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Yes, those words were used to describe me at about age 13 by my stepfather.  I had no idea what that meant or what I might have done to have been labeled that way, I only knew that those words wounded me in a manner that I couldn’t describe.  My stepfather also said I “looked like a whore” the first time I wore makeup out of the house and many other not very flattering things throughout the two-and-a-half years he was  married to my mother.  Yes, I know, he wasn’t very nice.

My mother had her own issues as well.  She told me, somewhere between the ages of 12 – 16, that I was too forward with men.  She said that I stood too close to guys when I talked to them, that I pushed my chest into them, I touched them too much, and more than once, my mother told me that I was just asking to be raped because of the way I behaved around men, especially ones who were significantly older than me.

I was sooooooo sheltered growing up, we had no television, strictly monitored music choices, carefully selected library books, clothing modest enough to be made fun of all through junior high school and no unsupervised interactions with the opposite sex until I was old enough that they were impossible to prevent.  Add to that the fact that I was raised by a woman who was most likely a sex addict and who was oh so scared to death that her little girl would turn out to be just like her… and I was doomed from the start.

She never taught me how to behave around men and conversely, she never taught me how NOT to behave around men either.  I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 18, and since I graduated at 17 that meant I had already moved out on my own and didn’t live with anyone of whom I could ask questions regarding the many mysteries of dating.  Mom never really welcomed those sorts of questions at any point of my life so I was pretty much on my own.  Doomed, I tell you, doomed…

All of this has come back to haunt me because this last weekend I was a chaperon on my youngest daughter’s music trip.  This involved a 15 hour bus ride there, one day at the competition, one day at a theme park and another 15 hour bus ride back.  My daughter dress and behavior both mortified and horrified me me on this particular trip.  Besides wearing Daisy Dukes, that I naively thought she only wore around the house, paired with either a skin-tight tank top or a mostly see-through shirt my daughter was one of two couples on the bus that were repeatedly asked to stop making out!  I was so embarrassed I cried.  A lot.  I told my daughter that her clothing and behavior made me embarrassed to be her mother at that moment.  She apologized.  We hugged.  She came out the next morning wearing pants and a more modest shirt.  Peace was restored.

The bus ride home started at 10 pm and went through the night so the teacher required girls to sit with girls and boys to sit with boys.  My daughter was The Poster Child for love-sick teenagers all over the world in spite of my changing seats to sit in the seat in front of her and me sitting in that seat cross-way so I could watch her.  Oh. My. Gosh!  That child and her True Love held hands across the aisle, with that Brave Boy sitting very awkwardly in his seat, leaning his head against the back of the chair in front of him so that he could reach his arm forward and hold her hand.  You could almost hear that famous line from The Princess Bride “Wuv, Tuhwooo Wuv”.  I wanted to vomit.  Throughout the long, long drive home I had to tell her to stop laying down in the aisle so she could be closer to him and get back in her seat.  I had her come up and sit with me and we started watching a movie on my laptop.  She said she was going to go to sleep and went back to her own spot where, surprise, surprise, she suddenly became wide awake and started talking with the other boys sitting near her as Prince Charming had finally managed to fall asleep once she stopped being a growth on his hand.  Eventually I fell asleep for a short while (I’m old, I couldn’t help it), only to wake up and see her sitting on his lap.  More tears from me.  She feels bad and says she’s sorry again and goes back to her seat but for the remainder of the trip I am seriously considering suicide, especially because once the sun came up the “girls sitting with girls and boys sitting with boys” rule ended.  I had to stop the other couple from kissing and my daughter went back to sitting openly on Lover Boy’s lap.  I was at my wit’s end. I felt like a failure as both a parent and a chaperon. There was every chance that if I could not stop my daughter and the other couple from excessive public displays of affection that her teacher could get fired and/or the entire music department could get banned from trips requiring bus transportation.  It has happened before in this school district!

I have to admit the thought that my daughter was acting “like a virgin in heat” did come to my mind more than once.

