Raising a kid is hard. Raising three kids is crazy. Raising three kids while dealing with PTSD is total madness.
I have three boys, ages 10, 7, and 2. Every day brings something new, and yet somehow it’s a routine regular enough for me to handle. I feel most parents freak out over a child swearing, climbing on the security gate, or a questionable fart from the baby. I don’t really see these events as identifiable crises. They go into my mental event log in chronological order with timestamps for indexing purposes. Navigating my mind in this fashion will make things easier when it comes time to embarrass them in front of their future spouses.
Back then, one little change of course in the development of my kids felt catastrophic. Instant system failure, as far as I was concerned. I went into a tailspin, and ultimately surrendered control of their upbringing to my ex or my former in-laws.
Furthering that downward spiral, I looked at my boys like strangers. They weren’t what my idea of my kids would be like. My ridiculous idea of perfection was ruining my relationship with them at a critical age.
As my first born kept getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger, as children tend to do, I kept getting flashbacks of my traumatic moment. When it was dark, or I was drunk like I often was back then, his shape resembled the kid with a gun. I started hearing the high-pitched whine associated with the temporary tinnitus from that first gun shot going off inches away. That whine was briefly drowned out by orders being shouted.
I’m a realist, so the idea that I could have gone back to Iraq and be thrust into that situation was absolutely insane. It never took long for me to realize that was my son in front of me, but those visions loitered in my mind like a vulture.
Still, I was afraid of my son.
My second son was born when my oldest was two and a half. I still didn’t realize I had PTSD, but I was still scared. I didn’t have a job at the time, and we lived with my in-laws. Every day was already a battle, and with another child in the mix, I was worried it would be a war.
Turns out, he was a very easy-going kid. He was independent, and he made his own opinions known very early. The boy loved his Daddy so much, and for a while, I knew temporary happiness.
It didn’t last long, but you can read about that in my previous post, About Last Night….
My ex pushed through the divorce in 2013. I was in therapy, trying new meds, and generally screwing everything up by looking for a shortcut from the pharmaceutical industry.
My middle son was coming out of the toddler phase during our divorce process. He never scared me, but he was a quiet child, absorbing everything around him. He was afraid of me because of my ferocity, but he was more willing to accept me than my oldest. We connected over Street Fighter IV and Dragon Ball Z. I outgrew these things when I was younger, but when he showed interest, I was ecstatic. I can be a nerd again! (Mommy hated that…)
In 2014, we were blessed by yet another baby boy. This guy was special. He was born missing most of his blood and spent a few days in the NICU. He cried a lot. I wasn’t allowed in due to a logistic situation involving my now ex-in-laws. On the fourth day, a kind nurse volunteered to watch our older sons so I could meet the little guy. He had gauze over his eyes to prevent the UV light from harming them. He was crying when I first saw him.
I placed my pinky in his hand, and the crying stopped. Completely.
‘I can’t believe it’, I told myself. ‘I finally have someone I don’t fear. I have someone who accepts me and loves me for who I am. I have someone who will never know the monster I used to be.’
To this day, he’s living proof that I’m a better person. My other two boys are even coming around to the idea that Daddy used to be sick, but he’s getting better. The baby loves me for who I have always been to him, and the older kids like me for who I’m trying to be.
Being a parent is a constant rush. They’re always hungry and thirsty, even moreso at bedtime. The older two are making friends left and right, which means they possibility of random visit by/with friends. That’s difficult when Daddy has PTSD!
I do a lot of cleaning to stay focused, and they follow up with plenty of messes, often in the exact location I just cleaned. There’s the typical backtalk and sibling rivalry that I have to quash.
Are there things I wish I could do? You bet. I miss the random invitations for bar-hopping and video game marathons. I want more tattoos. I want to just find a job and do it without having to worry who is going to watch my kids. I wish I could take off with my ex and just spend time with her, sans children and stress.
I don’t do these things because I love my children more than life itself. They’re going to have it so hard in the future, so I need to prepare them for everything.