One of a man’s greatest gifts is the ability to become a father, or create life. The challenges that a man can face have developed into adding arrows of nurturing and caring into his quiver. Walk with me for a moment as I share the added challenges for a survivor who is, or will be soon, a father.
Some of us have experienced what we needed to become a good parent. We may have had great parents to emulate, but that seems to be a rare event. It is more likely that one parent has expressed a deep connection to being a parent. More often that parent is not the father. That absence, or loss of connection, adds one obstacle to understanding fatherhood. There are plenty of other situations that will occur in a man’s life with a chance to increase or decrease that understanding. Just having a positive male role model will make a young man’s concept of fatherhood that much clearer. What happens if that “positive male role model” sexually abuses you? Hard to imagine, but that is the truth behind a large population of men.
However, that is not part of my story. My story is no more, or less painful to the process of becoming a father. Adding a little of my story to the fatherhood experience would include the missing pieces of a survivor’s puzzle, especially my missing pieces. As a man who has survived and healed through his childhood sexual abuse, I still have hang ups around certain levels of intimacy. It is more of a physical boundary issue than anything else. As a survivor, that is one of our issues. We have a difficult time with boundaries being crossed.
When I saw my son during the first ultrasound picture, which was when he was 8 weeks old, I discovered that I did not have the right tools to be a father. I had a bit of a quiet freak-out moment, to say the least. I spent the next few months working on how I would present myself to my son… in fatherhood. I came to the conclusion that I would tell my kid(s) that I love them and I would show them love every day. Then I would use my parents as examples for which direction to avoid.
That concept had worked really well with my son. Alas, 2 ½ years later I was gifted with my daughter. That would not be so difficult except for the fact that I have 5 brothers. What experience do I have with girls and eventually young women? I had no problems sharing my masculine energy with my son, in an effort to mold him into the young man that he has developed into. That put me into a whole area of concern… and stress. How will I help my daughter become a confident young woman? The answer as it turns out was, exactly the same. I show her that I love her unconditionally and allow her to express her love back to me. That thought alone was enough to frighten me.
How will a man who was not nurtured during his toddler-hood… help to raise 2 children through toddler-hood? Good question. Often when they would do something that I saw as something I would have done, I would respond by telling them a little bit about my past. I do not know if it was done to instill fear or compare their reality to mine. But then it turned into something different. The something that was to come would even scare me.
For me, that was the hardest part of being a father. I was angry as hell that my kids were getting something that I did not get… a great father figure. Infancy was a cake walk compared to this. I seriously had to temper my rage and anger. Thus the beginning of mindfulness exercises to help me. That still did nothing to make it easier for my own inner child who was raging at everything that I did to be a positive parent. Imagine if you will, your inner child lashing out inside of your mind expecting you to respond to his temper tantrum. Of course there were stumbling blocks along the way, I am not a God. I was able to see that I had struck fear into my children with that energy. I saw myself inside of them. That not only spoke to my inner child, he almost wanted to “meet me after school”, if you know what I mean, but allowed me to reset the balance.
To say that after toddler-hood was a cake walk would mean that I was lying to you. What I had lacked as a child has delivered some other bothersome issues. Despite really enjoying the art of hugging, I have a difficult time when my kids will initiate a hug. Not even just a hug initiating any affection what so ever. I have not even touched on the subject of their over eager efforts to coming at me with pursed lips… seeking a kiss.
This past weekend I told them about all of my hang ups because I felt the need to come clean. I did so after sharing a few laughs with my mother on this subject. I also told them that I did not want them to stop outwardly showing their love. They laughed at my comments and did not only stay the course; they increased the amount and the sappiness factor. I love them dearly for all of their efforts. I may never change the wiring from my past experiences but I will not allow that to put a stranglehold on our relationship. The act of writing this has shown me that we can only seek to do our best for our children… even if our best means that we do things that make us freak out, cringe a little or even throw tantrums inside of ourselves.
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