Disclaimer: This is extremely long. Closer to a poorly written short story than a blog post. It’s personal, and not meant to be offensive. Just had to write…
Should you “never give up”? Tonight I want to write about something personal. It’s 1:15 in the morning and I can’t sleep a wink. I haven’t been able to write about the things I want to write about, so I’ll write what I am feeling, about what’s been going on, and the impact it’s having in my life…
I have a son who is 7. This boy is beyond a dream, and I don’t deserve to be his mother, yet I’m so grateful that he chose me. He teaches me patience. He helps me see things from a different, softer perspective, as his life hasn’t been tainted by harsh realities like mine has. His perspective is calming, and his words and actions have the ability to bring me to tears. He is selfless, caring, and joyful. I was nothing like him as a child. I was selfish, and focused on myself, my world, how I would torture my little brother, who’s attention I could get, and how to win every argument I encountered… at least that’s how I remember it, or maybe it’s what I’ve been told? I’ve blocked out a lot from my childhood. I know I had problems with girls. I was picked on, and did some of my own picking- I realize, now, that was my way of deflecting the pain I was feeling from being left out, ditched, hidden from, teased, abandoned… I felt really alone. I had some friends growing up who will forever remain my most positive memories, and who restored my faith in what a friend should be like. My child will likely never experience this feeling. I won’t let him.
I remember crying in front of a mirror vanity I had in my bedroom. It was an antique. It matched the bed my parents bought me that squeaked and creaked every time I jumped up onto it. I was constantly rearranging my bedroom furniture. Nothing every felt right, and I always moved things to make myself feel comfortable at the moment. My bedroom, after my brother moved into his own room, became my favorite place. I wanted to make it a little studio apartment, tucked away in privacy, where I could be me and not feel weird or annoying for it. But I cried, a lot. Thinking back, a kid shouldn’t cry so much. There was something deeper going on that a child can’t understand on their own. It’s really weird to think about.
My dad was in the military, and my mom worked full-time, while my brother and I spent most of our time at a baby-sitter’s. It wasn’t bad. I remember having fun there. On the days my dad would pick me up, he would let me drive home (we only lived a few blocks, and he really only let me control the steering wheel). I thought that was the coolest thing. I honestly can’t remember much of my mom being happy. I don’t remember her ever smiling when my dad was away on duty, and who could blame her? My brother and I would try to bloody each other up daily, and she often came home to us in the process of almost killing one another. But, we didn’t understand. In fact, I think we thought it was normal. I remember them locking themselves in the bedroom when they would argue, only coming out to check on us, make us food, and get us to bed. They were determined to work things out. I think my brother and I would try to eavesdrop, but I don’t remember any details… I’m sure they were arguing about us. Twice, I remember my mom threatening to leave us because my brother and I were too much for her. I came home from school one day to my dad’s car parked out front (that’s a bad sign, and only happened on a few occasions where Some major event took place, like a death in the family, or when there might be based on my actions). We walked in the door and my dad was crying. It was the first time I ever remember him crying. He sat me and my brother down and begged us to be good so my mom wouldn’t leave us. I think she stayed away for about 3 or 4 days that time. I don’t remember any details of the other time.
I was a bad kid. I was an even worse teenager. Again, I’ve blocked out a lot, and there’s a lot I choose not to share, because it’s simply embarrassing to relive. Mortifying things happen when you are a teen living in a small town with nothing to do but drink. I started off in high school alright. Despite being a miniature hellion approaching my teenage years, I managed to not follow in my “friend’s” footsteps when it came to boys. Don’t get me wrong, I was enamored by boys. I was for a long time before that. But I had barely even held hands with a boy until I was in high school. I chased them around the playground, tried to kiss them on the cheek (gosh, I guess I was a little aggressive), but as all of my friends were already having sex in 7th and 8th grade, I hadn’t even had my first kiss yet. At age 14, I entered high school as innocent as you could imagine, although rumors would definitely tell you different. I should probably mention that I grew up being forced to attend church. I liked it for the most part when I was young. It felt like home to me. But as a teenager, it was a chore. I did everything in my power to stay away… unless there were certain boys going. But I was so scared by my faith. I’m sure that’s why I chose to rebel attendance as I aged. I didn’t want to feel guiltier than I did already. I had my first kiss at our first home football game, right before I was supposed to go out and cheer. I had waited for what felt like forever for that moment, only to have my boyfriend break up with me shortly after and tell everyone I the worst kisser he’d ever kissed. I was horrified. Freshman year was the year of hazing. I didn’t know people could be so cruel. I had gum spit in my hair, I was shoved into lockers, I had eggs thrown directly at me as I walked to class, I even had a senior come up behind me in the quad and pour a soda on my head in front of all of the popular kids in the junior and senior class. I had girls trying to fight me, although that was nothing new… and I cried. A lot.
