I worked in a YMCA for a while in my late teens. This place served the function of drop-in day care, preschool, and half-day daycare center for toddlers, in separate areas of the building.
It’s easy to see why they fired someone with no long-term memory at all, who couldn’t put a sentence together half the time, and who couldn’t remember anyone’s name or read their faces, who couldn’t understand their words in five out of ten conversations on average, and who had absent seizures while taking care of children! And who always, always made the wrong face to everyone. I could never get the tone right either.
Of course they had no idea why I acted the way I did, but they were normal enough to know that something was wrong with me. No one knew I had a traumatic brain injury at the time.
But I think the keystone reason that they fired me, if you will, was because I wasn’t the adult that the children needed. I behaved like their slightly older sister, not like a parent or caregiver of any sort. I was simply immature, and unable to “switch gears” in my mind to a more mature gear when I needed to. In other words, I was just too much like Glenda. Glenda is my estranged mother, and will forever remain dead to me in my mind. When she is actually buried is irrelevant; the important thing is she’s nowhere near me.
I didn’t touch them in any sexual way, hit them, or neglect them at all. If anything, I pampered them by cleaning up after them constantly because that was always my job in the past. I went out of my way to feed them and compliment them because I, myself, was so used to being the kid that everyone treated like shit. I always fell into the habit of not letting them do things for themselves, when they should actually be encouraged to do so from time to time.
And, of course, I blacked out. Absent seizures. Can you imagine blacking out at work and just standing there with a Sippy cup in your hand and a blank expression on your face, then next thing you know it’s five minutes later and everyone is staring at you? Man, was that ever confusing. But it wasn’t some kind of “movie blackout” where I suddenly turned into a monster. There was no hiding Hyde. The worst thing I could have done would be to fall over…and injure someone that way.
I never “roughhoused” with any child the way Glenda did with me. There were forms of “tag” that involved touching a person’s shoulder, but that was the extent of it. I remember putting a monkey puppet on my hand when I was working in the drop-in daycare department and babysitting a couple of toddlers, and using it to play a form of tag where the monkey was trying to eat their toes. Through socks!
Yet I still spent some evenings wondering if that was the right game to play for that age group…I was just one clueless young person.
The opposite thing happened, in fact. I was afraid to even hug the children. I accepted hugs from them and hugged back, but second-guessed myself for twenty minutes afterwards. I was terrified to change diapers. I would practically pass out from fear if a kid tried to kiss me in any way (like on the cheek or lips to say hello), instead of just deflecting the kiss to a gentle “shoulder hug” like a normal adult would.
I played games with the children as best I could, but I got the game wrong about 50% of the time. Still, I do have fond memories of that time, and I learned a lot from both the children and adults before they quite reasonably told me to take a hike.
I recommend parenting classes, group discussions (if they help), and all the support in the world for any abuse survivor who does decide to have children. It’s not an easy road even for someone with a perfect childhood! But at the same time, if you’re in that position…try not to doubt yourself too much. You’re not doomed to be a monster. I’ve begun reaching out to other parents who were survivors, and broke the cycle, so I know it’s very possible to do.
I also know that I don’t want to have any little kids of my own until I have my TBI symptoms under control enough to be responsible for a young person. But there’s time; I’m only thirty. I’ll prepare the garden fully before my husband and I plant any seeds. And we want two, within a couple years of each other; not a whole fleet! So, it can wait.
If anyone ever told you that you were doomed to turn into your parents…they either didn’t have the whole picture, they were trying to control you, they were assuming way too much, or they were just making stuff up. A surprising number of people are very good at making stuff up…and yet still wrong! 🙂