My three-year-old girl came home from daycare with a note.
Ever since our littlest has been old enough to walk and play, Anabelle, older by only a handful of months, has been a terror. Grabbing toys from her little sister for no reason, shoving the baby, shouting at her; in essence: being a bully. The professionals have all told us her behavior is normal. As long as she shows signs of affection too—which she does—and doesn’t do anything excessively violent—which she doesn’t— it’s okay. Still, some ideas have begun to form in my mind about Anabelle. Nothing solid, not yet manifested into words or actions, but a feeling, whispering, in the back of my mind. Like an aftertaste when I think about her.
My daughter might be a Mean Girl.
Earlier this week, I published a guest post by author Jasminder about her experiences with childhood and adolescent bullying. It was hard to read about kids calling her dirty and mocking her for having brown skin and dark hair. Harder even to read about how she internalized those experiences, and began to believe them. I know that feeling well; part of the reason I have difficulties with apologizing or taking responsibility sometimes is because (I’ve come to understand) my brother tortured me as a child by calling me a mistake who should never have been born. He treated me like an outcast in my own home. Because of that, I carry a feeling of wrongness in my body; a feeling like my very essence is a complete mistake. It’s hard, feeling that way, to admit to more mistakes on top of it.
The students who hurt Jasminder were kids, but their parents were adults–and those adults should have been more aware of the mentality their kids were adopting. Those parents should have actively included people from other cultures in their lives so their kids understood there was nothing wrong with looking different. Just as my father should have told his son that I was his little girl, not some random mistake clumped up behind the couch. That may not have happened, but those of us who are parents now have the opportunity to help stop bullying. How do we keep cruelty from growing in the hearts of our children?
Whether or not a person chooses to have kids is highly personal. Becoming a parent is life-changing–in ways that are both uniquely rewarding and highly stressful. Each of us should be allowed to make that decision individually, regardless of our trauma history. People with posttraumatic stress disorder can make wonderful parents, just like anyone else. Something that many people with PTSD may not consider, however, is that once they become parents, their kids could wind up triggering them.
It’s strange to think about a person being triggered by her child. After all, nobody is abused by an infant, right? But many behaviors displayed by children are similar to the actions of abusers, even if the intentions are completely different. A toddler, for example, might scream and throw objects against the wall if he doesn’t get his way. A pre-teen might yell, “I hate you!” and slam her door because you take away her phone privileges. Of course, kids aren’t behaving like abusers; abusers are behaving childishly. When you have a trauma history, though, that distinction doesn’t always matter.
Today’s interview features Author Brandi Kennedy, a writer, blogger, and fellow trauma-mama. Her courage and tenacity shine through everything she writes, and I’m sure equally through everything she does, even when she doesn’t recognize it herself. I am honored to share her story here on Betty’s Battleground.
Before I get to the interview, I want to invite you to leave links to your posts and articles about depression and/or suicide in my current link-up. Off-Fridays converts to a blogger-built resource library once it closes, and this topic is really important, so I hope you will help make it as comprehensive as possible. Cover the topic from all angles! Click here to get to the instructions page, and then click through to the drop page, or if you’re familiar with Off-Fridays, go to the drop page right from here.
Now, I invite you to learn more about what life is like for parents living with PTSD in this interview with author Brandi Kennedy.