Life Lessons with Monica: Learning About Injustice

In 2019, my children returned home from a summer vacation extended visitation with their father and stepmother, dramatically changed. My daughter, 11-years-old, at the time, was clearly suffering from anxiety to a severe extent, as well as struggling with a burgeoning eating disorder. My son’s attitude was shifted from sweet and carefree to broody and standoffish. He would struggle with taking showers, having complete breakdowns, shaking, and crying, throwing a tantrum seen most commonly in toddlers despite his being 6 at the time and about to begin his first-grade school year.

Between the months of August and November, the things my children would share, the emotions they were feeling, the fears they were discussing were enough to make a mother terrified to her core. Suddenly, in the course of a few months-time I was faced with a bitterly harsh truth in life: My abuser had begun to abuse my children, and his wife was joining in the foray with her own forms of abuse. I say all the time that there is no guidebook available for parenting. Nothing is out there that can truly prepare you for hearing about your children being abused, neglected, ignored, and having their privacy violated to the point of causing mental health issues and self-harm tendencies. Me sharing my story as a mother, sharing the experiences of my children, the moments they suffered, it is not going to prepare you if it is something that you have to deal with. I pray with my whole heart that this is something that you don’t ever have to face. My story is to help those who are going through it, and to share more of what we have undergone so that if you are dealing with it, or at some point something happens and you end up facing this horror, you know that you are not alone.

By mid-November, my daughter was toggling back and forth with the belief that she was fat, needed to lose weight, and that she was worthless, not enough, not loved, and a misguided notion that because she too often was the caretaker of her toddler half-sister while on her visitation weekends, she was the parent responsible for her. My daughter began showing symptoms of Fibromyalgia. It was no longer a situation in which I was able to calm her down, talk to her throughout, nor help her on my own. My son was anxious and would have “mysterious” scratches on his body whenever her had to take showers. Learning shortly thereafter that this was caused by an invasion from his stepmother during his showers at his father’s house. Having showered on his own since the age of four, now it would seem his stepmother had decided that he wasn’t capable of doing something he had known how to do for years on his own, would enter the bathroom and wash his hair and body for him every time he was in the shower. Months later, when my children were no longer visiting their father, after there were documentations of scratches that were suspicious on my son when he would return from their home, he admitted during a family sit-down meeting that he was hurting himself. 7-years-old, my son, my baby, the boy that almost didn’t survive his first year of life, looked at us and said, “I do that. I hurt myself.”

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