The nightmare finally ended, the bus pulled up to the school and we silently disembarked, wordlessly loaded all our luggage into the car and quietly went home.  In the car on the way she and I started talking and I think we finally, finally connected.  I shared some of my stories about growing up with my mother.  I told my daughter that based on what I saw – and wished I could unsee – from this weekend that she looked like a girl who sleeps around (I specifically did NOT use the “virgin in heat” phrase) and that if I got that impression after only a couple of days with her and her school friends than what were her teachers and fellow students thinking?  What kind of reputation did she have around school?  I then asked her to tell me what kind of girl she is.  She appeared absolutely shocked that her behavior could be interpreted as promiscuous and told me that she does not sleep around.  I chose to believe her.

I really, really hope that this conversation actually got through to her because if it didn’t I don’t know what else I could possibly say to her that would make a difference anymore.  I feel like I’ve failed her somehow, to let her become this desperate, broken, lonely heart but I don’t know how to be a better mom.  I know I’ve done my best but I don’t think it’s good enough and I’m scared for her.  Really scared for her.

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Okie dokie, so it’s been just over a month since my last post and I’m not even sure what I’ve blogged about and what I haven’t…  I’ll start with this – I’M DOING GREAT!

I’m not trying to say my life is perfect because it isn’t, but everything is soooo much better, wow!  A little recap:  I lost my job in the beginning of September, was denied unemployment, started beauty school in the middle of September, my car blew up, my appeal for unemployment was successful and I received everything I was owed from the day I lost my job forward, started a full-time job with great benefits in the middle of November, going to school part-time before I go to work, we had friends over for Thanksgiving and this is my last week of orientation at the new job.  Whew!

On top of all that I am completely off all prescription medication – no sleeping pills, no anti-depressants and no anti-anxiety medication anymore for this girl!  Also – no more counseling or psychiatrist visits!  Life has done a one-eighty for me, the only downside being that I have gained 14 pounds since I started my new job almost 5 weeks ago, ugh…

Financially things are still pretty hairy, we’re recovering from six weeks of only one income so all of our monthly bills are behind – including our mortgage which is 3 months past due – and we actually had to open bank accounts somewhere else because we were so far overdrawn in all our accounts…  😦  So, yeah, life is still kind of scary at times when it comes to money BUT I know it’s going to work out and be OK.  I get my second paycheck from the new job this week and the biggest challenge will be sticking to our budget while at the same time trying to entertain my husband’s parents for a week or so during Christmas.  Gotta love family, eh?

My girls seem to be getting along quite nicely, which is fabulous.  My husband got a second job delivering pizzas on the weekends which has been a great source of pocket cash for extra expenses and I’m very proud of him for working so hard for us.

Speaking of “us”, he and I have been steadily improving too.  Last February I gave him an ultimatum and two months to kick his addiction to pornography and get his act together.  I have to say that I honestly did not expect him to pull it off.  I thought that I would be well on my way to being single by now but he really surprised me.  The amount of effort he has put into saving our marriage and becoming a better human being, man, father and husband has truly shocked me, it really has.  I’m so very impressed and wish I had stood up for myself a long time ago, although it may not have had the same results 10 years ago as it did this last year…

And while words can’t really express how pleased and proud of him I am, now we get to the storm cloud of my silver lining – because nobody’s life can be all rainbows and unicorns, eh?  I’ve recently discovered that now my heart has some changing to do.  It was very unflattering to discover exactly how much of me wanted my husband to fail so I could finally get a divorce – be free! – and it would be his fault.  I think (now) that has been the biggest reason I never left, it couldn’t be my fault that my marriage didn’t work.  Twisted logic, I know, but consider my upbringing:  My mom left my dad when I was in grade school and I never thought she should have, I always believed their marriage could have been saved if she had tried harder and the things I learned after I became an adult only supported that belief – making the divorce her fault – and I have done everything I could think of to be as little like my mom as possible.

