I believe parents’ intentions, deep down, is always to do the best they can. Their mental capacity is what changes the outcome of these intentions and so the experience for the child. I do not blame my parents for what happened during my childhood.
I can’t remember much of the time between when I was born and the moment I was forced to live with my mom. By forced, I mean I didn’t want to live with my mom, because at 3 years old all I knew was that I loved my dad. That is it! Nothing else mattered. What happened in the background between my parents I will never truly know, nor do I care to. What happens between parents or to them is not the child’s fault nor their responsibility. EVER!
Between the ages of 3 and 9 I lived with my mom, and to be honest I was never happy there. There are very few moments I can recall that made me happy, other than the times I spent with my sister. My sister was my comfort. If at any point during the night I were scared, I would crawl into bed with her, or sleep in the spare bed in her bedroom. I wouldn’t dare go to my mom’s room. She’d sent me right back up the dark staircase to where I came from. I always wanted to go back and live with my father. A child can be stubborn if they really want something and I made sure my mother knew it too. The moment I realized how incredibly lost my mom was, was when I told her I did not like the way my stepdad touched my bum, under my school dress, when I came home from school, and I didn’t like the way he kissed me, and she did nothing. Listen, let’s get this straight so there is absolutely no confusion; he did not molest me, but if my child tells me that when someone, doesn’t matter who it is, touches her in a way that makes her feel uncomfortable, I most certainly will put an end to it. Again, I want to make clear this not a story to bash my mother, I am telling this story from my perspective as a child and how this plays out in my adult life. The choices my mom made and the reasons for it, is her responsibility and her story to share. It was not long after this that my mother came and got me from school one day, all my things packed up, drove me to my dad and stepmother’s house and left me there. What it took for her to do that, I will never fully understand! I saw my sister the year after that, and not again until I was 16. This devastated me and I have always wondered what our relationship would look like today, were we not separated. Years later I was asked to apologize to my stepdad for the accusations I made, and to this day I regret writing the apology letter. My mother moved to Canada when I was ten years old.
At this point, I am living the dream, right. I finally got what I wanted. I am living with my dad and I loved my stepmom. It’s funny the things we remember. I was watching a movie, and my dad wanted to watch something on tv quickly and asked me for the remote. I wanted to be, and thought I was, funny and said: “you can’t have the remote” and hid it behind my back. This was the first time he got mad at me and I felt afraid. I was devastated!!!! I could not believe what had just happened and I did not leave the comfort of my stepmother’s side for the rest of that day. For the remainder of the time while my dad and stepmother were married I was happy! She gave me a great upbringing and provided me with comfort and everything I needed as a little girl; until the day she left my dad. I always knew it wasn’t perfect between them. I remember my dad coming home late at night, coming into my room to say goodnight, swaying and stumbling over things because he was so drunk he couldn’t walk straight. The morning my dad told me we have to leave her house, I begged her (begged her!) not to leave me. It was one of the scariest moments of my childhood, as I knew she protected me of my “real” dad and that life as I knew it was going to change!
I was 13 when my dad and I moved to another city after the divorce. We moved right smack into the middle of the “hood!” A small apartment, kiddy corner to a shebeen! Now for my non-South African followers a shebeen is a house where the owners of the house sell alcohol illegally and usually at a much-discounted price. You can imagine the nightlife we had in the neighborhood. The next five and a half years of my life consisted of the emotional abuse I can hardly breathe to tell. I won’t go into too much detail but the dad I once loved the ground he walked on, turned into my nightmare. I want to make this very clear. HE LOVED ME! I never, not once doubted that he loved me, but his love for me and the uncertainty of our life were something that I believed scared him. He was not able to provide me the life he wanted to provide me, and of course, that would hurt any parent. I was all he had and I believed he was scared that I would eventually leave. My life with my dad was volatile. It was a mixture between him drinking so much that the bills went unpaid which led to us to, eventually, lose all of our furniture, and him locking me out of our apartment at night, in the hood in South Africa, all because I said something he did not like. Here’s an idea; next time your teenage daughter tells you they don’t feel like giving you a hug, lock them out of the house for a whole night. I cooked, I cleaned, I did the laundry and heaven forbid let me do one thing wrong like forget to iron, the wrath was upon me. I was about sixteen when we went to a wedding and there was a boy, about my age, that I obviously were crushing on a little bit. The wedding was partly inside and partly outside. This boy and I were standing outside and he kissed me. My first kiss EVER. My dad saw us and called, no yelled at me “you’re a slut” in front the whole crowd. Again, there’s nothing that makes your first kiss as special as your dad calling you out like that. I am not going to write a book here about all the shit that happened while I lived with my father, so I will end our story with where our relationship ended.
