Don’t Rip The Band-aide Off, It’s Not Even a Band -Aide
A lot of my work as an arts educator, motivational speak and author has been focused on helping those who have been through traumatic childhood situations heal; but I am seeing that I have to shift a little to talk to those who have done the source of the hurt. More specifically absentee parents.
Before I get to this, because I’m not going to sugar coat anything but for those who like to use the saying “everyone makes mistakes” or any other victim holding house, I am going to kindly ask you to have a seat in a corner and discuss this with yourself until you’ve caught up to where I’m at. The fact is, children who have been neglected by their parents have already given every benefit of the doubt and every excuse why it’s not as bad as it could be. In fact, youth who are neglected by their parents are generally their parent’s biggest protector in their absence and in their presence. So, let’s lock that up and throw away the key.
As a former foster youth, I’ve utilized every single method to heal myself, not of which was ever advocated by my biological mother, even in my efforts to bond with her as an adult. My healing has come solely because I wanted to, but it surely could have come quicker and sooner if my mother actually made any effort. It feels good to say “My mother” and it actually is about the person whose canal you’ve actually journeyed through. It is beyond painful to not receive that genuine care, and having a child is a lot of work, but damn! When will parents GROW UP?!
This past week on VH1’s reality TV show, “Black Ink Crew” the cast member Sky reunited with her two sons after 15 years of seeing them. This show is not one of my reality TV guilty pleasures but the backstory is she was a young mother that was put in jail, her mother got her boys and then put them up for adoption. Their grandmother putting them up for adoption is another intersecting aspect that would indicate another layer to the frailty of these youth, but it’s irritatingly obvious that no one was taking these youth into account when this decision was made.
I’m SHOOK! This is her reunion with her eldest son, Genesis who is not as open or forgiving as his younger brother who is 18 years old. In this clip, all she does is give excuses and ‘ole boy is not here for it. Genesis’ pain and anger are so built up that he took out 3 grown ass men as a result. What is so angering is that even after 15 years she was unable to consider how he felt or would feel. Her words are not calming, caring, and defensive. She jumps up out of her chair almost as quick as he does and she yells “let go of my son” as if she’s been there to protect him in the first place. She has him in a public space, with cameras in his face, surrounded by strangers. What a formula for DISASTER! Many have said “they agreed to be in the show,” but how many options were they given? Why would a mother who hasn’t seen her children in 15 years not choose to build with them outside of the show first, take time and then temper into thereafter? This displays how selfish she is and how much she doesn’t take time to critically think about the best outcome of the boys; even down to her words. In a clip with her older son, she says “I hate the feeling of abandonment and like consistency and I never want you to feel that” In the same breath as “I’m sorry.”
She cannot help but place herself in a victim space. Many parents who have abandoned their children fail to realize the trauma attached to that experience. They don’t understand the context developed over years. She has been on this show for numerous years and I am sure they have seen or watched or at the least, known and still with no communication. There is so much wrapped into this in a world where your mom isn’t on a reality TV show, but a bigger slap in the face is when she is and the world has her and you don’t. Every single year where she was on the show and not communicating with them was magnified. For the younger son, it showed up with him giving her an explosive hug when he laid eyes on her. For her older son, it showed up with him throwing around men and cameras and whatever was on that table. Anyone entering a trauma-sensitive youth can benefit from the list below but this one goes out to the ones who
1. Apologize for the part you played in this story. You can share your experience but save your excuses and reasons. Unless I ask, I don’t want to hear it. Why? Because it translates as you not taking responsibly for your actions… And if not YOU then who?
2. Give me space and allow me to navigate my comfort with your desire to reenter. Allow me to invite you and when I do, make your best efforts to say yes and make it happen. Lastly, never ever point the finger of blame at me.
3. Be consistent, but don’t sweat me. If you genuinely want to be in my life allow me to show you who I am, what I like, what I want and don’t assume, ever. Ask for permission for various modes of interaction. “Can I call you tomorrow?” “Can we get together this weekend?” “Do you mind if I take care of your phone bill for you this month? I see you’ve been grinding.” Whatever it is, ask.
4. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Don’t begin to post photos of me and proclaiming me to the world or trying to embed yourself in my personal relationships. I don’t even know you like that. I am most likely at a space where I am used to not having you in my narrative and have likely endured many adversities to get me to the place you are so proud of, and you didn’t play a positive role in that. You did help bring me into this world and I appreciate that, but chill.
5. Be patient and gather information. Ask the people that know the most about me, about me. I am not going to be open from the jump. I have absolutely no reason to trust anything about you, and all my reservations are valid. More importantly, if you don’t get to know me you will not know how to navigate being around me and may set off triggers that is sure to be there. Triggers being set off will make me take steps back and create walls for your steps forward.
6. Handle your own feelings. This is a no comfort zone. You are going to be going through it as well. You are going to feel ready and want to jump in and be the best you, you can be with me. You are convinced and want to pour into my cup, but remember you are alien to me. If you are in your feelings as a result of my reservation or occasional lash out/ pop off; you are going to have to gather them and take them to another room and sort through them on your own. This will not be easy, but life isn’t easy. We both know that.
This is only the start, but being mindful and understanding is the key here. They say you are meant to pay for your mistake once, and I actually agree with that. Assuming that you feel that you’ve “made a mistake” in the treatment of your child understand each day that you were missing is what you will essentially “pay” for. There is light here though. While my mother and myself were unable to make it work (it is clear that being a
mother is not of interest to her and I honor her for the decision and owning herself) you can make this happen because YOU are wanted and YOU are loved. Like any relationship, it will take efforts on both sides, but with the blessing of time there is reconstructive magic that can happen, just don’t rip the band-aide off. Take it slow.