I think God used my faulty reasoning for good.  If I had left when I “should have”, according to some people, none of this would have happened.  My husband wouldn’t be a nice guy now.  My children wouldn’t have this fun-filled relationship with their father, full of teasing, smiles and laughter and none of us would have experienced how completely God can change a life.  There are still some days that aren’t great but those days are much fewer and farther between than they were even just a year ago.  I KNOW that everything is going to be OK now!

So all in all I am ecstatic to be off my medications…  I’m thrilled with my school and new job…  I am excited about my children’s improved relationship with each other…  I am in shock and awe of the “new man” I have for a husband…  I’m a little nervous about our finances…  and I am trusting in God to complete the work He started.

I think this is a good place to end a year and begin a new one.

Well… not really.  But Dawn is the name my mother wanted to name me and my dad said no.

I hadn’t thought about that in years – I was so young when my mom told me that I had almost forgotten it completely.  Or more like it slipped through the cracks and landed on the “Miscellaneous Trivia” pile in the back of my brain that I shuffle through from time to time, for example, the other day when I was telling my own children what their names would have been if they were a boy… and the girl’s name I wanted to use but their father told me no with both of them.

What I do remember is I was young enough that when Mom told me she wanted to name me Dawn I thought “Why would you want to give me a boy’s name?”   That was so unlike her, she was very “boys should be boys and do boy things and girls should be little ladies and do girl things” so thinking she wanted to name me “Don” really puzzled me.  It also made me wonder if she had wanted me to be a boy instead of a girl – or maybe I really was a boy but something went wrong…  I’m pretty sure this is proof that I over-think things and always have. <sigh>

It “dawns” on me that this may be one of the few things that Dad said no to that Mom actually obeyed him on… hmm…  Different blog topic there…

At any rate, I started to wonder why Mom picked the name Dawn.

No matter where you try to look it up “Dawn” means “daylight, daybreak and sunrise” pretty much everywhere.  It’s a very literal word, not a lot of hidden meanings or secret messages found there.  For symbolism it represents things like starting over, a new day, hope, end of darkness and 99.9% of the time “dawn” is associated with good things.  Just hearing the word “dawn” usually brings positive feelings, right?  Unless you’re a night owl like me and someone says “We’re leaving at dawn”.  Then I just wanna cry and it’s not because the sunrise is so beautiful…

As her first-born maybe Mom was looking at my birth as the beginning of a new chapter in her life, the start of a different way of living, change, fresh hope, something good finally coming her way…

It would seem that she most likely thought of me as her new beginning, which is both eye-opening and sobering.  I wonder if my not meeting her expectations and failing to be the perfect child led her to withdraw herself from me, making me feel unloved by her and never good enough for most of my life.  Because that’s exactly what I’ve done with my own children.  My poor girls, they probably would have been better off if I had given them up for adoption at birth, God forgive me for being such a selfish mother!

Each time I became pregnant I expected to give birth to someone who would love me unconditionally.  I thought the mother-child bond was automatic because kids love their mothers, right?  I wasn’t being loved unconditionally by my own family so I guess it was rather unreasonable to expect it from my own children.  When I finally acknowledged that my children didn’t love me the way I wanted them to and it seemed that they barely even liked me, well, I just shut down and stopped pursuing a relationship with them entirely until just about a year ago.  Now they’re both in high school and I’m trying to stop being their mother and just be their friend so that we have some sort of teeny-tiny foundational relationship to keep us in touch after they leave home.

Looking back I see that is precisely what my mother did with me.  I shouldn’t be so hard on her, she did try her best.  I never wanted to be like her but look at me now, wow…

I’m afraid it’s too late – I’m afraid that my daughters will graduate, go to college and come home for the obligatory Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners with no phone calls or emails in between.  That’s a horribly depressing thought…

I need a Dawn of my own, a new beginning, a fresh start, a clean slate, light breaking into dark places and making them bright and free.   I am Saved but what I need is a revival, a fresh awakening, a re-filling.  I need dawn to come and break the darkness in my heart.

I think maybe I failed my mother by not being her Dawn.  I wish she were still alive, I think I’m finally brave enough to talk to her about these sorts of things now.

