From a per­son­al view­point I still recall those teach­ers and fam­i­ly mem­bers who treat­ed me with great kind­ness. I am for­tu­nate that, by and large, my whole fam­i­ly was warm and car­ing, albeit some­times emo­tion­al­ly reserved – typ­i­cal­ly Eng­lish? I can­not say the same for the many teach­ers I’ve encoun­tered in my lifetime.

It is only when you meet dynam­ic, kind and pas­sion­ate indi­vid­u­als either in your fam­i­ly or out in the world that you realise how much bet­ter your life might have been. This year I met a man who was at school with me and he is the first and only per­son to tell me that he was very aware, when we were 12 years old, of me being treat­ed bad­ly by one par­tic­u­lar teacher and that he was also very aware that he could do noth­ing to help me. Observ­ing such treat­ment pro­found­ly affect­ed his whole life. Despite the chal­lenges of his own youth he became a man capa­ble of giv­ing of him­self to his wife and family.

I am extreme­ly grate­ful to have met him and come to know him and his wife more than 50 years later.

My father was the youngest child in his fam­i­ly of three chil­dren and beloved only sur­viv­ing son of, by then, much old­er par­ents. He reflect­ed that lov­ing care his whole life.

My moth­er enjoyed a warm rela­tion­ship with her younger broth­er, just two years younger than her­self. They grew up in the days of hav­ing house­maids to care for the chil­dren, not in the ech­e­lon of ‘nannies’. She mar­ried my father short­ly before he and her two broth­ers went off to ser­vice in WWII. I know her world col­lapsed no more than a year lat­er when her beloved younger broth­er was killed when the Roy­al Air Force plane he was aboard crashed into a moun­tain in north Wales.

She was just 21 when she had to find her father at work and tell him what had hap­pened to his 19 year old son. His col­leagues knew by the look on her face what had hap­pened, say­ing, “It’s the boy isn’t it?” When she final­ly reached her father and told him the sad news all he could say was “Poor Mum, poor Mum”. My grand­moth­er is report­ed to have cried for days after the news was deliv­ered – who wouldn’t? Her baby was dead.

Years lat­er my moth­er told me that only one of her many aunts asked “How’s Joan?”, enquir­ing after her own well being after such a loss.

This trau­ma was hers alone to endure until she died in July at 92.

What I now know is that just as that pain made my grand­moth­er tough which was reflect­ed in her dis­tant care of us, I now think it had the same effect on my mother’s deliv­ery of care. She could no longer love any­one with the pas­sion she had loved her broth­er – some­thing inside her had died.

I also feel it was a con­tribut­ing fac­tor to her hav­ing Alzheimers in the last few years of her life.

I was born 5 years after my uncle’s death.

I now know that I am the child of a moth­er with PTSD (Post Trau­mat­ic Stress Dis­or­der). Her brother’s death, cou­pled with var­i­ous oth­er trau­mas, stress­es and anx­i­eties she endured dur­ing her WWII ser­vice as a Land Girl (The Women’s Land Army) now makes it clear to me that she had undi­ag­nosed PTSD her whole life.

Move for­ward 65 years and in my dai­ly work in an ear­ly child­hood care facil­i­ty I’ve become aware of young women, some are moth­ers, who have endured some sort of child­hood trau­ma – emo­tion­al depri­va­tion or manip­u­la­tion, alco­holic par­ents; some­times uniden­ti­fied pain – it runs the gamut.

Those women, and prob­a­bly men too (I just see more young women in my work) aren’t real­ly capa­ble of ‘giving’ enough to their babies or part­ners or the chil­dren they care for. They are very clin­i­cal in their ‘love’, find­ing it eas­i­er to give mate­r­i­al things like toys, blan­kets, bot­tles, food, than their very selves.

When Don­ald Win­ni­cott spoke of ‘the good enough moth­er’ I don’t think he was think­ing about peo­ple whose child­hoods dis­abled them. He was gen­uine­ly think­ing of women who were good heart­ed and try­ing their best, not those who had been crip­pled by their own childhoods.

Since I’ve also read a lot about autism spec­trum dis­or­ders and even cared for babies and tod­dlers whom I’ve sus­pect­ed might end up diag­nosed as autis­tic, I’ve reflect­ed a lot on whether such chil­dren had par­ents who were trau­ma­tised in their ear­ly years ren­der­ing them unable to ‘give’ of them­selves. Through long-term obser­va­tions and con­ver­sa­tions I’ve learned that I am right. I received fur­ther infor­ma­tion yes­ter­day that con­firmed my thoughts.

Next on my list is to buy the book that makes the con­nec­tion between autism and PTSD.

PTSD crip­ples chil­dren and adults. Have you ever seen chil­dren who are struck dumb by going into the care of a per­fect stranger? I’ve cared for one. 

Have you ever seen a tod­dler adopt­ed from Chi­na or Korea, for exam­ple, trau­ma­tized by their ‘phasing in’ in an Amer­i­can day­care less than a year after they arrive in the coun­try – nev­er mind what goes on in their new home? I’ve seen one from each coun­try adopt­ed by the same fam­i­ly. Not a hap­py sight/experience for child or teacher! 

Such chil­dren have lived in the trau­ma of orphan­age care in their home coun­try (report­ed­ly more than one orphan­age), then get moved to a coun­try where no one looks like them or speaks their language……and then they’re put into a US Eng­lish speak­ing day­care because their new Eng­lish speak­ing moth­er (from Eng­land) thinks it’s good for them! – wouldn’t you be trau­ma­tised at age 2? I sug­gest you read Silent Tears by Kay Bratt if you real­ly want to under­stand what a Chi­nese orphan­age is like.

Bettelheim’s ‘refrigerator moth­er’ does exist – I see them every day.

Those refrig­er­a­tor moth­ers’ emo­tions were crip­pled way before they had their chil­dren – it’s just that no one recog­nised it.

Unless peo­ple recog­nise their per­son­al trau­ma and how it has affect­ed their emo­tions they will spend the rest of their lives in an emo­tion­al roller coaster.

And in that state they ‘attempt’ to bring up healthy chil­dren – it just isn’t possible.

I see it every day.