The one constant in my ever-changing life was my family. In my younger years, I assumed that the love of family was a given, but that has not been my experience. Love in my family is conditional. My mother is emotionally abusive. This has included threats, manipulations, blame for problems and difficulties, and an overall feeling of disapproval. My dad frequently traveled, and during his absences my mother was often at the end of her patience with my sister and me. From my earliest memories, I can remember playing quietly in my room to avoid interacting with her and thus provoking her anger.
I can remember the ever-present threats to “drop me off at an orphanage” growing up. This threat was always made when my father was away on travel. While it scared me, I felt fairly certain my father would come get me from the orphanage if he returned home to find me missing. However, I had seen Annie and Oliver, I knew orphanages were oppressive places run by unscrupulous people. They were a place for the outcasts, the forgotten and lonely and whilst Annie and Oliver both had rich saviors who rescued them, that was a fiction.
No matter how difficult or strained things were between my mother and I, I never shared with anyone. Not even my friends. My mother always threatened me that if I ever complained to anyone about her parenting, “they” would take me away and then I would realize how good I really had it. The truth was though, that at the end of the day, in spite how she treated me, I still felt like I had a pretty ideal and fortunate life. At least that’s what I was told.
I was always a daddy’s girl. I preferred my father’s company to my mothers, and since he traveled so much, I jumped at every opportunity to spend time with him. My mother is very insecure. She must be at the center of attention always. She did not like me wanting to spend time with my father over her. So, on multiple occasions she sat me down and made me swear that I would tell her if my father ever molested me. He never ever made any inappropriate comments or actions toward me. I don’t believe that was ever a real concern for my mother. I think her entire goal in this was to instill a distrust of my father. Making her the center of attention and the only trustworthy source. It didn’t work. However, my dad was always very quiet and emotionally distant.
On one rare occasion, he opened-up to me and shared that the Grandpa whom I thought was my real Grandpa was actually his stepfather. He shared that his real dad had left when he was a boy. I asked him where his real dad was. He became choked up and responded with: “If he doesn’t care enough to be a part of my life; I don’t care to be a part of his.” I could not have been more than 10, but the depth of his pain broke my heart. I wished there was something I could do to make it better.
Several events transpired in High School that brought my mother’s emotional abuse to a head. These events had very little to do with me, and I will not go into all of them, but I will share one. My father was forced to retire from the military my Junior year of High School. My mother’s immediate response was to blame me. She told me I was ungrateful and God was teaching me a lesson in gratefulness by taking away my father’s job. She said it made her sick to think that our entire family would have to suffer because of me.
It was an incredibly stressful and uncertain time. I remember standing in the kitchen one day and my mom walked in. Without saying a word, she walked up to me and slapped me across the face. I immediately slapped her back. I know it wasn’t the appropriate response, but I was done. I was not going to take this any longer. I knew I needed to get away. I was ready to move on. I needed my own space. I needed distance between me and my mother.
College seemed like the perfect opportunity for some distance. As I explored my options, I learned some most welcomed news: my major is a five-year degree, regardless. Not many colleges had my major. Those two factors eliminated my parents first choice of having me continue to live at home and go to a Junior College. I was relieved.