My dawn, my sunrise is here – Jesus is my new beginning.  All I have to do is Trust and Obey, Just Keep Swimming, stop living in the past and accept the gift of still having a future.

So I’m normally a very non-confrontational person but after writing my blog yesterday I was so upset that I confronted him on a few of the topics that bothered me the most.

Number one was me feeling like I did not have the right to say no to his sexual affection and what on earth happened to all the non-sexual affection we agreed on for this two month period that ends in a couple of weeks?

Number two was that if he wasn’t getting advice from anyone on how to treat me right why the <bad, bad words> did he wait until I said I was leaving his bed to pull out the manual on “How to be a Good Husband”, dust it off and put it into practice?  That, I think, is what upsets me the most – the fact that as far as I can tell he didn’t think that I was worth being nice to until I tried to move out of the bedroom.  And I never said divorce, I didn’t even say that he had to move out or leave the house, I just said I was going to move into the guest room and he was going to have to work on his sexual addiction and prove to me there was major progress in his life before I would sleep with him again.  But apparently that’s all it took for Prince Charming to come out of wherever he had buried him for the last 20 years – the thought that he would be cut off from his daily dose of sex.  Ugh.

Number three was the way he kept phrasing that whole “I’m letting you have more control in our relationship right now but…”

My husband has a silver tongue and while answering my questions last night he was very convincing that he was trying hard to change his ways and we’re both still getting used to the big, new changes in our relationship, and he didn’t mean the “control” statement the way I took it… blah, blah, blah…

I still don’t see that his heart has really changed – but to be fair he is putting quite a bit of effort into changing his words and actions towards me so Kudos to him for that.  His efforts do touch my heart but in more of a sad way because I know the outward changes will never last without inward changes and he has to want his heart to change regardless of whether our relationship survives this year or not.  I’d like him a whole lot more if he was pursuing living a holy lifestyle for his own sake instead of pursuing me for a sex “fix” (and so that he doesn’t have to be the first person in his family to get a divorce, now there’s a stigma that his immediate family would never let him live down.)

I left him tonight.  That feels really good to say, actually, but it’s not a permanent thing and yes, I did get his permission.  I am spending the night at a friend’s house tonight (Saturday) and am not going to church with my family tomorrow (Sunday).  He wants me back home at noon… why you ask?  Because I did, I asked why.  Especially since he and the girls won’t be home from church until closer to 1 pm.  Do you sense an ulterior motive here?  I did because yes indeedy, the reason he wants me home at noon is so I can have lunch ready for them when they walk in the door from church.  I feel like he’s trying to punish me for not going to church with him or maybe it’s that he couldn’t contain the control freak any longer – or possibly it’s a bit of both…  So yes Master, I will do my best to have lunch on the table when you get home tomorrow.

I’d like to buy a bucket of KFC and just leave it on the counter for when they get home and be out shopping myself because I really don’t want to be there spending time with him.  Why else do you think I asked for a schedule at work that keeps me out of the house until almost 7 pm Tues – Friday?  That particular schedule means that I don’t have to be home with my disapproving husband and ungrateful children for any longer than necessary before bedtime.

Me, me, me, me.  I realize that everything I write makes him look like a terrible, horrible guy and I’m the total victim with no faults of my own and that’s not entirely accurate.  (I know, shocking, isn’t it!)  I have areas where I’m not a great wife/mother/friend/person either.  Yes, sad but true.  And to be completely fair you’re only getting one side of the story so it obviously can’t be 100% his fault.  (But honestly, you keep choosing to come back and read about my life – so maybe you or someone you know deals with this stuff too???)

