When I first left my ex husband in 2011, I kept having this recurring dream. We were all in the pool. It was a large outdoor pool and there were hordes of people. My youngest son, Camden, was in the pool and he was carrying his (then) beloved blue blanket and wearing his (adorable) footie-pajamas. He was barely four years old when we left. At that time, our children did not know how to swim. I was distracted and I looked around and I realized that my little boy was at the bottom of the pool in his red jammies. I started screaming for someone to help me. I could not seem to get to him and no. one. cared. No one could hear my voice. I had no voice. And my little guy was dying. I was hysterical. I could not help my son. I woke up crying.
I had this same dream over and over again. I believe that my dreams, during that time, were simply revealing my fears. I wondered, later, why it was just Camden I would dream about like that when I wanted to save all four of my children. I finally concluded that he was in the most danger of being lost in the abuse. My ex husband was already scaring him pretty badly. He also called him a “mama’s boy” over and over. It was like my ex husband had already decided (consciously or unconsciously, I don’t know) that Camden’s esteem would be damaged beyond repair.
I also realize that I felt I did not have a voice and I could not get anyone within arm’s length to listen to our plight, at the time. I was grasping for someone to hear me and to see and understand what the children and I were going through. It was as though I was screaming, “My children and I are drowning! We are dying! Please, someone see us!!!” And, at the time, no one would. It was a desperate place.
I sometimes feel like I grabbed my children with all of my grip and I would. not. let. go. I was solely responsible for their safety and, while the responsibility was overwhelming most of the time, I was not about to let them drift. I felt like no one else would love them; no one else would see what we were going through and no one else would help them. I was the only one.
You know exactly what I’m talking about, mama. You have had to protect them. You have had to be the only one. Gathering your cubs around you and holding them hard while looking over your shoulder to protect them from evil has been an exhausting way of life. Believe me, I do know this.
Last week, we had a snow day, right after coming off of an 18-day Christmas break. I could NOT believe it. I was worn out from being the “only one” over break and here we were, stuck inside in 5-degree weather. I woke up, realized it, and cried. I was weary to my bones and I called upon my Give Her Wings ladies to pray for me. Right away, Carrie knew what the issue was. So did Michelle. And Bekah and Laura. And all of them (I’m pretty transparent, I guess). Michelle told me that she loves how much I do with the children but they might enjoy a little bit of independence. Carrie pointed out that she understands how the need to protect them all and be with them all the time is great, in my life, since I spent so many years in my first marriage having to be the mama bear. She said, “You are safe now. You don’t have to do that, anymore.” Bingo. So much of my stress has been due to the fact that I often still live like I am their sole protector.
This is why it was so incredibly hard for me to give up homeschooling several years back. Who would protect them? They were so vulnerable and small. How could I send them out as sheep among the wolves? Eventually, I did release them from home schooling because I had to work, as a single mama, and, guess what? They did great. In fact, they started to thrive.
I’m still learning. I’m still the world’s biggest mama bear (just hurt one of my children and watch what happens, if you don’t believe me.) But, I realized that my stress level over protecting them quite that much was causing them stress and was not fabulous for my PTSD. Not fabulous, at all. My children have proven to be fantastically resilient and I need to pretty much just get out of their way a whole lot more. They need room to breathe and to just be. And they need to figure out how to navigate the tough stuff. Most importantly, they need to see that mama is not a wreck . . . that she is calm and she believes in their abilities to protect themselves and each other. And shine and be beautiful and all that vibrant goodness. And one of the perks? They have watched mama believe in them. And when I am at peace, they seem more at peace, as well. I cannot live out of a place of fear, anymore.
Mamas who have left, try (if you can) to relax a little bit. Your children and my children have been in the palm of His hand all of this time. I think that, when we don’t feel safe, we don’t feel like our children are safe. But, the truth is, they are so incredibly safe in Christ. Sure, they have struggles because maybe they have been traumatized. I get that. But, they are going to be amazing adults because they are working through it. Even without you. The problems are big, I know, but they are not bigger than Jesus. Breathe, dear mama. Find your voice; it is in there. Give some room for Jesus to work, as well, in their lives. It is going to be OK, even if it is so hard to see right now, it is going to be OK.