Today I took my 2-year-old twin daughters to preschool for the first time and I was filled with emotions. As I thought about what was making me so anxious about taking them to school, I realized that it was more than just my baby girls growing up. Sure, I worried about how they will interact with their peers and if they will miss me while I am gone but most importantly, I worried about how they will be cared for when I am not there. I am responsible for protecting them not only from physical harm but protecting their innocence and today is one of those days that glaringly reminds me of this big role that I have.
Working in the child abuse world for 10 years has changed me as a person. I always say that working in child abuse is like seeing color for the first time. Prior to working in it, you see the world in black and white, and once you begin seeing the dangers in the world, you begin to see all shades of color and no matter how hard you try, you cannot unsee it. Instead, you are forced to navigate this world with your new perspective and you have to challenge yourself to use the knowledge that you have acquired and your intuition to put your trust in others. That has been the scariest thing I have ever done.
I was recently at one of CIR's trainings and the instructor had us do an activity where she asked us to think about someone we have put our trust in who was not a relative, friend, or co-worker. She asked us to write down the qualities the person had and what made us trust them. I chose a babysitter that I hired for a short period when the twins were babies. I reflected on how I was able to feel comfortable with choosing her to watch my precious babies and I narrowed it down to these 3 things:
- She had good energy. I may be one of the few people that lists intuition at the top of the list but I think it's extremely important to listen to our intuition. I teach my oldest daughter to follow her intuition, I tell her if someone makes her feel uncomfortable or if her stomach starts to feel funny when she is around someone, even if it is a family member, she should avoid that person and tell me about it. There does not have to be a reason, if she feels uncomfortable that is reason enough. The more we reinforce this, the better our kids will be at trusting themselves and standing up for themselves.
- She had experience and education. I could tell not only from her resume but from talking to her that she had not only experience and education in child development but she also had a passion for the work. I also called all of her references and did a background check. She checked all of the professional boxes I was looking for.
- She had the same morals and values as I do. This is so important when helping me raise my kids. I want to know that we value and respect the same things and that we are instilling these values in my children. She also parented similar to me and that was very important. She asked many questions about me and our family which was such a great sign for me because she wanted to make sure that we were a good fit for her as well.
This exercise reinforced my confidence in my ability to keep my children safe when I am not around them. And so today, as I walked my two little girls into their new classroom, I thought about how scary the world can truly be but I also thought about the amazing and caring people in it and I remembered that I have been doing everything in my power to protect my children while also allowing them to grow and flourish. This is just another step in that growth. And so, I leave them filled with different emotions; worry being one of them, but I also know that it's a healthy amount of worry and I am using it to ensure that my kids are as safe as they can be.
I am a mom that works in child abuse. I do not parent the same way as those who are not aware of the dangers of sexual predators and the internet. But I am also surrounded by a community of professionals who understand me, support me, and help me navigate the complexities of working in child abuse. They help me navigate my fears and anxieties while letting my kids enjoy their childhoods and preserving their innocence.
It really does take a village.