I really did.
Of course, as with most epiphanies, there is companion guilt.
I have been riddled with fear and doubt. I have been the swiss cheese of confidence. I have been in anguish over my childrens' reactions to witnessing violence and living with the ensuing fallout. I have questioned everything I do, every way I help them. I have sought help for them and with them, because I believe it is beyond my coping spectrum, and I don't want to fuck it all up. I am so afraid for the damage already done, for what they witnessed and how they will process that it was done by someone they love to someone they love...I worry what they will consider normal or acceptable behavior.
I call the children's therapist to ask her how to respond to certain conversations I have with Bubbles, and the many questions that Supergirl poses. Bubbles wants Daddy to 'kiss Mommy's arm say sorry'. He also wants to 'get a hammer go bam bam to Daddy, be Mommy's rescue hero'.
I don't pretend to be able to know how to respond to that. If it was your child, or a preschool aged student of mine, I would probably know how to respond appropriately. But it's my child, and objectivity goes out the window when I hear those words. I feel like every response I have, every move I make must be extremely careful and correct. Perfect, even. We're dealing with PTSD here. I want to make sure I do it right. Because for so long I have done it wrong.
I call for help, I ask what to say, how to respond, when to ignore and when it's okay to show my own tears. How much to tell, how little, and always being careful in my response, to separate the truth from a judgment. He is their father, and his relationship with them is not mine. He won't hurt them, they are not me.
I want to believe this with all my heart.
I am surprised then, when their therapist suggests that I am handling it correctly and appropriately.
"What should I have said?" I beg, confused about responding to my three year old's suggestions of violence and rescue.
"It sounds like you handled it just right. You told him you know he likes everyone to be friends, acknowledged his anger, and told him he could not fight with a hammer. I think you managed to validate his feelings and this shows he is continuing to process, which is good!"
"I'm worried I am fucking it all up. I can't do it! I can't do everything right all the time," I sob to my own therapist in a rare moment of being allowed to cry without alarming small children.
"You are doing a great job with very little help. You are pulling this off alone! You realize that, right?" She says as she walks my sniffling self to the door.
I smile weakly, thinking that I've fooled her too. I am not doing a great job. Doesn't she realize that a great job does not include hours of sniffly wet sobbing? She disagrees, which is why I schedule another appointment with her.
Yesterday we had a rough moment. One of hundreds since April 11th, the day the man who claimed to love me, took me to the ground in a choke hold. And then did it again when I tried to run away. In front of our child. While he screamed and begged Daddy to stop. Yeah, that's what I think of when I say 'April 11th'.
So there was a moment. A moment in which Supergirl asked a tough question and Bubbles responded with words which may have shocked another adult. I responded as a mother. I looked at my children and all I could feel was love, not fear or dread that I had done it the wrong way. I was confident that I had answered correctly. I didn't need to call anyone to make sure.
And then, the epiphany. I suddenly knew a lost secret of my life:
I am a good mother.
For five months I have lived with the freedom of not being told I am fucking it all up, all the time. For five months, nobody has shushed me, berated me, turned a stereo up to drown me out, walked away from our conversation, ignored me, or told me that 'a nanny would do a better job' (oh yes he did).
I am a good mother, and I let him take that away too, until I didn't even know I had lost it.
I have shed a few covert tears over this revelation.
I mentioned the companion guilt. What kind of mother compromises so very much, that she loses that much of her confidence in her mere ability as a parent? What kind of modeling is that?
What have I done?
If I live in the present, I can say, I am a good mother.
I am becoming the parent I want to be.