I’ve felt like a victim my entire life and now that I’m finally acknowledging and dealing with that particular issue – and trying to STOP being a victim – I’m realizing that I married a male version of my paranoid, control-freak mother.  I’m now terrified that my girls will marry a man like their father and then I’ll get to watch them re-live my lonely, heart-breaking life, and I’ll watch their children re-live it… it’s the saddest story ever told and it’s played out in thousands of people’s lives in America every day… but the thought of my girls, My Girls, living through what I’ve survived, well, that just destroys me.  Even though my girls are ungrateful as all get-out and extremely self-centered I don’t want them to have to live through a marriage like mine.  I don’t even want you – whoever you are – to have to live through a marriage like mine.  It’s not worth it.

And that is why my constant prayer is “Save me, save me, save me…”  Because in saving me I know God will save my daughters as well.

The Whole “I Love You”… Thing

My teenagers are a sophomore and a junior and I’m noticing that everybody, I mean EVERYBODY in high school, including my two daughters, are saying “I Love You” to everybody else. Everybody else that is, except their sister and parents. What’s all that about, seriously?

Guys say it to girls seemingly regardless of whether or not they are The Girlfriend and I myself have witnessed several studly, 18 year olds shout out “I Love You Man!” to other teenaged guys. These same young men will pack at least one more body onto my sofa than it is designed for and all sit there, jammed in like sardines but grinning like the Cheshire cat and pretending to be just as cozy as can be, some with their arms around the other’s shoulders and sometimes there’ll be one or two guys sitting on another guy’s lap. I see strong indications that the Personal Bubble space has shrunk in this last generation and is all but ready to pop! And thankfully, the message seems to finally getting through that Real Men can hug and say “I Love You” without losing their Man Card, yay!

Today’s teenaged girls seem to be on the same page because they not only say “I Love You” to their girlfriends, they also write it, and sing it and my girls in particular like to shout “I Love You” from the open window of my car at anyone they see and might possibly know (and that’s only a slight exaggeration) as I’m driving them home from a school function. I’ve heard girls say “I Love You” to guys where there is no Girlfriend/Boyfriend relationship there. I hear my daughters say “I Love You” at the end of nearly every phone conversation and in-person goodbyes, IT’S EVERYWHERE! Either this generation is a bunch of first class saps or maybe they’re on to something…

To quote the Princess Bride: “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means…” We all know words change in meaning as cultures change, for example to be “gay” used to mean you were happy and now it has a homosexual connotation. So has “I Love You” changed in meaning as well? Or maybe I never learned the true meaning of love in the first place.

I grew up thinking there were two kinds of love – romantic love between a husband and a wife and family love between parents and children. Anything else seemed to be wrong. (Yes, the more I write about my childhood the more I realize it was pretty screwed up and heavily contributes to the mental mess I am today. Thanks Mom.) Needless to say my growing-up years saw very few hugs, kisses or touching of any kind that was not discipline and I’m struggling to remember my mother ever saying “I Love You”. Once I turned 17 my mother seemed to see that something was wrong with me and she started to say “I Love You” and tell me that I was pretty but by then I didn’t believe her.

To have feelings of “love” for my best friend in high school meant, to my mother, that I was on the verge of becoming a lesbian. I don’t think I ever told Mom that sometimes we would hold hands, hug each other or wrap our arms around each other’s waists just to be affectionate. As much as I craved the physical affection and desperately needed it – I felt evil for participating. My best friend from high school is still my best friend now and to this day I have a hard time saying “I Love You” to her in our phone conversations even though she’s always saying it to me. I am so grateful she’s hung in there despite over 20 years of my crazy weirdness in trying to figure myself out. I wasn’t very nice to her sometimes and she just stood back so I could work things out and when I finally looked up she was right there, waiting for me to be ready to be friends again. Girl, I know you’ll be reading this – I Love You!

I have one more best friend, unfortunately I moved 8 hours away from my high school best friend so while we have great phone conversations we don’t get to see her much. My “new” best friend is a gal I used to work with and we’ve been friends now for just over two years…wow it seems like longer than that though! She is only about a half an hour from me and we try to hang out as often as we can. I love her too.

