenage years telling us to tell boys if they messed with us that he was a mechanic and knew how to take things apart. The man who taught us how to drive safely. The man who took an old broom handle and told me to use it in the sliding door of my apartment when I mentioned the lock didn’t seem very secure.
The parent, that did everything he could to keep his kids safe, was gone in the blink of an eye.
While out of state on business, he was murdered by a couple of escaped convicts. And just like that, everything changed.
When my daughter was born a month later, she was a joy in a time of sadness. She was truly the sunshine on a cloudy day.
But in the back of my head are the what-ifs? I struggle with letting them out of my sight. Even with those I trust. I worry, constantly. I want to keep them safe. I double-check door and window locks ALL. THE. TIME. I won’t let them play out front without a parent. No way are they walking to school alone.
I try REALLY HARD not to be a helicopter parent. I allow them to make choices that may not have the best result. I let them run free at the playground. (Well, at least feel free, I’m totally still watching them). I try my hardest to not burden them with my fears. But always, ALWAYS, in the back of my mind, is the thought “What if this is the last thing I say to them?”
I never got to say goodbye to my dad and what if that happens again? What if I’ve told my kids to go to bed 15 times and I lose my cool and say “ENOUGH! GO TO BED!” and then something happens and that’s the last memory? So I take a breath and say kindly, “I love you, please go to sleep.” Sometimes when they’ve repeatedly not listened to what I’ve said and I start barking orders, I take a moment as they are passing by to give them a quick hug and kiss on the forehead. At the end of the day, I will do everything in my power to keep them safe. But if something outside my control was to happen, their last memory will be positive.
Trauma has made an impact on my parenting, but I like to think it has made me a better parent.
It has made me hyper-vigilant, but I hope it has made me more loving. I hope that it has made me more mindful of intentionally creating happy memories.
For me, I smile thinking of one of the last times I saw my dad. It was Christmas time. He gave me a gift card to buy a car seat. He said, “Pick out a good one, a safe one.” And we did.