Hours after Middle and Little left for their first supervised visit with their mom last summer, I saw something that I imagine answers the ever-nagging question, “What does it feel like to be them?”
Allow me to set the scene.
The kids had just left for their visit. It would last three weeks and was supposed to be supervised by one of BioMom’s friends. BioMom’s friend was under strict orders to act as supervisor 24 hours a day during their visit.
Obviously, we didn’t trust the situation much because we’d never met the friend, but she sent us extensive documentation proving that she worked for the state as a visitation supervisor, so Husband reluctantly agreed to include her on the “approved supervisor list” filed with the court to avoid going to trial with BioMom again. And even though we doubted her commitment to supervising BioMom and our (admittedly difficult) kiddos, we believed that she would at least keep them safe. They came back physically unharmed, but the supervisor failed on an enormous level when she allowed BioMom to take the kids to her new boyfriend’s house for two out of the three weeks they were there. The supervisor failed, and we are still trying to undo the damage done on that visit.
Even though I was beyond worried about them going on the trip for the visit, when they left I was actually happy that they were going. My thought process was something like, “I need the break. Sure, it sucks that they are going somewhere that might undo all the progress we’ve made. It’s horrible that they might be exposed to more of the stuff that disrupted their minds in the first place. But I don’t really care right now.”
A couple hours after they left, I read an article that claimed the music video for Sia’s “Chandelier” to be the best of the year. So I watched it.
I’ve seen this before, I thought a few seconds into the video. The facial expressions, the movements, the intensity… I’ve seen all of this in Middle. This must be what she feels like all the time.
And even though the song is about Sia’s battle with alcoholism and the party scene, the song lyrics couldn’t be more relevant:
Party girls don’t get hurt
Can’t feel anything, when will I learn
I push it down, push it down…
I’m gonna’ swing from the chandelier
I’m gonna’ live like tomorrow doesn’t exist, like it doesn’t exist
I’m gonna’ fly like a bird through the night
Feel my tears as they dry…
But I’m holding on for dear life
Won’t look down, won’t open my eyes…
Cuz’ I’m just holding on for tonight
Help me, I’m holding on for dear life
I spent the next two hours sobbing on the couch, alone in my almost-empty apartment (Oldest was sleeping and Husband was driving the kids 1,000 miles away from home). Regretting immensely the way I handled Middle and Little’s behavior in the days leading up to their departure, I berated myself.
Was I actually relieved when they left here a few hours ago? How on earth was I okay with them going on this visit?! And me… on what planet is my own behavior with them considered okay?! They are children… hurt children. And over the last few weeks I’ve been treating them like unwelcome guests in my home just because they were trying to hurt me in response to their pain. They are children and I am an adult! What is wrong with me!?
This video restored my empathy immediately. I still watch it frequently when I feel overwhelmed with the immensity of my kids’ behavior. It helps me remember that they have a mental disorder. They’re not doing all of the stuff they do on purpose… Well, maybe they are doing it “on purpose,” but they’re not doing it with a sense of control.
Every time I watch this music video, I’m reminded that my Middle and Little have so much going on in their little minds. Can you imagine going through life feeling like this? Put yourself in the shoes of a child whose brain operates at this frequency all the time as a protective mechanism, as a reaction to the life lessons his early-childhood experiences taught him. I guarantee you will feel more empathetic, which will help you parent your kids in the way that they so desperately need.