September 26, 2011

Parenting Patterns

Being a parent is so exhausting. Is that negative to say? Perhaps. If you're not tired, frustrated, concerned and feeling guilty then you're not doing it right.

What kind of parent will I be? We ask ourselves this and have a mindset of what type we want to be. Patient, loving, helpful, protective, fun. The expectations we set on ourself are tremendous.

I never wanted to be a mother. I can connect that feeling now to my incestuous sexual abuse that I suffered. Afraid, I would be just like my own mother - lousy at the role. Questioning why would I want to bring a person into this horrible world at the risk of them enduring my history.

Life, so unpredictable though dropped in my lap one May day in 1992, an instant family. A girl of 9 and a boy just 6. Eight years I spent mothering these children on Wednesdays and every other weekend. It turned out that I was pretty good at the step-mother role.

When a man comes with children and an ex wife those factors can determine whether you stay for the long haul. I was very fortunate to be given only what I could handle. Wonderful stepchildren. They were excellent practice for me so I could analyze the values of being a mother. Perhaps my bio-clock started to tick at 29, but more so I realized that I would be nothing like my own mother.

I had my hang-ups though. I only wanted a boy. I knew I was having a boy because there was no way I would bring a girl into this world to suffer. Not to say that boys have never been victims of sexual abuse, but I just couldn't bear to bring a little girl into the world. I don't know if there are other survivors that may have felt this same way.

My parenting patterns did develop with my stepchildren, but I can speak to it that parenting your biological child is very different. (Please don't send me nasty comments for saying this).

I'm only speaking to me as a mother of my son. During the infant, toddler and youth years 0 to 8, I had certain parenting patterns.

0 to 2 yrs

  • I didn't put my son down for the first six months. When he slept, he slept in my arms. I ran to his every cry, murmur and gurgle. I never wanted him to feel alone or abandoned. I was calm, patient and loving. No, I am not an advocate of the "Ferber Method".
  • At 7 months I had to return to work. I got a nanny to come to my house. I came home at lunch to nurse and check in.
  • I was always following right behind like a mama bear.
  • When relatives wanted to hold him, I stood right beside them.
  • My husband and I were the only people to change his bottom.
  • We hugged and kissed him so much.

3 to 4 yrs

  • At near 3, I fired my nanny and put my son reluctantly in daycare. When money becomes more important than my child - you're FIRED. I knew it was good for socialization skills and he was potty trained pretty much. I went to the daycare everyday on my lunch hour to check on him, the facility and the workers. I brought a number of issues to the supervisor’s attention.
  • I treat my child like a person and encourage him to voice his opinion. That what he has to say matters.
  • At this age the birthday parties begin. I never left my child at a stranger’s house and I found it odd that I was the only parent that would stay with their child. I guess it is a break for weary parents to drop their child(ren) off for a couple hours freedom to do shopping or whatever. I could only think of the terrible things that could occur. Do only adult childhood sexual abuse survivors think the way I think and feel? Not simply are the parents of the birthday child present, but often these parties kill two birds with one stone where the relatives are included with the friends’ party. More adults, teens, grandparents, uncles, neighbours or birthday child's mom's new boyfriend are present. All the dark corners in basements, closets, backyard sheds would run through my mind. Who would help my child to the washroom if he needed it? I'll tell you who. Me. That's who. I did get some odd looks when I would arrive with my Tim's in hand and remove my shoes at the door. Looks of "oh, you're staying? You’re not going to just dump your kid on us and runaway? That weird, and as many looks of relief. I would just say how can I help, here let me make the hotdogs. Even when parties were held at a public venue like McDonald's I would stay. What if these parents don't ensure the buddy system to the washroom, I would ask myself. A child can be molested or taken from a washroom. I didn't feel paranoid or overprotective. I felt proactive in preventing an incident that I know can damage your world forever. There is nothing more important to me than my child.

5 to 7 yrs

  • Even at this youth age I remained diligent in my parenting patterns. Sleep outs for my son were not permitted at this age. He was welcome to have friends at our house. I encourage friends to our house because that way I feel that my son is completely safe.
  • With my son in school full-time I express concerns and address matters with the teachers and principal immediately. It's important for them to know your face and know that you won't take matters casually. I am my child's advocate.
  • I am anti school bus, again due to my own childhood experiences of being bullied on the bus.
  • We spend a lot of time with our son. I read to him in a pattern every night before bed. His dad has breakfast with him each morning. Structure is key to our parenting patterns.

8 to 9 yrs

  • Patterns are like plans. They begin to change significantly as he ages and we do too. I'm more relaxed now that I know I have equipped my child with how to protect himself. I do let him sleepover at one friend's house now. I still would rather he be at home.
  • I'm not as patient as when he was little. I guess because I have certain expectations of him. To listen, do what I ask of him and be respectful. He doesn't always do what I ask.
  • My husband often says this is my fault that I gave him his right to speak his mind and believe me he does. I'm proud of him though for that. As a child I never said much of anything. I was submissive and lonely.
  • I allow my son at 9 to take a taxi home after school, use his own house key and be home alone for an hour. First rule is he must call me at work as soon as he arrives home. At 9 he was too old for the after school daycare.

10 yrs

  • At this age our son got a paper route, which I encouraged his independence to make his own money and to teach him responsibility. Do we let him do the route alone? No. We spend more on gasoline then he makes. That's not the point though. My parenting pattern of independence and instilling work ethics is.
  • He likes school and has friends. He never reports any bullying to me.
  • Ensuring he is involved in some sort of activity is our parenting pattern for his health and self-esteem. Karate is his niche. We introduced swimming, violin, acting and few others, but in the end it's martial arts. Great for his confidence.

11 yrs present day

  • Parenting patterns change drastically it seems. I permitted him to ride his bike in our neighbourhood with a friend only. I worried the whole time.
  • He began riding the school bus to and from school and so far so good. For me and him.
  • He is a tweener now so he's into technology, but not girls yet. Trust me we've had that conversation.
  • I'm proud of the young lad that he is, so my parenting patterns must be alright.

I do have more anxiety than most parents, I believe due to my personal experiences. My number one goal is to protect my son from harm. It seems so simple, but my mother could never do it for me.

Going through the healing process of sexual abuse and child bullying peer abuse, my current physical back pain, my present depression, which I try to hide from my child, but I know it all, affects my parenting patterns. I must triumph beyond these mind controls. I have teenage parenting patterns in front of me. Thank goodness I have my stepchildren who gave me lots of practice.


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