In the first chapter of Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown, described how she tried out for and did not get selected for the drill team at her new school. When I read this, the first word that came to mind was trauma. There was no sexual abuse, or physical abuse. There was no country torn apart by war, or ethnic "cleasing." There were no terrorists, or murders either. There was a little girl, who desperately wanted to feel loved and to feel that she belonged to a team, and also within her own family.
My story has similar lines.
I am the youngest of 5 children, and I grew up in an affluent suburb of Chicago. My mom stayed at home with us, while my dad left each day for his paid work. They followed typical gender-roles of that time period.
Yet, when I was 5 our family hit hard times, and no matter how much sewing my mom brought it, it was not going to keep our family afloat and the roof over our heads. After 13 years of working at home instead of outside the home, my mom took on a second job--one that actually paid her a salary. She not only took a job outside the home, but she took one that involved travel.
So what? Your mom went back to work when you were 5. What's the big deal about that? A #firstworldproblem, just like Brené said about hers.
The trauma of this situation, and the story I created, didn't come about until a year after my mom starting working outside the home; when my parents decided that we would change schools.
I can still remember my first day of 1st grade; a new school, with a new teacher, and new friends to make. Mrs. Wilson's class. My father was the one who brought me to school that day. I was wearing a yellow and white flowered dress. My father had tried and failed to braid my hair like my mom did. It felt ALL wrong. I felt ALL wrong.
As I watched my dad walk away, I burst into tears. The adults encouraged him to keep going--it was easier that way.
I never did go in that first day. I alternated sitting or standing outside that classroom for the entire day, tears streaming down my face, mourning my old school, mourning my old friends, and mourning the fact that my mother had "abandoned me" when I needed her.
Looking back as an adult, I can see how seemingly small a moment it is in the grand scheme of world issues, but to a little girl who has spent so much of her life with her mother, this was in fact traumatic. It was traumatic, not because of the events themselves, but because of the decision that I made in the aftermath. The decision that I was not lovable and worthy. Why else would my mother leave me?
Brené wrote, "Sometimes the most dangerous thing for kids is the silence that allows them to construct their own stories--stories that almost always cast them as alone and unworthy of love and belonging."
It is a reminder to us all that trauma comes in all shapes and sizes, no matter what the circumstances.
Founder of the Emerge Book Circle