April is Child Abuse Prevention Month
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. The third week of April is Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention week. This may not be in the forefront of your thoughts, but child abuse surrounds my life 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Every waking moment we are swallowed up by reminders of child abuse. For the average every day person, they hear the stories and their hearts hurt and feel empowered for one moment to make a change. I am glad. Even if the one month of awareness reminds people to be more vigilant, active, kinder and an advocate, it means our children do not suffer in vain.
I am a single parent. I say that because it's who I am and has shaped my life. I am a single parent of a child abuse survivor who is developmentally delayed. I say that because those facts have rocked the very foundation on which I stand, that foundation crumbled and it has taken many years to build the foundation to a strength on which I can stand up again. I stand proudly. I am a person with a ton of weaknesses and faults. I am weak and admittedly I am so. I have to be a parent with no holds barred even though I don't want to be. I just want to love and cuddle and make excuses but I have to be the parent that says no. Believe me, I say NO a LOT! My daughter is polite and apologizes and addresses adult males as "sir" and adult females as "ma'am" or "lady". I get angry and some days I just don't learn to bite my tongue and I forget that although Emma is chronologically 7 and physically 7, mentally and emotionally she is 3 or 4, I forget she doesn't understand. Maybe it's because of those moments of forgetfulness of her developmental disabilities and the fact I treat her as an equal that she is the way she is: an amazing, bright, witty and charismatic child who doesn't understand she has disabilities and doesn't believe that the world can slow her down. Also, she thinks she is an adult.
I am an exhausted mom. I am overweight. I have so many dreams that I wish to fulfill and so many dreams that can not happen for many years. I am struggling financially but as I hope to finish my education soon enough, I won't be any longer. I know that I have to make something of myself in order to take care of her for the rest of her life. For the rest of her life, she will be dependent upon me financially, emotionally, medically, and all other things which one who has needs depends on. When I gave birth to Emma, I could have no more. She was it. She is forever. I promised her when she was born that if I couldn't take care of her, I would make sure she was taken care of. I made the same promise again when she was lying in a coma from her head injury when she was 11 months old.
We have overcome so much and every single advancement she makes, I lie in bed at night and cry and thank the universe. When she learned to walk a mere two years ago, we were so overjoyed. Emma was so proud of herself. She learned to walk holding a hand and slowly on level surfaces without holding on. She recently graduated from riding in her wheelchair on the bus to riding in the regular seat. She still needs help as she doesn't quite have the balance and strength for the stairs but I know by the end of this school year she will have them mastered.
So, when you hear those stories and your heart breaks, remember our hearts are broken forever. We don't get to talk about it and move on. Child abuse has stolen our lives and remolded them into something that hurts and haunts and strengthens. Things in our lives don't end, it goes on forever. We struggle forever.
In April, do me a favor. Or rather, you don't have to wait til April, do it any day of any month. Remind people it's never ok to shake a baby. It's never ok to abuse a child. NEVER OK. NEVER. Maybe visit a crisis nursery. Maybe volunteer at a child abuse organization. A Children's unit at a hospital. Or even, if you have a pet, maybe volunteer for pet therapy. Or a group home for people with disabilities, help out the disabled. Heck, while we are on it. How about visit a nursing home, too? Our seniors need some love. Just do something kind for someone.