The other day The Boy and I were talking about our childhoods. This isn’t that unusual—we each know things about each other’s lives during those years that no one but the closest family witnessed and so knows… They weren’t all sunshine and roses, either of our lives at those times. There wasn’t any A Child Called It kind of shit going around, at least not really, but it wasn’t a pretty time. Being pregnant, it’s a natural thing that we’d find ourselves talking about these things and how we swear not to inflict what we went through on our children.
I got misty thinking of it all… All of the things we went through that this baby won’t ever have to deal with. All of the things that hurt us, made us want to die, but taught us to do better. Our child won’t have to feel that kind of pain because we did, and by some miracle it didn’t kill either of us.
His worst scars come at the hands of his step father, and it all started when he was quite young. It didn’t stop for a lot of years, until he was into his teens and started fighting back, and even then I think it only stopped completely because that man was in the process of a divorce with The Boy’s mother, and so he was gone for long stretches of time. I think if The Boy’s fucked up little family unit had stayed together much longer, that man would have killed him. They have an alright relationship now because The Boy is of such kind heart that he can’t turn down a peace offering, and that man is in declining health and in the mood to mend fences. I hope when he dies, he realizes what he almost did. I don’t wish him pain but am afraid I would inflict a considerable amount of it if we ever met, and so I’ve requested for that not to happen. I won’t say any more about his story, because it is his and not mine to tell. I only mention it here as a note in regard to what happened in his life: One of the many traumatic, terrible things that has somehow shaped him into an incredibly giving, loving person.
My wounds came later than his, not starting until I was about 10 years old, and then ramping up exponentially until I was 17 and moved out of the war zone. Mine was never a physical battle, but an emotional one that left me fucked to the bones, raw and flayed open and destroyed on every level. My mother was not capable of caring for me. She cared ABOUT me very much, but could not care FOR me- she found great difficulty in understanding anything I ever was or said or did, and so she was rendered a cripple when it came to nursing or tending me in any way. Because of this, I was largely left to my own devices, ignored for the most part unless we were locking horns. Which was frequently.
I understood at a young age that the problems between my mother and I stemmed from her mental illness. I never blamed her for that, never held it against her. I understood that nothing she ever said or did was intentional, that she was a victim of her traitorous mind just like we were. All of us together, held captive for years by her illness and our responses to it… It took so many years to become peaceful in regard to what was always happening at her hands, what I in turn did with mine as retaliation. So many years, when I should have been having a childhood and growing up, were spent instead parenting my sister because our mother often could not. They were also spent parenting my mother, as our roles were frequently reversed
Although I understood her, sympathized with her, made the conscious choice not to hate her for what she did, it made a person tired. The constant trauma turned itself into a blade and cut down deep to the core of what I was, and it cauterized everything on its way out. I was burned alive, everything inside scarred and dead or dying for a very, very long time. I was angry, terribly angry, FURIOUS even that she refused to acknowledge her illness and get help, thus making herself available to the daughters that needed her. The rage was useless, however satisfying. It broke both of us, turned us into feral things.
When I moved out and moved 3 hours away, the distance was enough for us to be able to see each other clearly for the first time in my life. We became very close – as close as we always were when we weren’t doing our best to kill each other, only now that closeness wasn’t tainted with bursts of terrible rage. She apologized frequently for what happened between the two of us (my sister was spared- only a target for perhaps 6 months total of our child hood, and only then when she was protecting me) and I always told her it was okay. And it was. It is. Everything that happened, I understood and understand. I never felt like she needed to apologize to me, regardless of the pain all of it caused. She would have stopped it all if she could, of course she would have. She would have smoothed it all over if she had the ability, she just simply did not have it. I loved her fiercely, and love her still 4 short years after her death.
I write all of this here because… I don’t know why, really. Because I love her so much, so terribly much, EVEN THOUGH. I don’t want my children to love me DESPITE the things I do, I don’t want them to be afraid of the things I’m going to say, constantly trying to get out of my way while always trying to be good enough to pacify, but constantly falling short.
The things people do to their children can reach out and burn, leaving a scar there forever. They are molded and shaped and then shoved off into the world, able only to move how we teach them to. We might show them what to do only by doing the things they never should, instead of teaching them to mimic our correct and right steps.
I don’t want to be that kind of teacher. I worry that I will be, that I won’t be able to control it, like she wasn’t. I would never be able to forgive myself, the way I forgave her.