Once, I had an idea to write a children’s picture book for kids recently removed from abusive/neglectful circumstances/families. I just wanted to get across the idea that it’s not the child’s job to understand why it happened – not when experts who have made it a life’s study can’t offer more than probabilities and likelihoods – and that recovery takes time but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some quickly perceptible benefits, or that it’s not working. I wanted to allude to some of the common ways children in such situations find themselves acting and feeling, to normalize them both for the children and for any adults who might be reading them the book.
There are other books that do this kind of thing. They don’t do it exactly the way I would, but that’s fine. I sketched out some of the text of the book, but it never went any further than that. (In that one way, at least, it resembled most of my other writing efforts.) I let myself get sidetracked by the fact that there were other people out there doing the same kinds of things and probably doing them better, and never went back to the project.
I thought about it just now, and thought for the first time what ought to have been obvious long ago: the first child I was writing it for was myself. For me, it would have at least three layers of meaning: it would be what I wish someone had told me. It would be what I would like to tell someone else that that part of me feels all-too-vivid empathy for. And it would also be coming out of the painful wish that I could have been someone who could have had a story like that, because you only get that story if you’ve been rescued, and I never was. Now, as an adult in my forties, I have to do the strenuously laborious work of trying to salvage the fragmented parts of myself left over from that time, and put together something for them that isn’t a rescue because it’s 40 years too late to be a rescue, but has some vaguely similar function. And above all that, it would be claiming the right to say these things, possibly even where other people would see and know about them.
And that makes me think about making the book after all. I don’t know if I can. I don’t know if I really want to. I do think it would be an amazing piece of recovery work for myself, for all the reasons above. It would be something I could read to myself when I needed to hear it, child-me, removed from my abusive home by adulthood, therapy, loving adult relationships, distance, and a choice of silence. It would be something that staked a claim, and maybe even did some good for someone else as well. All these things greatly to be desired.
(I admit, if I did write and illustrate it, and I did find a publisher somewhere to take it on, and it did actually get published, it would be damn interesting to see my families various reactions to it. For some of them, it might answer some questions they haven’t brought themselves to ask me. Some, I’m sure, would consider it an aspect of my development as a therapist-in-training and nothing personal at all. Some – like my brother – might not only consider it personal but be angry about it. Interesting, anyway – though not in and of itself a reason to do it.)
I may not do it. But…I may.