August is Worldwide Parenting with PTSD Awareness Month
My father said many, many times he expected me to be perfect. What I heard was mistakes were unacceptable. Mistakes were akin to failure. However, when I saw the book, “Good enough parent,” I was immediately relieved. It released from the expectation I had to be a perfect parent.
When I came to know Jesus, I learned only He lived a perfect life and He didn’t expect me to be perfect. Achieving perfection was a lie that needed debunking. Slowly I figured out my children never would be perfect either.
My whole life taught me I was replete with mistakes. To expect perfect compliance was inhumane yet I tried to impose my “perfect” will and expectations upon my imperfect children. It was a ridiculous proposition and one more premeditated resentment.
Kids are messy bags of perfect imperfections. I have a choice. I can either 1) lose my mind; or 2) jump in and have fun as I teach obedience.
Losing my mind
Yelling, threatening and fighting were hallmarks of my inherent parenting style. This would eventually morph into Edd and I regularly fighting in front of our kids. My parents did it so why not us?
We must have looked like two siblings at each other’s throats. We were scaring our kids. They didn’t know if we would kill or maim each other. They certainly weren’t feeling very safe or secure. All they knew was we were full of malcontent so they couldn’t feel happy, safe or free.
Each outburst was likely a very traumatic event for each of them, especially my daughter who was acutely aware her father might die of cancer. She didn’t want to be mad at him before he died but neither of us cared as we continued this ugliness.
Common sense clearly went out the window. The hypocrisy was hideous. In public, we were wonderful, restrained and loving parents, and a happy couple. Behind closed doors, we were violent with our words and threatening actions. We successfully recreated our childhood environment. It wasn’t until we got checked by our marriage counselor that we woke up.
As we were on the brink of divorce, I could only draw on past experience. There was no way in hell I would allow my alcoholic husband to raise our two beautiful lights. Little did I know, Edd felt the same way except I was the rageaholic.
Our poker faces were on tight but our marriage counselor saw right through both of us. Then it happened. One of us threatened to move out with the kids and then it was a full on verbal assault. We had no idea what was coming.
We asked for and got the announcement that stopped us dead in our tracks:
“I’m not sure you are aware but I am a ‘mandated reporter.’ This means if at any moment I believe the welfare of your children is threatened for any reason, if your home environment is unsafe, I must report both of you to Child Protective Services. Social Workers would likely come and do an assessment. If they agree your home environment is unsafe, police will come and take the children. The kids would then be placed in a foster home and not housed with the grandparents.”
Yep. It had come to that. Pitiful doesn’t begin to describe how I felt.
Jump in and have fun
Over time both of us would learn a new way of parenting. One that didn’t pit one against the other. We needed to see each other as equals. After all, we were equally yoked in Christ so we had to act accordingly. We learned how to submit and yield to each other, that submission and yielding worked both ways, a concept as foreign as the Chinese language.
However, as we grew in Christ, we were better at hearing Jesus lead us in effective parenting. He gave us strategies and ideas we’d never considered. Of course, we attended parenting classes but we also had to learn how to cultivate an ear for His voice. Trial and error would help us learn which voice in our head was His.
After Edd died, I heard him louder and clearer:
“Have fun. Parenting is more playful not work. You get to relive your childhood and grow them from their perspective. Here’s the thing, my daughter: You get to impart wisdom and revelation more effectively because you’re in the sandbox playing alongside them. You have a captive audience when you play so go outside your comfort zone and play. You are not your parents because I am in and with you.”
I did exactly that and never looked back. Humor is a major tool in my parenting arsenal. Watch me crack jokes and teach all at the same time. See them have so much fun as the scalpel dives in and removes what hinders love and obedience.
I had to learn how to communicate obedience that protected not obedience that oppressed. Of course, God gave me a chance demonstrate precisely that.
When obedience protects
The summer after my husband died, we went to Yosemite National Park. We hiked The Mist Trail, our favorite. We’ve been to the top before with Edd but I was intent on making new memories, the theme of our summer adventure without him.
Mist Trail hikers get soaking wet with Vernal Falls’ ice cold water sprays. However, this particular day as we ascended the air temperature dropped dramatically.
I noticed the kids were getting soaked like me except unlike last year when it felt good, this year we were cold. I was concerned about hypothermia particularly since I once ascended the same trail and got hypothermia years earlier. We were in shorts and tees, and they were shivering. I decided it was time to come down because it was becoming dangerous for us.
I got their attention quickly. I was firm and authoritative. I looked into their eyes so they felt safe as I said:
“Listen carefully. This is very important. Hiking here is no longer safe. We are going back because it’s too cold and dangerous. Do exactly as I say and we will be safe. Got it (heads bobbing)? I will be ahead of you and guide you down these slippery wet granite rocks one rock at a time. Just take my hand, hold on tight and we’ll be okay. Do you understand?” They replied yes. “Let’s go.”
They were super obedient. They didn’t complain one iota. They were brave, courageous and never once showed me they were scared. My guess is that on a very deep level, they trusted the only parent they had left. This had to happen. In hindsight, it was God’s plan all along.
Once we made it out of the water spray and air was warmer we stopped so they could dry off and feel warmth.
They just got a big lesson on how obedience saved their life. I’m pretty sure I hit the target in this case.
I learned the tree is the cross so we would have been safe regardless. Thank you Lord.
Posts in 2016 series
Parenting by any means necessary
Foundations: Why truth matters
Let Patience have her perfect work
School: Expectations versus reality
Worldwide Parenting with PTSD Awareness Day
It’s okay to miss the target and hit the tree
Game changer: Prayer and Meditation
Cogtoolz brings much-needed resources to college students
Impact: Bless, release, declare over our kids
Posts in 2015 series
Parenting with posttraumatic stress disorder
Discipline requires training, love spelled t-i-m-e
Beatings/Spankings are abuse: plain and simple
Parenting, like marriage, requires work
Parenting is a lifelong-learning proposition
Stop, look, listen and ask yourself questions
The high art of juggling
Downtime: the golden goose of PTSD
Worldwide parenting with PTSD Awareness Day
Parenting is a high call no matter your lot
The drought before the drought
Being misunderstood is a symptom
You are being forged in fire
Awakenings podcast: Parenting with PTSD