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Childhood

Oh, Trigger warning. All the triggers.

So, I’ve learnt over the years that not everyone had a shit childhood, and when I describe mine I get looks of horror.

Also, Mothers’ Day has just been. Mothers’ Day is probably my most loathed day of the year. Currently I am thinking maybe I just won’t do it any more. There is no rule that says I have to. And I think I’ve earnt the right to not have to, to be honest.

I recall my very early childhood as happy. The first of my mother’s partners that I remember was very sweet to me. I don’t remember him much. I remember his saying it might be best if I didn’t call him Daddy because my real Daddy might be upset. I remember thinking some three-year-old version of “‘real’ Daddy? Who’s that?” and an emotion that I now interpret as “why don’t I get to decide who my ‘real’ Daddy is?”.

Anyway, that relationship ended probably when I was about five. Mum had some relationships after that, including a brief fling with the unit who later molested me, and then my main stepfather turned up.

I don’t know if things would have been shit even if he wasn’t there. Quite possibly.

The Shit:

Overloading and unrealistic expectations.

I was expected to do too many chores for my age. I couldn’t do them all. There was no point in trying, so I mostly didn’t try. So even now, when there are too many things to do I feel overwhelmed and give up.

One day when I was about – six? – five? –  my mother left me at home alone for the day while she went to a neighbouring town. She left me with an extensive list of things I was to do while she was gone: sweep and mop the floor, wash the dishes, collect brush and kindling for the fire, I can’t remember what else. I do know that I worked all day, and for the first and only time did everything on the list. When my mother got home in the evening she said “Great! I should go away more often!”

This made me wish I had not done everything after all.

My grandmother visited some time round then. She later said she saw me as a little Cinderella, with raggedy clothes and endless chores. That’s also about how I saw myself.

Neglect

As well as the “home alone” described above, on some other occasion round that time, my mother fell in lust with a prominent musician who came through the village on tour. She took off with him for a week, leaving me to look after myself. I managed for the first couple of days, but then got lonely and stayed with friends.

Of course, she did ask if it was OK, and I said yes, it was fine. What kind of mother asks a six-year-old if they will be OK to look after themselves for a week so she can go and get her end off?

The undermining

Me: “I got 97% in my maths test.”

Her: “What’s the point of getting 97% in your maths test if you can’t keep your room tidy?”.

Me: “I got the [prominent Maori former principal] academic scholarship to high school!”.

Her: “It should have gone to a Maori girl”.

Me: “I got a major scholarship to a prestigious senior high school.”

Her: “Are you sure you want to go? Don’t you think you’ll suddenly find you’ve moved from being the big fish in a small pond to being a small fish in the big pond?”

Me: “I’m not sure what I want to study.”

Her: “Maybe you shouldn’t go to university. You might find it too hard. Better to go to a polytech and learn something useful.”

On Mothers’ Day, she said she always felt so proud when she heard my name in the media, doing my (currently prominent) academic work. Excuse me while I seethe inside.

Abuse

When I was little I was smacked regularly. Smacked for talking out of turn. Smacked for crying. Hit round the head for whatever. Once, having heard from my friends of the dangers of being hit in the head, after she hit me I cried out “you could have killed me!” She laughed. Hilarious.

She didn’t smack me so much when the stepfather was in the picture. He was Scandinavian and generally didn’t think hitting children was a good idea. But.

When I guess I would have been seven or eight, the stepfather and I had an argument, I forget what about. He said “I’m going to go for a walk” (to cool down). I shouted “Yes, why don’t you, I wish you would”. He pushed me to the ground and kicked me. My mother threw her cup of tea over me.

The incident

When I was thirteen, and my little brother was a baby, she asked me to take him for a walk. I didn’t want to. I said so. She picked him up and started swinging him over the balcony on the back deck, threatening to throw him over if I didn’t agree to take him. I was paralysed, terrified, crying “no, no, no!”. She put him down and said “right, I’m going to ruin all your stuff then.”  She went into my room and pulled out all my drawers and emptied their contents on the floor. She picked up a chair and started bashing it at the television. I tried to stop her and she punched me in the face.

I ran. I ran two suburbs away, to the home of a woman who I knew knew my mother was having problems. Even then I was trying to protect her reputation by not going to other people who I would then have to tell.

I went to school from there. The principal called me to his office. Eventually I had to go home. There was some half-assed attempt at counselling, which basically consisted of me being told that mum was sorry, and therefore I had to go home and suck it up.

I closed myself off from her after that. I knew I wasn’t safe with her.

The truly revolting

Paedophiles are manipulators. Even good parents can be deceived. Although paedophiles pick their victims, and I had been set up to be a prime victim by all the above (except The Incident, which happened after), I can’t really blame my mother for my sexual abuse. That’s on the paedophile.

However, after my mother knew about the abuse, she asked the paedophile for a “loan”. He gave it to her. I don’t know the terms of the loan. I just know that when in later years I reported him and the sexual assaults to the police, he wrote to her asking for the money to be paid back. I told her to pay him back, because I felt like she’d pimped me after the fact. She said that was between him and her. She didn’t pay him back. She tried to justify it to herself by suggesting she could give me part ownership of her house at the amount of the “loan”. I declined.

Naturally, there’s more Shit. These are just the most extreme incidences, but they’re all I’ve got the energy for at the moment.

 

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