I wasn’t completely innocent. Knowing now that hurt people hurt people, I realize why I did some of the awful things I did. You call me a bad kisser? Alright, I’ll prove you wrong… let’s ask your boyfriend. And there was a period of time where I became the bully. My high school boyfriend was our star football player. He pretty much did whatever he wanted and got away with it. If people were in his way, he’d move them. I found myself riding his coat tails and picking up his bad habits. Nothing I’m proud of today. By just about 16 years old, I was getting drunk, partying, sneaking out, and giving my parents all sorts of new hell. They really didn’t know what to do with me. This behavior went on for years. And I couldn’t be more regretful. Again, I was young, and I didn’t understand. Is it an excuse? Not really… but it plays into where I am today.
I’ll spare you the details of some of the other things that happened to me as a teenager. There are horrendous developmental moments that I don’t think I’ll ever share with anyone, no matter how much of an open book I might be. But I’ll tell you, I don’t think many would make it to where I am right now. I’m just happy I made it out alive. By my senior year, I was participating in a program called Challenge Day. This program changed my life. Drinking, partying aside, the idea that there were other people around me who had problems too gave me the biggest feeling of relief. We shared stories that were somehow respectfully kept mum after being shared most of the time, and how these instances and experiences made us feel. It was an eye opener. During these years, you can imagine my parents really wanted nothing to do with me. We fought so much. So much. I was disrespectful, and they couldn’t stand me, and it was apparent. I had become the black sheep. The fuck up. The loser. The troublemaker. The one they’d be better off without… I would write them apology letters because that’s the only way I know how to say sorry. I guess they didn’t like the way I apologized because they would literally smirk and have some sort of snarky comeback. I wasn’t really good with the “I’m sorry, BUT…”. I never could just say I’m sorry. So, I tried to get my dad to come to Challenge Day. A number of times. He was almost willing to until I told him that hugging is a thing there. He didn’t like to hug back then. Looking back, we weren’t a hugging family at all that I can remember. I remember feeling so disappointed, and thinking that if he could only come and see that our family isn’t as fucked up as he thinks it is, we could start to try to understand each other. But I don’t think he wanted to see it- I don’t think HE wanted to face what was bothering him.
I remained a nuisance to my folks for many years after that. They were always there to help me out of a financial bind, but never without a lecture. I’ll never forget the time they were absolutely positive I was on drugs. I’ll skip the reasons why, but I was told that at age 18 I needed to leave my parent’s house. That was three weeks from then. At age 17 I moved out and into a house that my friend had purchased. I paid my way by doing dishes and laundry and keeping the place tidy enough between house parties. I quit going to class, but my teachers took pity on me, I guess, after calling CPS and them not being able to do anything because of my age, because they still let me turn in my work. Somehow, I ended up graduating with a 3.85gpa when all was said and done. But back to this move, it did come at the highest price. My friend, who had taken me in when my own family didn’t want me, drove off recklessly one night. We heard sirens from the garage and just knew. We called his phone over and over until it was finally turned off or had died. We decided to look for him because the sirens were close enough, but didn’t find anything. That was until we pulled up in front of our house again only to see flashing red and blue lights flying past us in the rear view mirror. We flipped around and followed the ambulance all the way to to hospital, where our friend, my new family, was pronounced dead at the scene. And like that, my life changed. It got dark. Like real dark. But never did I do any “drugs” as my parents were suggesting. They assumed that the way I dealt with my grief, although probably not helpful, must have meant that I was on drugs. They told me to move on and just couldn’t understand why I was so upset and allowing his death to distract me from my life. And I cried some more. I don’t remember many good times unless I was drinking at that point, and I’ve blocked a lot of that out also. I wasn’t on drugs. I was in so much pain and I felt like I had nobody to turn to.
A year or two went by, and I managed to finally graduate from beauty school. I had taken some college courses, but ended up sleeping through most of them. At the time, I didn’t understand the importance of going to college, especially when you don’t know your calling. My parents wanted me to stay in our home town and attend our junior college there, but I needed to get away from that life. I met a boy in Chico. He had his shit together and he thought the absolute world of me. I felt the same about him. He was moving away to Stanford for grad school but we didn’t want to do long-distance so early on. He asked me to come with him and I agreed to go. He suggested talking to my dad about it, and I told him my dad wouldn’t like it, but he’d probably respect him in the end. So he did. That day I added another disappointment to my list of screw-ups that my parents held onto. They only wanted what they thought was best for me, and what was right in the eyes of God. I would never listen, and they couldn’t find a way to get through to me. So I left.
