By Pheobe . . . I am a wife. I am a mother. I work a full-time job as well as side jobs to generate income. I am a volunteer with a non-profit and in my church. I am an advocate for reforming laws. And – I am a built-in Uber for my child who has to be a million different places, seemingly at the same time. What is it like to be a family member of someone on the registry? At times, very lonely. At times, full of guilt. Guilt that you can do all the things you want and need to do, but your family member can’t due to the restrictions. What’s it like? It stinks. I have no other fancy words to explain it. Simply being assigned to the registry is not necessarily the most difficult part. My experience over the years is that the side effects which come with the registry are also quite challenging.
Every time the doorbell rings or there’s a knock at my door, I experience a moment of panic. It is the assumption that the sheriff is at my door. And if they are, it’s okay because we are not doing anything wrong. They come by to verify our address about every other month, but the sheer thought of them showing up just freaks me out. I plead with my friends and family to please call before they show up at the door. I don’t even care if they call from the driveway! Just please don’t ring my doorbell unannounced because of the anxiety it causes me.
Many people don’t see the side effects from being on the registry. I certainly do. I have. I am part of that collateral damage. Every place my family wants to go comes with a checklist. We do a mental rundown of the legal restrictions to see if this is a place we can go. Many of those family-oriented places are “No-Gos.” The restriction of not being able to attend church as a family is a tough one for me personally. Two years ago a North Carolina senator running for attorney general pushed through a law that now restricts residents from attending church (with nursery/childcare facilities), a place where forgiveness, healing, and reform happen. Not having my husband with me has been extremely difficult, to the point that I have sat in tears many a Sunday over it.
Animosity sometimes sets in with me. I work really hard to overcome it, but sometimes I am bitter. Is it fair to our child that his father can’t be there for him as he grows up? Years and years of missing school plays, sports events, music concerts, and award recognitions. Is it fair that I am the person having to do all the leg work that my husband is restricted from – pediatrician visits, school conferences, drop-off/pick-up to school. I feel like parents look at me with that, “Why is her husband never here,” look? That is the worst. Don’t get me wrong – I will do everything in the world for my child, but not having a partner to help keeps the responsibility completely on me at all times.
I have put up a wall. I wear an invisible mask. I keep people at arm’s length and hide parts of my life that I don’t want them to know. Rarely do I let people get to know me beyond a surface level. Listen up – I am not a stuck-up person. I am just guarded. I stand off to the side. I don’t share personal information or volunteer things about myself. I fear people knowing my family story. I fear the questions they may ask, or worse – their biased opinions and judgement. I am ultra-protective of my family to protect them from harm, gossip, and accusations. So, yes, I shut down and only let a select few into my social circle. I am very blessed to have friends who have been by my side, shared my hurts, and celebrated my victories. However, the registry has put up these walls around me and caused me to become a more guarded person.
So here’s the thing. I didn’t write this to scare you or depress you. I wrote this because it is raw, true emotion for me. Yet, with anything, there should be a maturing process along the way. I have grown. I am not the same person I was years ago. Yes, a side of me is far more guarded, but I have also proven my strength. My faith. I have found who my true friends are. I have found an ability to talk to people going through a really tough time in their lives because I have been there. Accept where you are, then find the good in it. Do not focus on the negative. Do not crawl in a hole that you can’t crawl out of it. The past is the past – and how you move forward is what matters. You are not alone.
You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
Be a Change Agent…