Sunday, June 25, 2006

What I tell them

Rossecorp asked what I tell the kids about my history with abuse.

I share the basics with them. Mostly I just let it come up, which it does.

Usually what happens is that they witness me startle at some noise and they look at me funny, laugh, or say something. Even David was surprised; he startled at movements, not sounds. I will acknowledge that my reaction was extreme and say something like, "Yeah...that's a left-over from my relationship with my father. Fortunately the physical stuff stopped after the divorce when I was seven. I still hate to see a belt being pulled off." I am pretty matter-of-fact with them about it. They understand. I think only one of them asked, "but why noises?" I said, "Well, snapping the belt in our faces was his warning." Sometimes I add in a little educational piece, "Of course the warning was not effective. People who beat kids don't do it because of what the kids are doing. They beat them because of who they are."

The other way it comes up is when one of the kids will tell me not to be so upset about something or not freak out about something. This almost always happens, like with David, when I am in complete control. I can usually laugh a little when I say, "I spent the better part of my childhood being told by my father not to feel what I was feeling. So let's get one thing clear. In this house everyone is allowed to feel whatever they feel for as long as they feel it." After the first time I am likely to say, "Don't tell me what to feel. It pisses me off."

In the whole get-to-know you phase they are likely to ask about our parents. I tell them then that my father is an alcoholic. That he joined AA when I was in my 20's but still has periods when he is drinking. He has lost two wives and nearly lost his job a couple of times. I tell them that we get alone okay when he comes to visit now. He only contacts me when he is sober and I try to avoid contacting him since I can never be sure and I don't like to call talk to him when he is drunk.

I am actually more open and more casual about it with them than I am with most people. I know that they will respond to it matter-of-factly. I won't have to deal with pity. I think that it is good for them to know that there are people who have had abusive parents and then grow up to have healthy families.

And one story in our house has mythological status. Myths, in case you didn't know, are not fictional, or at least they don't have to be. They are stories that explain. Some stories about our childhood get told over and over, often not by us, but by others because it explains something important about us. The bioboys don't tell this story, but they will refer to it and they prompt me to tell the other kids, "Mom, tell him about when he thought you wanted him to meet you in Mexico."

Here is that story:

I was about 10 or 12 and I had a dentist appointment. My mom had a staff meeting and she could not pick me up for over an hour. I told her that I would take a book or do my homework. I did not mind waiting, and I really didn't. She insisted that I call and ask my father to pick me up. I knew it was a bad idea and we fought about it, but I finally gave in and called.
"Dad. I need you to pick me up at the dentist."
"Who is this?"
"It's Beth. I need you to pick me up at the dentist on Wednesday."
"I can't go with you to Mexico! Why would you ask me to do that? Who are you anyway?"
"This is BETH. Your DAUGHTER. I need you to pick me up at the dentist on Wednesday."
"I said that I cannot go to Mexico."
So I hung up, and I don't think I ever called my father again.

The kids usually ask, "So, did you just read a book?" "No. My mother could not tolerate that idea. She skipped her meeting and picked me up. At the time I thought it was stupid, but I now realize why she did not like the idea of me sitting in the office for an hour. It would not have looked good."

1 comment:

  1. rossecorp4:37 PM

    Thank you for answering my question. Now I have another one for you: How have you managed to heal so much and become as healthy as you are?

    ReplyDelete

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