A couple more years passed. I turned 21 and the boyfriend and I started fighting- badly. We fought in ways I haven’t fought since, and never will again. I cried to my mom. I would drive 3 hours to meet her for lunch simply to cry to her. I was hoping for some sort of help, but she couldn’t do it this time. She eventually told me I could come home, but under their rules. I was so miserable where I was that I complied. I humbly moved back to that small town. It was good. I sobered up. I began a gym routine, and got a job a salon in a town that I wanted to live in near Sacramento. I commuted 65 miles to and from every day. Things were going well, and I didn’t drink for 6 months. I met a friend out at an event one night, and he worked for Budweiser. At the event I saw a promo model handing out keychains. I asked him how much money she made doing that. “Twenty-five dollars and hour. Thirty if you’re good”. I was making near minimum wage, and busting my ass to make a career out of doing hair. I wanted to make money and move out of my parent’s house so I asked him to line me up with the right person. The right person became two right people, then three. I met a guy who worked for MillerCoors (back then in was just Miller), who offered me a job as a marketing manager in the Bay Area. I flew there as fast as I could. I would have stayed there too, if it weren’t for the man who blessed me with my beautiful boy. And that’s a whole other story in itself.
Becoming pregnant with my son is what I thought mended my family. I won’t detail the struggles I faced personally through my pregnancy, but I wouldn’t wish that loneliness upon a single soul. I ended up moving back in with my parents and they were absolutely thrilled I was giving them a grandchild. They let me live with them, fed me, went through the heartache I experienced when realized I was on my own through most of it. When I was allowed to have A glass of red wine, my dad would pour me that one glass and we’d stay up late talking and watching Christmas movies (it’s their thing) during the majority of that time. I saw my parents happy finally. My brother would come to visit and my mom would be over the moon. I was happy to be there, and my heart began to hurt a little less. Things were really good for a couple of years. Even through my marriage to my son’s dad, and then my divorce, my folks were there for me, and I enjoyed being with them too. We created traditions and shared experiences all happy families get to share…And then something happened. I don’t even know what it was exactly, but it was enough to start a ripple that has since been spreading over the waters and creating a divide I’ve never felt before.
An assumption. And then another. And another from someone else. These assumptions about me and how others think I feel have been shared amongst the “family”. I have learned a lot over the years, and I have grown immensely as a human, so I can better identify when others are projecting these days (most of the time). Nobody is perfect, and I don’t think anyone should be expected to behave a certain way. I’ve learned that everyone lives life differently and all of our experiences are what mold us into who we are- good or bad. But these assumptions being made about me are hurtful. They have to do about how I feel about MY child, and I can’t help but become furious over it. I try to stay level headed, but each time I try to explain that what they are gossiping about isn’t true, the more they begin to bring up the garbage from my past as ammo, I’ve moved so far past all of that. There are not many things harder than realizing that your family isn’t in it for you. Fewer things hurt worse than being told that your feelings don’t matter when it comes to your family and dealing with family matters.
My parents told me they choose my ex husband, his girlfriend, her kids and mine over me entirely because they represent what a family should look like to them. You know what? I’m okay with that. I’m not here to divide or make anyone “choose sides”. I’m simply defending myself and who I am. I may not do things the way they see as conventional, but I am soooo fucking proud of how far I’ve come. I can provide for my son, and I’m not longer that sad, crying, anxious little girl. I’m not the “dramatic”, “hard-to-love”, lost teenager they used to know. It’s disappointing because I thought they’d see that.
I’m realizing I really don’t need their approval. There are a million experiences I had that they will never understand that have made me the way I am today (fortunately, none of them DID involve drugs, as my parents, to this day, believe). My son is happy. He tells me he loves me every time I see him, and he never fears hugging me, and he never will. I will never make him feel stupid for feeling ANY way at all. I will never not have his back. If he is ever in the wrong, I will do my best to earn his respect so that when that time comes, I, along with his dad, can be his support in teaching him to do what’s right. This has been one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned and it’s changed my entire perspective of what family is. Learning to forgive, but still love from afar is so hard when you want so badly for it to be better. But sometimes, it’s what’s best when we have learned that we need to protect ourselves if nobody else will. If you’re reading this still, I thank you for sticking through all of that. I realize it’s more of a journal entry than a blog post, but I promise I’ll get to the stuff you like hearing about soon. Thank you for letting me share, and hopefully being able to relate or understand in some ways. Guess I’m off to the gym now…