Being Abused as a Child Makes Me Scared to Take My Kids to Daycare

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Like most people, I have memories of my childhood -- and while I can't remember everything, there are some moments that stick out in my mind. I remember seeing Ms. Piggy on some Muppets on Ice performance, and yelling at the top of my lungs, "My friend!" I remember my parents getting divorced when I was 5 and being okay with it. (Even then, I knew they argued too much.) I also remember going to a daycare for the first time, the morning bagels I ate, cartoons I watched, and meeting a woman named Ms. Karen*, who physically abused me as a child.

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And in turn, I developed a complex about daycares.

For the life of me, I can't remember anything about Ms. Karen -- her hair, her face, or what she wore. Maybe I blocked it from my mind as a coping mechanism. All I know is that our paths crossed at a children's learning center my mother used shortly after my parents divorced. Now single, my mom needed someone who could watch me before and after school. (My dad at the time was an undercover detective. So yeah, he didn't have the most reliable schedule.)

As an only child back then, I thought the learning center was so cool. Not only did I meet new people, but I also had access to tons of snacks, and fun things to do when school wasn't in session -- like watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Secret of the Ooze for the first time, and going swimming. Yet, all of those awesome memories would get overshadowed by one reality I faced: child abuse.

The first time it happened to me was outside and in plain view. After winning back-to-back races to and from the fence (a girl named Shavonne would be the first person to make me taste defeat), the clouds started getting darker. With winds picking up before a huge downpour, I remember running to help the younger kids.

"Get away from them, and get inside!" I heard someone yell at me before grabbing my wrist and twisting my hand to the back of my body.

It was Ms. Karen.

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For some reason -- maybe because I was only 5 -- I didn't think much of it. Maybe she was having a bad day -- or was going through a divorce like my parents. I put that incident behind me and kept on with life.

During my time at that learning center, there were other incidents that would transpire. During a field trip to the swimming pool, I remember being so excited to swim like Ariel from The Little Mermaid in my new pink swimsuit. I spent all my time practicing what I learned in swim class and trying super hard to swim as close to the pool floor as possible. What I didn't expect was to have someone not only step on my back, but keep it there -- as if I never needed to come up for air.

It was Ms. Karen.

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One of the last events I can remember is being one of the last kids to get picked up (it happened all the time). Singing some Paula Abdul song as I skipped around the sofa, I remember seeing two things: the ceiling and the floor. In pain from smacking against linoleum, I noticed there was Ms. Karen, standing behind the sofa. I can't picture her face, but will never forget the laugh she let out.

"I guess you can't fly," she said before walking off.

As you might've guessed, the love I had for my learning center quickly turned to fear. I tried my best not to let my mother see my face as we pulled up to the location every day. Even as a child, I knew she was frustrated enough with trying to juggle it all, and I didn't want to add to her plate.

Honestly, I can't recall how long these incidents went on before I told my mother. My daddy will shoot her, I remember telling myself as a way to justify keeping it from him.

Of course my mother would alert him to what was going on after I told her one evening during dinner. Now, I don't exactly know what happened in the director's office the following day (I sat outside), but I'll tell you this: It was loud -- very loud.

All I can remember is my mother yelling, "You can try to call the cops, my ex-husband is the police!" before she she grabbed my hand and ushered me outside. She was pissed, and evidently must've done something that could've warranted a visit from the police. (I always assumed she laid hands on Ms. Karen, but to this day never thought to ask.) My mother pressed charges against Ms. Karen. She was fired from the learning center, and after that, I don't know what happened to her.

And now, at age 31, I find that these memories are starting to come back. I'm married now, and the mother of two young boys, ages 2 and 11 months. They've been with both of us while we work from home, but now, my husband and I just decided we would put them in the daycare facility at his new job. The opportunity -- including the affordability -- was too good to pass up. The daycare not only has stellar reviews, but my kiddos will enjoy socializing with other tots their age, learning new things, and soaking in a different change of scenery. What's great is that my guy can pop in on them if and when necessary. (My father-in-law even works there, too.)

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Since they were born, all my babies have known is the comfort and safety of our home. No matter how hectic it can be trying to work a full-time job with a toddler and baby (the struggle is real), I knew they were protected; no one was going to hurt them or rob them of their innocence. Eventually they'll learn the realities about the world, but for now, they have the gift of being children.

While I'll be the first to admit my situation could've been worse (I can't help but think about all the horrifying events happening around the world), I must say, child abuse has changed me as a mother. It makes me look at people differently and not put the capability to do the unthinkable past anyone -- regardless of whether they're a friend or family member.

But at the same time, I realize I can't attach my kids to my apron strings. The rest of my childhood was pretty awesome, and full of so many wonderful moments to last me a lifetime. I would be wrong to rob my kids of the same experiences -- out of fear something bad will happen. I won't say I don't play "what if" scenarios in my mind the few times I leave them with trusted people, but, at the end of the day, I'm getting better.

 

 

*Name has been changed

Image via eranicle/Shutterstock; design by Anne Meadows

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