Sunday, February 18, 2007

Confronting Childhood Demons

...So one of the things that you don't think about before you have children is the fact that inevitably you will be forced to face your own childhood demons through them and their experiences.

Last night we let the boys sleep over at the karate studio. This was the first time they ever slept somewhere without us. The dojo does a "Parent's Night Out" every few months and 20 kids can stay over, play games, watch movies, eat pizza and sleep on the mats in their sleeping bags. They have been begging me to do it for a year.

Most of my friend's can't believe that we have gone eight years without ever being away from the kids. They always assume it's a product of this site --that I read too many bad news stories and have morphed into an over-protective freak. I won't lie, that has something to do with it...but why am I so obsessed with those stories to begin with?

No, I didn't have some horribly traumatic experience, like many children have gone through, where an uncle/priest/teacher forced himself on me... When I was younger I was always going to various sleepovers. When I was 11 I went to a friend's house and was supposed to stay for the weekend. Being the oldest of 5 kids, I relished these small escapes from chores and babysitting. The first night as we went to bed, I remember the girl's clock radio being on as I drifted to sleep on a blow-up mattress on her bedroom floor -"I come from the land down under" playing happily in the background. Of course I couldn't sleep because as much as I always wanted to be away, I could never sleep anywhere but home. Sometime after midnight her father (a heavy set foreign man) came into the room and whispered her name three times. He then knelt down next to me and hovered there for what felt like forever. I could feel his breath on my cheek and I remember my mind racing but deciding it was a "foreign" thing. That was until he peeled back my covers. And started sliding his fat ham hand into my underpants. I did the stretch, pretend to start waking up thing and he quickly left the room. I was so confused. This couldn't be written of as a "foreign thing". About 45 minutes later he returned and once again pulled away my covers and started rubbing my pre-pubescent behind and trying to push his hand down my pants. I sat up and he left the room without saying a word.

The next morning I told myself I imagined it. This was my friend's father. Father's didn't do things like that. But I was so sick. I threw up three or four times and chalked it up to "foreign food", but asked to go home. My mom remembers being worried because I never got sick and never came home from anywhere early. Anyway, to make a long story a little shorter, I finally did tell my parents (about a month later) after I overheard two of the other girls in my class talking about this girl's father and grilled them to find that he had done things to them too --worse things. The sad thing is, it was later speculated that my "friend" brought home her girlfriends to keep her daddy off of her.

That was the end of sleepovers in our family. My siblings hated that they could never sleep at friend's houses and blamed me --(at the time we thought) they were too young to explain the reason and only knew it was "because of something that happened to ALa".

Once I had my own children, the idea of sending them off to some friend's house to sleep over --when I don't know the parent's from Adam --was more than I could fathom. It's insane. Just because my kid likes someone I have to trust their parents? I decided that this "Parent's Night Out" was a way for me to let go a little. I know the Sensei’s. I am at the dojo 5 times a week. There were two male Sensei’s and a female. My kids would be spending the night with 3 5th degree Black belts.

But, oh God, did I feel like I was going to throw up as I walked out the door. The reaction was actually stronger than I thought it would be. Compared to a lot of people, what happened to me was so minor...but even though the physical effects were minimal -it destroyed my trust in people that I innately trusted before. It made everyone suspect. So no, it's not just the blog that has made me a freak. It's knowing that you never really know anyone and what you deem as a kind act could put your child in danger.

Anyway, another childhood demon confronted. Maybe not defeated, but there's at least a flesh wound...

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