I am going to assume that most people reading this are patently aware of why I write this blog and therefore are aware that my daughter, who I call E, has had a heck of time. She is doing great! I wish you all could have seen her turn from a confident strong child into a scared, frail, fragile, insecure person into a bold, aware, strong amazing example of courage. She went through a situation I wished she never had, but being witness to her transformation has been an honor. To watch that kind of spirit and fight is inspiring. We got to be a part of that kind of change with our daughter, A, when she came home from China. It is painful, but we are all better for it.
People have asked what we did, how we help her and I have sat down a few times to write, but as I thought about our journey, I came up blank on what to say. I knew what we did, but there is nothing that I am going to tell you that is earth shattering. There will be no ah-ha moment. There is no secret that we discovered, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons.
Probably the most important thing for our family is that we had a solid foundation with our daughter. Well before the attack she knew to the fiber of her being that we loved her. That we love all of our children. She doesn’t think parents are suppose to love their children, she just knows her parents love her, completely. That was important because she knew she could come to me and say the truth. She could look me in the eyes and say, “You didn’t take care of me”. “How do I know you will in the future?” I had never lied to her, so when I looked her in the eyes and said “I made a mistake”. “I didn’t handle that day well, but you are safe and so am I”. She knew that was true. When I held her hand and said “I am sorry for what I let that man do and I will never let it happen again”, she knew without a doubt I meant it.. She was scared and it took time, but I don’t think she questioned the validity of my words. She is 8 and she is a thinker. I mean she is a thinker, so to underestimate this child’s understanding of what happened would be a mistake. Her questioning, her mind, her ability to dissect an issue is both aggravating and challenging. It challenges me to know what I think and what I believe and it challenges me to be what she needs me to be. The success to teaching a child about self defense starts long before they can make a fist or hold a gun.
The second most important thing we did was to reaffirm her safety again and again and again and again. We constantly told her in no uncertain terms she was safe. While I can not guarantee her safety 100% of the time, I need to prepare her mind. I don’t want her to ever, not even for a second think there is ever any situation she can not conquer. Her ability to believe in herself is paramount.
I have always cared about the safety of my children. I have always thought about how to keep them safe, but my understanding of what I really needed to do to prepare them was lacking. For example, I taught my kids to look both ways for cars when crossing the street. I told them why, but not really. I said something like, “look those cars come pretty fast and it’s dangerous, so we have to be sure it’s clear first”. Yep, that’s good, but it’s not enough. It’s not the full story. Now, I ask questions and the first few times I provide the answers. Now our conversations go more like this, “Do you know why YOU have to look?” and which ever child I am speaking to will say, “Because it’s my responsibility to take care of myself.” We let them know we are here and they can always count on us, but ultimately each person needs to accept responsibility to keep themselves safe.
I allow them much more freedom to do things now. My son is 20, but when he was 7, I was still making his bed, picking out his clothes and cutting his meat. It never occurred to me that he could do things for himself. I long since realized the error of my ways, way before that day in March and the little ones have had to do more for themselves and the family, but it was always in preparing them for life skills such as laundry, dishes, being a family, but not really safety. E was recently diagnosed with asthma. She has to take antibiotic 2 times a day and an inhaler 2 times a day. The rule in our house has always been, never, ever touch medicine. One day she asked me if she could pour her own medicine. I said no at first, then quickly changed my mind. I said yes, but you always have to let dad or I know BEFORE you take it. It has been 3 weeks. The medicine sits on the counter not under lock and key. No one in our house touches it and every single morning without fail, E asks one of us if she can take her meds and then she doses out the exact right amount. Last night she asked me if she could take her meds and I said sure. She came to me a few minutes later and said, “mom, this doesn’t look right.” The medicine is normally a creamy light pink, but this time it was a watery bright red. If this had happened before I would have said way to go for checking, but this time I went further. I told her great job for being aware and great job for trusting her instincts. I told something inside you told you something wasn’t right and you went for help. I told her to always listen to that voice. Always trust it.
We do teach her it’s ok to hurt a bad guy and we teach her how to run, how to kick, how to beware of what is going on around her,and how to shoot. At the dinner table we set up different scenario like if a kid at school is calling you names, is he a bad guy? Would it be ok to hit him? Would it be ok to shoot him? If someone steals your favorite toy, is she a bad person? Would it be ok to stab her? If mommy and E are walking out of a grocery store and guy who scares us is walking in our direction what should we do first? We do all that, but those kinds of things are about 2% of our lives. Most of our time is in building a stable home where we love on her and the other kids and on each other. Most of our energy is focused on using daily moments to teach and think.
I believe the more we loved on her the more secure she felt. We didn’t tell her to toughen up. We hugged her, we let her cry(which she only did once and it was more like a few tears. She is more like her mother than she should be), we let her sleep with us, and we let her be scared and I think that allowed her to purge her feelings. I also believe that her watching me doing things to protect myself was vital. I didn’t just tell her I was sorry and I wouldn’t let another bad guy hurt us. I did things to assure that my words had meaning. She saw my eyes get watery when she was hurting and she my eyes get confident as I gained skills. She saw me tired and ragged right after the attack and she saw my joy and lightness return with each day and each step I took towards self reliance.
That’s it. That’s what we have been doing for the past few months to help our daughter heal and it’s working.