I’m afraid I’ve become far more like my mother than I intended to. I don’t say “I Love You” to my children nearly as much as I should – although I saw it far more than it was said to me. I try to give hugs to them but it still seems so foreign to me, almost wrong, because that’s not how I grew up. All I can do at this point is pray that when they’re parents they do better with their kids than I did with them. I think that’s every parent’s prayer for their kids.

I used to say “I Love You” to my husband all the time, hoping desperately that he would say it back and believing that if I said it enough with my mouth that my heart would start to feel it. Neither happened. The people who say that love is a choice are correct. I have chosen to stay with my husband of almost 19 years because I made a commitment to him at our wedding ceremony and it’s the right thing to do. I choose to love him by staying in this marriage and by trying to make our house a home. I do not have feelings of love for him and as far as I can tell he feels something that he thinks is love for me but cannot properly express it. I’ve always been a good girl and tried to do the right thing and so I will stay with him.

As far as the whole high school fad of saying “I Love You” to anyone and everyone I’m thinking I approve. At least their hearts seem to have something in them and they are getting affection from their peers. May their lives be fuller than mine!

In my  quest to “find myself” I realize I must acknowledge my upbringing – I was raised by a very proud woman and I see how sometimes I still walk in her footsteps despite my best efforts to be someone else. Perhaps it was the same for her as well. Caught in her mother’s shadow, unable to break free.

My mother was the oldest of 8 siblings, 6 girls and 2 boys (in the middle, of course). Raised in the back country of a lush land with heavy winters she had all the usual stories of walking up hill, barefoot in the snow both ways to school, never enough to eat or wear and making do, doing over or doing without. My mother also told scary stories about her childhood:

Her dad had sex with the babysitter.
Her mom killed a lover for being unfaithful to her (still being a married woman herself…)
Her dad was going to kill her for being a Christian but her mother stepped in and took the beating.
Her teacher snuck her extra food from the cafeteria for years which she took home and fed her family with until somebody found out and put an end to it.
Her pastor sexually abused her.
Her father sexually abused her.
Lots of men sexually abused her.
Her mother crippled, maimed and killed much loved pets to hurt her and her siblings.
Her mother was a practicing witch.
Her youngest sister has a different father than the other 5 siblings.
After they moved out of her childhood home everything living that was placed in her mother’s bedroom by the new owners died – birds, plants, everything.

And the list goes on…

Do I believe all of it? I used to but I don’t know what to believe anymore. After my mother’s death I went through her papers and found letter after letter to people she was or had been close to filled with criticism and poisonous words against them.  No wonder so few people attended her funeral…

What I do know is that I grew up never knowing the majority of my extended family and to this day most of them don’t know me. I know that whenever her mother was in town my mother kept me and my siblings indoors for fear that Grandma would drive by and harm us – in the days before drive-by shootings were popular. I know that my mother asked me, when I was in junior high school, if anyone was sexually abusing me because I was acting like a victim. I told her I didn’t think so but it planted a seed in my head and I tried very hard to think of some time I could have possibly been abused because if my mother said it, it must be true, eh? Pleasing my mother was so strongly ingrained into my head that I tried to find a way that I could have been a victim because that seemed to be the answer she was looking for.  I know now how twisted that is.  I know that my mother accused not less than 10 men throughout her life of sexually abusing either herself, my sister or my children. I know there was something wrong with my mother’s mental processes. My current guess is that she was maybe bi-polar. Essentially I was raised in an extremely dysfunctional, mentally and emotionally abusive family but because there was no sexual or physical abuse, nothing that would really grab the attention of teachers or doctors so I just grew up thinking it was “normal”.

My mother married my father while they were both in Bible College. Being the oldest of a hoard of youngsters my mother, like her mother, was a strong and dominating woman, making quick decisions and expecting to be obeyed. My father was the second youngest of 10 siblings and, from what I’ve been told (by my mother…), also had a very strong and dominating woman for a mother. When my father married my mother he just traded one boss for another and I doubt his life was pleasant.

