Sitting in a hotel room, two hours off my timezone and sleepless. Here’s HBO with a new documentary. I’m curious. I didn’t expect it to align with anything I’m already talking about.
On the HBO documentary, Leaving Neverland, James Safechuck explains how his son is growing to the exact age that he was when Michael Jackson began abusing him in the early 90’s. He went over the emotions that realization caused him and he struggled.
Wade Robson discusses this same phenomenon with his son, but it was triggered more at the point of fatherhood when his son was about 18 months old. The love of having a son and the innate need to protect him caused horrible mental pictures of Jackson abusing his son. He couldn’t imagine it and it terrified him to envision his child in that situation he lived through.
Both discuss bouts of rage, depression, isolation, confusion. They are all very accurate. A big descriptive word to add to this conversation is validation.
Parenting creates empathy for the world and allows you to see newly painted perspectives through a lens of unconditional love. A love you lacked to give yourself all this time post-child abuse.
When an adult is a veteran at fighting to live with all the jacked-up feelings from sexual predators as a young adolescent, the guilt sleeps. The shame simmers and the mental battle of what is your fault and what wasn’t and you search for any way to move on and not think about it. It’s like bad feelings can quietly fight in deep, dark places you just learn to pack down again and again.
Sure, emotions can bubble up and down, addictions will mask the guilt for short term coping, but all in all you can somewhat function as a “normal” adult trying to move on and make it all go away. I mean, you didn’t fight then – why do you fight now? Right?
What happens with becoming a parent is a process of observing truth in childhood innocence. Validation, innocence and forgiveness of yourself could now seem possible because of this truth.
James said it exactly right – we’re all mentally kids who just got older. So when you look back at the guilt, shame and horror of abuse you find reasons to justify it or toil with the positive behaviors intermingling among the mortifying ones.
But when you have a child – something happens. You love them hardcore and want to protect them at all costs, maybe even too much. Like your new coping skill is wearing the armor of this overprotected parent of redemption. You realize how innocent and protected they need to be and how the pain and self-loathing you experienced will never happen to them.
You put down your bottle to feed them with one, and imagine how anyone could ever hurt them like you were.
It causes an eerie reflection on everything you thought you allowed to be acceptable and it frankly rattles your years-strong routine of justifying your trauma as somehow warranted. The guilt you’ve carried since you were somehow an attractive 11-year-old versus what would you do if it happened to your 11-year-old is a huge mental Aha moment that takes a lot of time to decipher.
The empowering feeling of validation begins to grow inside you. You know the love of being a parent. You know that you don’t ever want them to live through anything even vaguely similar to what you did.
Here’s some common steps of a new lens on life:
Love my child + Not Gonna Happen to you = What happened to me was wrong.
Then, the fun begins. The work of processing all kinds of mixed emotions, anxiety and the early realization that maybe it wasn’t ok. You’ve spent so long accepting that it must’ve been ok and you’re the “damaged goods that sometimes just struggles emotionally”.
When your child reaches the age of development that is the era of your age when that abuse happened to you, the next power up level of validation happens. You realize that your smart, kind, fun, talented, resilient and amazing child is absolutely without a doubt not capable of ever being responsible of someone swooping in and wrecking their life with sexual abuse.
My awesome kid + their developmental, educational maturity level = Not capable of ever being at fault.
It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault. Holy buckets of balls – it’s not my fault!
A whole new road to finally finding peace is even more possible than you realized. (if you can keep it together, function through this epiphany and get professional help – of course.)
You get the gift of watching your children and your family – perfectly imperfect for better or worse – break the cycle of ever, ever knowing this pain that never fully goes away. You hope to find peace in the new peace you’ve helped create.
You are just a big kid, after all. A big kid with more language, more experience, more wisdom and more validation that you’re going to be ok. Accepting for once that you did nothing to deserve the past you survived and it’s not your fault and you have a million reasons to rise above it now. Cause you have a family that loves the good you bring with all the wonderful ways you are you.
You’re worth it. I’m worth it. It’s time to forgive yourself. Your kids and spouse will thank you for it.
Whatever your “Neverland” was – leave it and start a new land with your family.
Thanks for reading.
PS> Really, really look at where you were – no matter what age – and validate that con artists who believe they have the right to overpower another person for their own immediate sexual gratification is evil, pure and simple. They lurk in every community, culture and gender. They usually were once victims themselves, but don’t let that fool you. Just makes the story even sadder. They need to be away from repeating the cycle, and open to suggestions on how that’s more humane.
PSS> If you don’t have kids – just go hang out with some. You’ll see. Protect them. Protect children.