I need to catch up somehow. That seems to be what is happening at the moment. I got behind. There’s a bit of a processing backlog. It’s not enormous, but it’s enough to make me a little stressed and distracted—I keep arriving at school late. Not really, really late, but later than I mean to, because my morning routine doesn’t seem to be nailed down.
Friday was the big Conversation where C’s mom agreed to let her stay here and I agreed more or less to give my right arm in exchange. I mean, I said I would pay for everything for her. I said I would make sure she behaved. All true. All a huge life-changing commitment.
All things that mean to me I have power. I have the power to protect and take care of someone I love.
I was proctoring in C’s exam hall this morning. There was a point somewhere in between stapling papers and giving out answer sheets when I had a second to realize she was sitting there, deeply engrossed in her National Language exam and she was fine. Absolutely no one was hurting her or intended to hurt her. She was in absolutely no danger whatsoever. It flashed through my mind that this never happened with the girls. There might be the illusion of safety—a brief reprieve from danger—but never any time when that safety was so real or so complete as it was for C in that moment in the exam room.
She was safe because I had almost complete control over what happened, because no one had any wish to harm her, because nearly everyone else in the room had an instinctive wish to help.
Life was so different with the girls.
I don’t know what to make of that exactly. Actually, it’s hard to grasp: the absolute contrast. It is not that C is always safe or that I can always keep her safe, but that the girls were never safe and other children are safe. At least sometimes. At least with 95% certainty.
Complete lack of safety was my normal. It was normal for me to feel unsafe. It was normal for me to feel that the people I loved were also unsafe. It is so obvious and yet so shocking to feel that at a gut level, and I think when I get home and I have time to really take that in, I’ll get to feel a huge wave of grief.
We can keep the children in our society safe—I think it is actually possible. But you have to care a lot. Everyone has to care. Children have to be a priority for every decent human being living within that group. And it isn’t. I don’t know how to change it. I know I am not changing it. I am helping one child . I am making difference for a few more children so that they have a bit better chance at life. Children are so vulnerable. They are more vulnerable than anyone in our society. They are more vulnerable than almost any class of adults anywhere in any society that I can think of. The choices that adults make about them make all the difference between life and death for them, safety and terror every single day, resilience or unmanageable fragility.
And I guess I am starting to get that. I was so vulnerable. I have power now in comparison because my vulnerability then was so immense. It was immense when I was 2 and not a lot less immense when I was 13. It is not mainly a matter of physical power, but legal power and psychological power. This is why terror is so much a part of the trauma for me. Simply lacking the protection of adults—even when nothing particularly bad was happening, but knowing if something bad did happen, there was no protection to be had—that alone is terrifying as a child.
It seems as though the vulnerability was so profound that I couldn’t understand my safety now. It’s like a thought I couldn’t complete. I still can’t but I suppose that’s one step on the way towards it.