My mother didn’t want children at first but said that before she became pregnant with me she changed her mind and then did want children.  She was so shocked when, in late high school, I told her how unloved and wanted I felt for my entire life.  My mother never told me I was pretty or that I did a good job at anything. Later in life she explained that she didn’t want me to get a big head so she would even stop other people from complimenting me as a little girl. The words she did say were mostly pointing out the negatives of what was done incorrectly by myself or anyone else, consequently, I grew up believing that I was ugly and never good enough and by the time she began to change her speech pattern (when I was in late high school) to include compliments toward me I couldn’t believe her, I was only suspicious of her.  I was in junior high the one and only time I told her I was sucida.  She verbally lashed out at me with anger in her voice and told me how selfish suicide was and therefore how selfish I was for considering it.  No empathy, no love, no “How can I help?” or “Do you need someone to talk to?”, just anger.

If my memory serves me correctly, my mother left my father when I was in 5th grade, they tried getting back together when I was in 6th grade and then officially divorced when I was in 7th grade.  My mother met my step-father when I was in 8th grade, married him when I was in 9th grade and had my sister when I was in 10th grade.

My step-father was only 12 older than me and I think he was 15 years younger than my mother – and he had four children from a previous marriage. I’ve always looked older than I really am so at first glance people often assumed that my sister was mine and his and that my mother was the baby’s grandma who lived with us. Awkward! My step-father was/is a mechanical genius but had a very quick temper and frequently threatened us with physical violence, not against the disobedient child but against a sibling.  If we didn’t ask how high when he said jump he would most often threaten to punch my littlest brother in the face. To be fair though, I don’t actually remember that he ever followed through with his threats but I know I shed lots of tears in private and I suspect my brothers did too. I could have handled violence done to myself but when he threatened my little brothers there was nothing else to do but obey. And before you get carried away thinking he was a monster, none of his demands were terrible, they were things like clean up the living room, do your dishes, don’t wear those clothes or that makeup… When my mother finally divorced him a lifetime later (2 ½ years) none of us, including my sister, his daughter, didn’t see him again for over 20 years. Today we are beginning to be friends and he has no idea that his behavior towards us was abusive, for him it was normal. I think the thing that actually shocked me the most when I met him again was that he views even me and my brothers (ex-step-children) as his own children that our mother took away from him when they divorced.

Their separation and later divorce seemed quite violent at the time but now that I am older I realize it was actually pretty tame, just very emotionally charged. My step-father was angry about something (when wasn’t he?) and he went searching through the house for his gun. My mother, who somehow had the foresight to dismantle the gun and hide the pieces and bullets in separate locations throughout the house, wound up being shoved through a wall and had a broken collarbone before he finally left.  Just that by itself probably qualifies me as a Post-Trauamatic Stress victim but that diagnosis was still pretty new and undiscovered territory back then so my brothers and I were left to cope with it alone, as best we could.

I was 16 and a junior in high school when I was thrust into the position of being a second mother to my 18 month old sister because of the divorce. I drove her to daycare, went to high school, came back and worked at the daycare until closing and drove her home. For years she would mix-up my name with “Mom” just like a mother runs through all her children’s names before finding the right one, “Jerry, I mean Tom”… (Now she is old enough that we can be really good friends and enjoy hanging out together.)

All my life my mother would say “When you turn 18 I’ll buy you a set of suitcases and help you pack.” At about age 17 she started saying stuff like “You know you don’t have to leave the house when you turn 18, right?” Ummm… no, I didn’t know that and yes, I was definitely moving out. (I have been very careful not to say this phrase to my own girls.)  Looking back I truly wonder if my mother was bi-polar.

Once again, I am out of time.  I could probably write a book about my upbringing but you get the jist of it.  Lots of negativity, not very much affection or visible love.  It’s a wonder I’m still sane – or am I?  lol.  Unfortunately, because I never saw a “functioning” family growing up and don’t really know what that looks like, I’ve brought my mother’s parenting skills into my own parenthood and I feel so sorry for my children.  I did the best I could, although she probably did too, and all I can do right now is pray that they make a sucessful transition to adulthood without needing too much counseling as they grow older.  God save us all!