Happy Father’s Day! My deepest respect, love and prayers extend to all Fathers and Grandfathers. Thank you for your love, efforts and hard work you do every day to support your family, and give your children the best life possible.
And for those healing from abuse, this story is to show that it is possible to have a healthy, loving, positive relationship with a father or father figure. It is possible to have a healthy, loving husband or partner as a father of children. As an abuse survivor, it was healing for me to meet one such hero father. I am sharing this story because encouragement is a balm for the scars we hold in our hearts ❤ Always remember how beautiful and precious you truly are!
The dry ground cracked beneath our feet, releasing waves of heat from the depths of the earth. Above, the sky was a relentless awning of fire. There seemed no escape from summer heat wave, we withered in plastic lounge chairs, tanning plastic stripes into our legs.
“Maybe we should turn the sprinkler on?” my friend Luke suggested.
Four grumpy kids complained in the heat, too tired to play with the pile of water toys piled in a plastic bin at the corner of the patio. Popsicles melted before they could have a bite, leaving a sticky mess on their laps. The play date arranged for Luke’s two children, and my two children, was turning out to be a bummer.
“Can’t hurt.” I shrugged.
The custody situation was really hurting my kids—they could barely hold onto a relationship with their mother and now were losing their friends, and every part of their former life too. The visitation arrangements were always changing but was consistent was that with each court order, my abusive ex was gaining more control, and I was becoming more estranged from my children. The children forgot the names of favorite cousins, and friends they once played with. They couldn’t attend church like they used to, and didn’t remember the prayers or Bible verse I taught them. And it seemed like we spent our visits rushing from one place to another, frantically trying to make up for everything that was lost. My friend Luke seemed to understand, he was also divorced and parenting two boys, but his divorce was amicable. We thought it was a good idea to get the kids together for a play date but the heat was zapping the kid’s energy.
Luke disappeared into a rickety garden shed and came out with a long green garden hose and a yellow plastic sprinkler shaped like a bumblebee. Spider webs billowed off the hose as he carried it across the yard.The kids groaned at the sight of the childish bumblebee. My daughter JJ screamed when a spider jumped off the sprinkler, running close to her leg. The three boys played hero, pulling out the squirt guns, ready to eliminate any spider that dared to cross their path! Luke set up the bumblebee sprinkler in a bare patch of lawn, he joked with his boys, telling them that if they did not run through, they would be grounded. Soon all four children were romping under the cold streams of water.
With the kids now happy, Luke turned his attention to lunch. I brought a big loaf of French bread to make submarine sandwiches, and the fridge was stocked with goodies. It seemed like only a second that we turned our backs, then the kids were shrieking with laughter, and a loud thud hit the kitchen window. I looked out and saw the kids took the tiny bumblebee off the sprinkler and now were fighting over the bare hose, spraying each other, and turning the dry lawn into a mud pit. JJ is very competitive and once hit by a spray of water; she grabbed a handful of mud and threw it at the boys. The kids were stomping their bare feet in the mud. Water was flying an all directions—from the hose and from a battalion of squirt guns. The boys were wrestling in the mud. My daughter had won the hose and was gleefully shooting at the grass until a small lake formed. It was an absolute mess! The kids were laughing, and soaking wet, totally oblivious to anything but the fun they were having.
As a survivor of abuse, I deal with Post Traumatic Stress, and flashbacks of the abuse I endured for 8 years at the hands of my abusive ex. There are some triggers I have learned to anticipate, and have methods for dealing with. Other triggers, like the mud puddle in the yard, come unexpectedly. My body went rigid as if made of stone. I absolutely could not move. Time seemed to slow. And the sound of the children’s laughter was being drown out by the roar of Mr. X’s voice as a trigger (a trigger is current event that releases a memory of something traumatic that happened in the past) was unleashed in full fury. I remember feeling absolute fear—that if Mr. X saw the muddy yard, the mess the kids were making, he would be furious. One of the kids would be hit. I would be on my hands and knees trying to clean up the mess, apologizing as tears ran down my face. The bumblebee sprinkler would be kicked or thrown across the yard. I would be called horrible names, and made to feel like a failure. For days I would tiptoe around Mr. X, anticipating another rage. It would be bad. There were things I could not talk about but I felt them, and I could not move out of fear. All these scenes flashed before my eyes as the past collided with the present.
“Wow! Look at what those crazy kids are doing?!?” I heard Luke say. I flinched…and then he laughed. Laughed? I slowly turned my eyes towards his face, which was turning red was he laughed, and tears rolled down his cheeks. “I don’t know which one are yours and which one is mine, they are all covered in mud!”
I couldn’t believe Luke was laughing. I had never seen anything like it before. He wasn’t angry at all. No one was in trouble. It was not a big deal. It was funny???
“Sad thing is… we are gonna have to hose them off again to clean the kids up! Can you grab a bunch of towels, they’re in the long closet in the bathroom.”
I felt my pulse rush through my body. The white sunlight filtered through the windows, pushing the shadows away. I was okay. It was okay. My breath seized in my chest then was released in a ragged sign. What did okay mean, anyways?
As simple as it was profound, that one moment in the muddy lawn on a hot summer day has taught me so much. I truly saw what it meant to be a loving, supportive father. A father who is in control of his emotions, and is able to handle the challenges of parenting without resorting to anger or violence. A father who can laugh at the antics of children, and encourage their potential even when they are covered in mud. I saw that it is possible to have a safe home environment. I saw that stable families do exist, that it is even possible to have a happy family after a divorce. I saw this from the example of one such hero father.
All I had known the opposite – the fits of rage, the anger, the demands that cost me so much, wounding on a soul level. Even when Mr. X was being nice, it never felt safe, never felt like he really cared, let alone loved any of us. Mr. X is not what a father should be. This experience inspired healing, that not all fathers are like my abusive ex partner. That I can be free from the past, and accept something better for my own life right here, right now.
What keeps me going, and keeps me strong in my struggles is remembering moments like these, the people who bring something positive into this world, who dispel the negativity and give hope. We all have the potential to be such people, and should strive to do so at every given opportunity.
— Emily Court, © June 2015