In searching for fathers to reach out to about the Fathering as a Survivor series, I came across Matt’s website Surviving My Past. His writings and podcasts quickly grabbed me. One article that drew me in right away was titled Breaking down barriers – Talking with my kids about my past.
“Other than sharing my story with my sister-in law previously, this is the first I will speak of this abuse in person to anyone other than my therapist J. Talking about it in the safe confines of her office is one thing, but talking to my own kids, I can feel the anxiety rising by the minute. I know I need to do this though.” Breaking Down Barriers – Talking with my kids about my past ~Matt
I would highly recommend reading this piece. I know many in the Trigger Points community will identify with his fears and the results of having that difficult conversation with his children. Thank you Matt, for being a part of the Fathering as a Survivor interview series.
1. Before becoming a father, did you look forward to becoming a parent?
Sure, I was excited to have kids and build our own little family with my wife. Our first was a honeymoon baby. Plans changed quite quickly from what we envisioned our lives being and the timetable we had set for ourselves out of the gate.
2. How did you feel when you first learned you were going to be a father? Did you have any specific fears and/or joys?
Scared to death as the time got closer to my first child being born. At first it was all, yeah this is cool we’re having a baby, it’ll be great! I will love this child, we’ll do fun things together, make awesome memories, and she will be loved and cared for no matter what.
When she was born though, I was scared to death. I had no idea what I was doing and how to raise a kid. What was I thinking? This little child is completely helpless and dependent on me and my wife to take care of her. Talk about anxiety!
3. Were there any triggers that came up for you while your partner was pregnant?
Mostly when people would talk about how babies cry all the time, never sleep when you sleep, and grow out of clothes faster than you can buy them. They would say this in jest but it was trigger for me because I had no idea how I would handle it all.
4. What has surprised you most about parenthood?
How I just seem to be able to figure it out as I go along. There is no manual on how to raise a kid. Sure there are books and people have view points on how to deal with this situation or that situation, but when it comes right down to it, we as parents just kind of figure it out. There is trial and error and you learn from mistakes and “what I should have said or done,” but children are forgiving and just want love and to feel safe. You’re bound to screw up as a parent, it’s going to happen, but you learn from it and pass along your knowledge.
5. What acts of parenting have led you to be triggered? Examples could be disciplining, bathing, showing affection/touching, etc. Have you learned anything from these triggers about your own fears, or the parts of you that still need healing?
Mostly dealing with bullying issues in school. I was bullied big time in late elementary and middle school. When my two sons experienced that it just broke my heart and infuriated me at the same time. I wanted to save them, encourage them, build them up, and let them know above all else they were amazing, loved, and special. I would go to bat for them in a second, every time. I couldn’t be there every second of the day though and I couldn’t stop the bullying from happening every time. That’s hard to handle.
6. What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your child(ren)?
Unconditional love and never giving up. I went through tough times after my first marriage ended in divorce. I was in a bad place with alcohol and being around the wrong people. I wasn’t spending enough time with my kids yet they always loved me. They always had a smile, hug, and a kiss for me. No matter what they never gave up on me and I’m so grateful. Eternally grateful for that. I love them more than anything.
7. What would you tell another survivor father who is expecting their first child?
Being a father is the most honorable and amazing thing in the world, but also the most terrifying. You can’t save your kids from everything. They will face trials and hurt and they will need you to be there for them. Encourage them, love them, validate them. Never, ever invalidate a child’s needs.
You have been given the most honorable gift in the world, the gift of mentoring a young innocent mind. Take it seriously but don’t take yourself so seriously that you don’t enjoy the little things that a child will bring into your life every day. Laugh a lot, embrace the craziness and know that your job is the most important one in the world to that child.
Matt lives in Pennsylvania with his three amazing kids. He is a lifelong rocker and founder of SurvivingMyPast.Net – My Life with Dissociation, Anxiety, and PTSD.
To hear more about the unique challenges parenting survivors face, get your copy of Trigger Points: Childhood Abuse Survivors Experiences of Parenting, available on Amazon.
Here’s what readers are saying:
“The book so many of us looked for and craved and ached for. And couldn’t find.” ~Christine W.
“I work as a psychologist and a researcher. …This book made me a better researcher because it gave me dozens of hints to study different aspects of abused parents’ emotions.
But most importantly, it made a better father because it helped me reflect on my experience as a parent through the memories of my own childhood.” ~Luca
“This book has been a life changing revelation for me!”
“What I find most impressive – aside from the raw, honest writing – is how the editors chose to include journal prompts and several different types of resources for readers. This is a workbook, really. Incredibly well-written and thoughtfully arranged.” Beth T.
“Finally a book where parents who have experience CSA can go from essay to poem to essay and say “me too.” ~Lara