My dad and I lived with a family in the town we lived in with my stepmom, before we moved to the city. During this time, I came to love and adore this family as my own. They were my angels, I became very close with their youngest daughter and to each other, we were sisters. She eventually moved to the city where my dad and I lived. When things became so bad with my dad, I started calling her to talk, and after another night of hell I called her while my dad was in the shower and told her I need to leave. She picked me up after school the next day and went with me to my dad’s office where I told him that I am moving out. I didn’t want to tell him at home as I was too afraid. He whispered in my ear “if you move out, I will find you, and when I do, I will destroy your face so you will never be able to show it in public again.” This bring tears to my eyes as I write this. My sister moved me out, I found a house to rent a room from that my mom agreed to pay for, and I got a restraining order from the police. In South Africa school is not cheap, so I went to my principal, told him what had happened and I finished high school for free!
One thing I want to point out is that during my childhood God placed angels all round me. Angels that helped me survive. My God might not have given me the parents I thought I wanted at the time, but He gave me angels instead. The family we lived with, my sister (biological), my stepmother, my cousin I spent holidays with, teachers, the principal and friends God gave me to survive.
Why did I tell you some of my experiences with my parents when there are people out there with much worse experiences than me? I don’t need sympathy; I am sharing my story because of how it impacted me and how I set them and myself free. My dad is unfortunately no longer alive. This is what I know: my parents loved me, but they both, and my mom still do, had their own pain that they carried with them. Maybe I didn’t see it from my perspective in the moments I was most angry, but from now I can see it from God’s perspective, in those moments, they had fears and uncertainties I am sure they did not know how to deal with. We do the best we can with the circumstances given to us. A lot, if not most of us, are angry because we are afraid and uncertain about something. Unfortunately, parents can take this anger out on their kids, if they have yet to deal with it. Today I have nothing but love and compassion for my parents. My mom is still alive. She lives in Texas now, and our relationship is not easy today either, but I have no more anger left and can see the fear and uncertainty in her.
Here is the point to my story! Your parents do NOT define your life or who you are! We can either allow these experiences to shape us or we can allow it destroy us. I responded to my childhood by becoming strong, motivated and tough and I am rewarded for that every day. Even though my father was convinced I will not make it through high school, I graduated with honors and became a Chartered Accountant so that I will always have financial security. I am greatful for my father. I am a great mom to my daughter. I learned from my parents who I do not want to be. I show my daughter what happiness looks like every day, maybe not every moment, but every day. Her mother will never leave her, because I cannot even bring myself to fathom the idea of it. I am greatful for my mother. Do not make your parents into the monsters your childhood-self believed them to be; or, as in my case my 18 year old self. It wasn’t until I was older that the hate grew bigger. Demonizing your parents will prevent you from seeing yourself and how truly beautiful your parents are and still am. My heart is so much lighter knowing that nothing they did was ever to intentionally hurt me.
I know this is easier said than done, but you can decide to be the victim of your childhood or you can turn it around and use it to your power. I am not saying I am free and clear of pain, because I am not, but I decide every day to live the life I want to live. My life is far from perfect, but I see a psychologist and have been for the past 15 years to make sure I live and decide on my life experiences NOT based on my childhood.
Things that helped me:
- Counseling – I believe everyone needs a counsellor, whether you have something to overcome or if you’re just in need to blow off some steam. You do not overcome your childhood on your own! That shit takes some real therapy!
- Forgiving my parent(s) – I am not saying it is okay what they did, or even for them to be allowed in my life, but why carry that heavy burden of anger, fear, or whatever emotion it brings up for you, around. Without the relief of that heavy burden, believe me, it will continue to make ripple effects in your life. Forgiveness will set you free!!!
- Not being the victim – Being the victim means my childhood experiences will control my life, and I will be the only one to blame. Set yourself free, forgive them, go get counselling and become who you are meant to be.
- IT IS YOUR CHOICE – I am not going to go easy on you or myself. If you decide to stay the victim that’s on you! No one else, not your parents, you!
- Don’t miss the angels God has given you! They are all around you!